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“If there’s anything I can do to help…”

It takes courage to let people know what you need

Many people offered “If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know,” while my family struggled after my 19 year old brother went missing in the Pembina Valley Provincial Park, and again after we learned he had died as a result of a campfire accident.

And while I agree with the beautiful blog post by Winnipeg radio host Christy Fabbri, that we all need to put more action behind our words and our offers to help, I would add this:

It takes courage to say, “You know, there is actually something I need…”

We did take people up on their offer; we had such healing special music at the funeral because we took up a friend on his offer of, “if there’s anything I can do,” I also replied to another friend with a request to rent us some movies, and another with a plea to take in our energetic dog for the evening.

Our friends and neighbours genuinely wanted to help, but the question was, “how?”

I suppose it takes courage, both to become vulnerable enough to say, “Actually, it sounds silly, but I would love a breakfast sandwich from Tims,” just as it takes courage to show up at a hurting friends door with breakfast unasked for.

It’s easy to become frustrated with easy platitudes, but a little grace can go a long way when you believe that their heart is in the right place. I actually came to look forward to the question, “How are you doing?” because even though it was the same conversation beginning with, “it comes in waves…” each time I talked about my feelings there was a release, a chance to decompress.

The other five points the blog post mentions are equally true. Meals and a little company in the evenings were something to look forward to. I got through a number of hard days meeting with police and picking out caskets knowing that in the evening good friends were waiting to bring us supper and sit and talk.

Housework is also a good one. The last thing you can muster is energy or focus to get the dishes in the dishwasher and clothes in the dryer. Yet, coming home to find it unexpectedly tidied up brought us to tears.

Sometimes open-ended statements like, “If there’s anything you need, just let me know,” don’t need to be taken up on. It’s comforting to just know friends are on stand-by, honestly, some nights that’s all we needed to know.

However, specific questions are also helpful, “Do you need supper today?” or “Do you want to go for a walk?” are easy on us with our brain-fog thinking and a simple “yes” or “no” is all we can muster.

Our friends, family and community, and even strangers from across the country, have been amazing during these past couple of weeks. And we appreciate both their words and actions.

Although next time a friend goes though a dark valley or is walking a hard road, I will make sure to offer the same, “If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know,” and like many of you, I will also mean it.


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