"Tell us - from friends, loved ones, and even acquaintances- what does help/support/relief/kindness really look like?"
I've been mulling this question from my friend, John G., for the past few days. He suggested the answer might make a good post here. After giving it a lot of consideration, here's my first attempt. Not a definitive description because I don't think there is one. At least I don't have one. What I will share, for now, is what I am learning about support.
~ What support looks like not only varies from person to person but also for any one person, depending on the challenge and when it appears. When John was battling non-Hodgkins, we lived in Houston, in an apartment near the hospital. I didn't have to cook or clean and we were 12 years younger. I needed very little physical help as compared to today. But I could have used more emotional support; maybe I just didn't understand that I did as much as I do today?
~ There may many people who will offer to be of help, and though some may offer only as a courtesy, no one is a mind reader. Unless someone knows you very, very well, they cannot know what you might need and what you will accept. Even if they know, a new situation may require a level or kind of support neither of you recognizes. I've found it helpful to me and those who would support me to list all the ways someone could help me physically, intellectually and emotionally. It led me to make many requests I would not have otherwise - asking our window cleaner if he would take down all items from upper shelves so that neither of us needs to use a ladder anymore, replying to a friend who asked me what could lift my spirits that day -"flowers", or to another "a regular luncheon date at a spa."
~Which brings me to my last point (for now), and perhaps the most important - support, help, assistance, however you refer to it, is as much related to whether or how well you accept it as to whether or not it is offered. In the past, my pride was an obstacle to receiving the support I wanted. Sometimes, I thought it a sign of weakness or incompetence to admit I needed help. Sometimes, I'm embarrassed to say, I thought I could do it all or better. Experience has taught me otherwise. Sometimes I just didn't know what I needed. And sometimes, even today, I get too overwhelmed, too caught up in anxiety and fear to even recognize what is being offered.
Well, John, my friend, your question has instigated some serious thought. I recognized even as I started to compose my reply that there is much more I want to add - so there will be a Part II. In the meantime, I welcome comments, questions, and other ideas. Support each other? What a wonderful idea.