Writing this is going to difficult. I am going to contradict myself, and this puts me in an uncomfortable state.
First, asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Recognizing that you need help, then asking for it shows incredible self-awareness.
Second, if you do not ask for help, this does not mean you are weak.
Advocating for oneself is difficult. It is so severe that even the most put-together person may have a tough time when they find themselves having to do so. When the world adds in more and more stressors or unfortunate events, a person can feel so overwhelmed they do not even know where to begin, let alone how to ask for help. They don't even know what precisely is needed, even though they know they need something.
When faced with a tragic situation, your world is spinning. Thinking straight while trying to keep it together is all you can do. Then your friend says, "Let me know if you need anything." The person in the middle of chaos, holding on by a thread, runs through their head but nothing, and everything pops up at once, possibly causing more stress. The only thing they can think to say is, "Thank you, I will." They won't. They. Will. Not.
Photo by nikko macaspac
They won't because they won't want to be a bother, if (and that's a big "if") they can think of something they could use help with at all. Also, trying to take care of everything is just what some people do. They shouldn't have to. No one should have to. Even if they have a large group of friends and family willing to help, in the middle of the chaos, they do not recognize that. They see each little tragedy as it appears, they deal with it in the best way they can. Despite lack of sleep. Despite actual ability. Despite the fact that other things are not getting done. Despite their need for a moment of silence. Despite everything.
The other side of this, people do not know how to help. They are sincere in their quest, "If you need anything, let me know." It is all they have because either they have never been in your situation or they truly do not know how they could be helpful. They may feel that they are overstepping or it seems to them that you have it all together, not realizing you are drowning on the inside. They simply don't know.
What do we do?
To tell you to take a deep breath the next time your whole world is spiraling so you can utilize the people who want to help is ignorant at best. Seriously. We can think we will have it together enough to be more clear-minded the next time something tragic happens. We won't be. Chaos begins, and we will go right into survival mode, everything becomes a blur after that. So what does this mean? It means the pressure gets put on those not in the middle of the chaos.
When someone we know is dealing with a stressful situation, we need to step up. Yes, stressful situations are subjective. How you deal with the death of a loved one can be markedly different than someone else. Not every woman who has a child comes home and sleeps when the baby sleeps, enjoys all the experiences of having a new baby, and so on. Some women feel they are doing everything wrong. Some may suffer postpartum depression or just feel unprepared. This does not make them bad mothers. Some women just are overwhelmed by a new baby and question everything they do.
How we each handle stressful situation is unique. This does not make anyone better than the other, just different. We all have our own histories, personalities, triggers, experiences. We all deal with situations differently. The critical point is when we recognize that things are difficult for someone - be there for them! Listen. Observe. Act on the things you can.
Do not offer something that is either beyond your capability, or it is not in your wheelhouse. If you do not like to cook, but you realize making meals may be what they need, order food and bring it to them or give gift cards. Maybe your church has a group that would make some meals, you could organize it. Stop by, or call. Let the person know you are there. If they want to talk and even if they don't. If you stop by and you see dishes in the sink, just do them. They may try to stop you, let them know you want to help. They still may feel like they are being a bother, you should try to ease their mind. Cooking, cleaning are daily activities that need to be done. When a person is only focused on the chaos, they do not see that these things may not be getting done. Even if they are, they may not be getting done well or thoroughly.
We can all use a helping hand now and again. We all may want to give a helping hand. We may not always know how to ask for it or exactly what to give. Try putting yourself in the situation, think what would help lower your stress. Try to pay attention to what isn't getting done. Give yourself a break if you are going through your own chaos and do not compare yours to others. This is not a contest. Again, we all deal with things differently. There is no "right" way.
If we are all looking out for one another, no one will ever be alone. No will have to let anyone know "if they need anything" because we will already be there helping each other. Check on each other. We all need help. It's okay. Needing help does not mean you are weak, it means you are human.
Love Lots; Smile Often