A family in my neighborhood has been quietly struggling for months. The mom has a stubborn virus that is taking a long time to heal and the dad is shopping, cooking, cleaning, and ensuring his kids get wherever they need to go. When he finally shared his family’s situation, neighbors quickly offered to prepare meals. I asked him why he didn’t ask for help sooner and he replied, “It is really hard to ask for help.”

Another neighbor is having a rough time. A family member has been diagnosed with a chronic illness that is yet to stabilize and the beloved family dog is facing end of life issues. Sensing they needed some comfort, I offered to bring a meal. They accepted but, when I emailed to confirm the date they responded, “We really appreciate the offer but we are doing ok. Only bring something if you have extra.” This message confused me and it wasn’t until a second email that they confided that a meal would be comforting and they were very appreciative of the offer.

Just as you may be confused as to how to help those in need, they too are grappling with their needs and when and how to ask for help.

So when life is overwhelming, what can you ask for when needing support?

  1. Start with errands that someone is already doing. Is a friend or neighbor going to the pharmacy, the dry cleaner, or post office? What about the grocery store? It’s easy to run an errand for someone else while running your own.
  2. Do you need transportation help? A parent already picking their kids up at school or other activities is used to carpooling and often willing to add one or more. Friends or neighbors with flexible schedules may be willing to manage other transportation needs.
  3. Ask friends or neighbors to either arrange or refer you to their helpers for weekly and annual household tasks, such as: raking the leaves, cleaning the gutters, washing the windows, or cleaning the house.
  4. Meals, especially homemade, can be big helpers. Many people will not just offer to bring you a meal; they’ll organize other friends or neighbors so you’ll have a number of meals to see you through.
  5. Ask someone to grab you dinner. When dealing with long-term issues you can ask someone to pick you up a rotisserie chicken and vegetable or other dinner items weekly when they do their own grocery shopping.

Help is available in a myriad of forms and can make a difference; don’t be afraid to ask.


Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now at a reduced price for e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, Pedro Ribeiro Simões

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