A team of contractors was shocked to learn that the team’s government manager was injured in a car accident. The news was grim, and the contractors did nothing at first, not knowing whether he would survive his spinal cord injuries. One of the team members asked, “What if we send his wife a card and he dies? Will we be making the situation worse?” When the paralysis began to improve, the contractors discussed how they could show support given their physical distance – hundreds of miles away – and financial restrictions based on government regulations.
While this team faced unusual complications, it is hardly alone. Reaching out to others during periods of intense vulnerability is awkward, and what can be more vulnerable than a life in danger? It’s not only personal, but it's also intimate when a situation is life threatening. Friends and family may struggle in extending comfort in these trying circumstances, and it is even more challenging when it comes to colleagues.
The team leader chose to extend support in a variety of ways. First, she became a member of the Caring Bridge site so she would be up to date on her colleague’s health status. Next, she wrote a note to the co-worker’s wife. She expressed her sadness for the accident and concern for her colleague. She shared the team’s desire to connect with her and her husband and mentioned that she would keep in touch.
As another week passed and the colleague began to make some progress, the team leader purchased eight different “thinking of you” and “get well” cards. She asked each member of her team to write a personal note of encouragement and return the cards to her. She proceeded to mail one card to her colleague twice a week so he would feel their support.
With the prognosis still hanging, the team decided it was time send a more visual reminder of their concern. They chose to have a hardy plant delivered, one that required little maintenance. They wanted their colleague’s space to have some warmth with a daily reminder that he was not forgotten.
It is important for families struggling through recovery to know that they are not alone. Whatever your efforts, your acts of kindness will mean more than you can ever know.
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 available as 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.