Ten ways to comfort someone in crisis.

Yesterday, I was on an Intake call with someone who was worried about his friend. His friend’s dog had passed away a few months back, and this friend was grieving. Deeply. The friend was concerned and wanted to help comfort him, but didn’t know what to do.  He was close to his friend, but not sure if he had family in town, close friends, etc.  Swap out the dog with divorce, loss of job, cancer, death, etc and it could be someone you know.

Most of us probably knows someone who knows someone in crisis. It can leave us feeling helpless. We want to help, but not sure how. We don’t want to pry, intrude. We want to say the right thing. Like “Let me know if there is anything I can do”.

As well intentioned this sentence sounds, it can also be the worst thing ever, because having been the person in crisis — it can be hard to think straight, as our thoughts are jumbled and overwhelmed, let alone come up with a to do list of what one needs. And sometimes, it is just plain HARD to ask for help with the basics, like laundry, food, and face it, boring everyday tasks.

So, every post this quarter, I am committed to share a FREE resource to help you get back to happy. Today’s post is about how we can comfort someone in crisis. It is a great alternative to “I’m so sorry, I feel terrible, is there anything I can do”.

1. Please do not say “Let me know if there is anything I can do.” Bring a notepad with you for your next chat and be specific as you can in asking how you can help. What are you good at? What do you like helping with? Think TASKS. Offer to pick up the children from school, hire out someone to come clean the house, help them with a grocery list and then go do the shopping for them. Create a takeout menu list. Brush the dog. You get the idea.

2. If the task works, offer to do this for a period of time, like a month. Once an initial “crisis” has occurred, it can take some time for the person to heal. This is especially true for someone who has cancer. Even on the weeks off chemo, we are not at our 100%. And it can be hard to ask for help with tasks.

3. Organize a meal wheel. We all need to eat, and sometimes, it is the last thing on one’s mind, but sooooo necessary, especially if it is a family with children that is affected.

4. Related to the meals, designate a time for drop-offs, place for drop-offs, especially if the person in crisis is not up for visitors. A cooler with ice on the front porch is great to keep food chilled.  Also, make sure the food is in a disposable container so no one has to keep track of Tupperware. Purchase or cook meals that will keep well as leftovers is also a good idea. Have someone keep track of the meals so no one is left eating roast chicken 3 days in a row.

5. Become the communication go-to person or assign one. Use websites like caringbridge.com if appropriate, or create a blog, email list to keep everyone posted so the person in crisis does not have to repeat information like a broken tape recorder.

6. Related to number 5, field calls, FB posts, etc for person in crisis. Create a list of at least 5 people the person in crisis is comfortable about asking for help. Rotate the list so everyone takes turns being the go-to person.

7. Another task but so needed AND appreciated. Volunteer to do laundry for the person. Yup, even if it means taking it to the drop off laundry down the street.

8. Related but also so appreciated if it is applicable. Volunteer to take kids out for the afternoon, or walk the dog. Or do something nice for the main caregiver for the person in crisis. The caregiver can use a break too.

9. Make a crisis comfort basket or box. This is a favorite of mine and I would have loved this when I was sick. Find a pretty bag or box. Fill it with things that are comforting, relaxing, and practical. Here are a few ideas; disposable tissues, herbal tea, a pair of soft fuzzy socks, something soothing like a lavender scented buckwheat pillow for the eyes, or eye mask, eye drops, (there most likely will be tears) a travel size candle or incense, a journal, suduko or crossword puzzles (for all of those long waits in the doctor’s office), gift certificate for a gentle massage or energy work. Be creative or as generic as you want.

10. Offer to drive someone to and from doctors appointments if applicable, or to run errands.

Do you have other ideas you would like to share? I’d love to hear from you below. Here is a link to the  10waystocomfortincrisis  pdf if you would like to share it with someone or print out a copy. 

7 thoughts on “Ten ways to comfort someone in crisis.”

  1. This is great Claire – and so empowering for those of us who often feel at a loss when it comes to what we should do for loved ones! I personally love #9 and am going to take my own spin on the care package!

  2. Claire, that is an excellent list! Thank you for sharing it. I hope many see – and use! – it.

    And I couldn’t agree with you more – “Let me know if there is anything I can do” is such a frustrating phrase to hear (over, and over, and…). Sometimes I feel like saying “There are a million things I need!! I’m drowning! Just pick one!” (but of course, I never would SAY that – I just smile and say thanks). I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I’ve had that said to me. I can, however, count exactly the number of times I’ve had friends and family just up and do things – collect firewood, pick up groceries, send a little cash or gifts, manage updates so I didn’t need to, a game night for distraction… all those sort of things you were talking about… and I will be forever grateful to each and every one of them.

    Have you ever made a list of the sort of everyday, basic items that someone unexpectedly finding themselves in a hospital (or staying there with a loved one in the hospital) might need? Rather like what you did here, but with a slightly more specific focus, I guess. We met so many people in the hospital lobby, obviously looking for something to do but not knowing where to even start, and their eyes would just light up when we would pass by and quietly say “You could run down to the gift shop and buy them a box of softer tissue – the ones here are awful! Or they have ‘shower shoes’ there too, if you want to add something more.” – Nine times out of ten, they were off to the gift shop like a shot! But there are so many things you don’t even think about not having, until you find yourself in that position – tissues, toothbrush, clean socks, shampoo… a change of clothes, or just a pair of pajama pants so you don’t have to sleep in your jeans can be a godsend! Those sort of things 🙂

    • I think that is a great idea, yes–for those of us who’ve been in that position, we just want something cozy, something to take away that clinical edge right? I think they should come up with a hospital-stay kit. And one for the families and friends who are by their bedside too.
      Or even for heartbreak. How many times have you wanted to help out a girlfriend who’s gone through a bad breakup right?

      • Exactly!!
        After our stay there, I keep thinking I should make a nice write up/list of ideas and see if I can convince the hospital to post it in the waiting lobbies.

        Love making care packages for people – for any kind of loss or disappointment… including those heartbreaks!


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