When you need Help asking for Help

A well-meaning friend or family member has just found out about your diagnosis.  They’re in shock and so are you.  Wanting to offer comfort and support, they often say something like, “if there’s anything I can do for you, let me know.”  Often, our reply is, “thank you, I will” – but then you never do.  Sound familiar?  For many of us, asking for help is uncomfortable, awkward, or just plain unheard of.  There are many reasons for this, but I don’t want to focus on the why we can’t in this post, but on the how we can.

brave help

Years ago, I used to run a support group for Caregivers who took care of their elderly loved ones, many of whom had dementia and other debilitating conditions.  They did a wonderful, amazing job of caring for their loved ones, but often a terrible job of taking care of themselves.  They put their loved ones first, neglecting their own well-being, and often felt they had to do it alone, that asking for help would be an admission of failure or that they were shirking their responsibilities.  Many of these Caregivers became ill themselves, and some even passed away before the loved ones they had been caring for.  They pretty much all had the same thing in common – they had a difficult time asking for help.  One of the resources I often turned to for ideas was Today’s Caregiver magazine and their website, http://www.Caregiver.com.  An article that I found extremely helpful was one that suggested making a “Reverse Gift List.”  The concept was to create a list, much like a Christmas list, except next to people’s names, you list a “gift” that person could give you.  For example, you might have a neighbor who could go grocery shopping once a week for you, or a sister-in-law who could make dinner and drop it off once a week. This way, when someone asks, “is there anything I can do for you?”, they could pull out their little list and say, “well, as a matter of fact, there is…”, and give them specific tasks to do.  This not only helps the person asking for help, but it also makes the person offering help feel like they are contributing in a meaningful way.  I experienced this first hand when I was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago.  I had a wonderful partner and we had two lovely daughters, the oldest 5 and the youngest 2.  We realized quickly that we could not handle everything on our own and sat down to make a list of everyone in our support system – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers.  Just as I had a treatment team of doctors and medical professionals to fight my cancer , my partner and I assembled a team to help us get through it.   It was so helpful to have a ready-made list of things we needed help with.  It gave me a sense of order in the midst of the chaos and gave my helpers a sense that they were contributing to my recovery, to my family and to kicking cancer’s butt.  Often, people really want to help, but don’t know how – making this list gives them the answers and – most importantly – the help you most desperately need.

ask for help

*To read the full article from Today’s Caregiver on “Reverse Gift Lists”, visit:  http://www.caregiver.com/articles/general/reverse_gift_list.htm


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lupolympics
    Sep 10, 2015 @ 00:15:35

    I really like the idea of a “Reverse Gift List.”I am, unfortunately, one of those who has difficulty asking for help but really needs to. Thanks for sharing this!


  2. romie3
    Sep 10, 2015 @ 13:22:07

    Thanks for your comment! Maybe you could try to “reverse” your thinking re: asking for help. Instead of seeing it as a way for others to give to you, look at it as a way for you to give to others by making them feel needed and useful. 🙂
    Thanks for reading my blog and I wish you health and happiness! Be well – Sonia


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