How to Help Family or Friends In A Crisis

Charlie’s birth was a very lonely time for me. We did not get the normal flood of visitors, gifts, and congratulations that comes with having a newborn. Instead, the silence was deafening and the loneliness was unbearable. The thing is, very few people knew what to do for us or how to respond. Today being what it is, I have decided to write about the helpful (and not so helpful) things people did for us when Charlie was born. The information is a list of ideas that can be adapted to help others in times of crisis.

What Was Helpful:

  • My husband’s company shipped a few days worth of meals to us or people made us food. I loved this. Last year combined, we spent 120 days in the hospital. I’ve discovered there is only so much hospital food one can eat. Once I returned home after a long day at the hospital, cooking was one of the last things I wanted to do.
  • Several people sent gifts and baby items (many in preemie sizes). It was a nice way of saying, “We are thinking of you and we hope for the best.” and not actually have to say it.
  • One out of town friend said to me, “I want to help but I don’t know what to do or say.” It was a great thing to say because it was honest and let me know that we were in her thoughts.
  • Other friends helped with our animals (letting our dog out while we were at the hospital) and with the household chores. Here are some suggestions: mow the yard, shovel the drive way, drop and pick up a load of laundry at the cleaners, or give a gift certificate to a maid service.
  • I had one friend that would listen. That friend was amazing at it.
  • Other friends went out of their way to face the awkwardness of not knowing what to say or do and visited us and Charlie.

What Was Not Helpful:

  • For whatever reason, almost everyone we ran into said, “If you ever need anything…”. Instead of the sentiment that was intended, we started to hear, “Sucks to be you” every time it was uttered. I, now, loathe this phrase. Alternately, offer to do something specific.
  • It added to the stress and chaos whenever someone would volunteer to do something and cancel at the last minute. We were counting on those things getting done.
  • I had someone ask me what I needed. When I told them, they ignored it and proceeded to tell me what I needed. Not only was it not helpful, it was frustrating and dismissive.
  • Silence. Not saying anything can be much more painful than saying the wrong thing.

About Rebecca Wood

In May 2012, my pregnancy ended three and a half months early due to severe early onset preeclampsia. This is my collection of thoughts and media. It is an attempt to document and discuss our experience of navigating the post NICU world. View all posts by Rebecca Wood

3 responses to “How to Help Family or Friends In A Crisis

  • Alyssa

    This is a great list. spot on. For me, silence hurt more than anything else. I could rationalize the “wrong” things that people said but I could not understand those who chose to turn their backs


    • woodra01

      Yeah, I hated sitting in the NICU alone. Especially in the first NICU (which was open) because I could see all the people who were not alone. I think a tough thing is that most preemie moms have pictures of them with their babies from earlier on. I only have a couple that the nurse took. There was no one there to take mine.

      I had a chance to visit your site briefly (I will peruse it later). It’s a great site and Virginia is beautiful.


  • Jax Mully

    This is great! I wrote a bit about this, too, when I first started our blog. ( The thing that helped us the most was when people just *did* stuff – they didn’t ask, they didn’t see what time worked the best, they just *did* it an then we didn’t have to think about it anymore!


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