There is no greater teacher than experience. Last week, I had a visit from this great teacher.
When I found out I was pregnant with our first child I began journaling. I thought it would be short lived, but three years later I am still regularly journaling precious moments and jotting down reminders of things I want to instill in my children. Some of the parenting notes are simple and expected, such as teaching them about Jesus and how to be respectful, courageous, and to follow their calling. Occasionally, I write down new ideas of things I want to impart to my kids. These moments are lessons I have recently learned through personal experience and I want to make sure my kids now learn from them too.
As a physical therapist that worked in a trauma center for almost 10 years, I thought I had a fairly good understanding of recovery and the efforts it takes from the family. Truthfully, I understood it in regards to being the family support, but not as the one recovering. As the tables have turned and I find myself with a list of restrictions I have a new appreciation for family support.
I have an incredible husband that is very good at helping, so good in fact, that I often fail to realize how much help I am receiving. We have been married since we were 21 and he has always been there coordinating and providing until I was back to full health. We often have fun stories that come out of the recovery phase like when I had my wisdom teeth removed and I was still seeing double from the medication, and he locked himself out of our apartment. Good times!
He has become my rock and one I always depend upon. I have never considered what a recovery period without him would be like. After the recent birth of our second son, he had to leave town for 2 days. He coordinated what we thought was the perfect plan to care for me and off he went. This is when the great teacher revealed her head and taught me so much about recovering and support. These are the things I want to remember the next time my loved one is recovering and I want my kids to grow to learn.
1) Bring Food
Living in the South, family and friends have this one mastered! We understand that food is a vital need and when we do not know what else to do, we bring food. I mention it here because even though it is common and basic it speaks volumes to the one recovering. It does not matter if you are a master chef or if you bring take out, I assure you it all tastes better than hospital food. It also means they get to see your face and feel cared for even if just for a moment. So keep providing meals!
2) Initiate More
Until recently, I didn’t realize how important it is to initiate care. If you do not have one amazing person coordinating your care, like my husband does for me, then the one recovering constantly has to call and ask for help. It is exhausting and emotional. There were so many friends and family that would tell me “call if you need anything” and I knew they were sincere and would help anyway they could, but by the time I got through my call list asking for childcare options and making sure I had transportation to appointments I was emotionally drained from feeling like I was begging on the street corner. It is hard to ask for help and it is harder when you have to ask multiple times.
My girlfriend and I were talking about how this is an area we get caught in because we don’t want to be intrusive, but we truly want to help. We find ourselves dancing around the phone wondering if we should call again or let our loved one rest. Here is my answer: initiate in a direct way. If you are available and willing to provide childcare you could say “I am available Friday, can I babysit for you that day?” or “what day can I bring you dinner?”
Another form of initiating is what my mom and sister-in-law have down. They show up with a meal and a bag of groceries. After the meal they clean the kitchen. They do not ask they just get started. Bless their souls! These moments make me want to cry from relief. I don’t know about you, but I am willing to call a list of friends to ensure my kid has safe childcare, but I am NOT calling around for someone to clean my dishes!
3) Use Your Gifting
The best part of this two-day period was that I was able to spend some much-needed time with my girlfriend. In our endless chatter, she spoke some truth I needed to hear. She reminded me we all have different gifts and the areas we volunteer are often related to our gifts. PROFOUND!
During recovery, whether a week or a year, there is a plethora of needs. So volunteer in what you are good at and let others jump in too. Who knows maybe you have a great idea that no one else has and it is exactly what the one recovering needs. Be creative. Be thoughtful. Be compassionate.