What A Traumatic Experience Taught Me About Unconditional Support

They say that hard times reveal great friendship and I felt this more than ever over the last couple of weeks. The support that swarmed around us during my husbands heart attack is what helped get us through it.

In the past, when I was on the other side, I  wasn’t always sure what to do for others during emergency situations. Is it my place? Am I reaching out too much? Should I back off? These and other insecure questions would be on my mind but having gone through a crisis and been on the receiving end of incredible support, I now know the answers. Here’s what our friends and family did for us that made all the difference:

1. Show up. Having people there, sitting in the waiting room, was not underrated. We had lots of friends and family fly across the country, we had countless people at the hospital 24 hours a day (including those that slept in the waiting room) and even though they weren’t sitting in my husbands room with us, knowing they were out in the hallway gave us great strength. It also gave us a reason to walk outside, take a breath and receive much needed hugs.

2. Handle it. One of the things I learned about being in crisis is that the last thing you’re focused on is yourself. That’s where great friends and family come in. There was never ever a time when I needed something to eat, a fresh pair of clothes, another venti coffee or a shoulder to cry on. Everyone else was handling that for us, no questions asked. There was an endless supply of everything we could possibly need even though in that moment we weren’t aware of what we needed. We stayed hydrated, caffenaited, nourished and warm without having to leave the ICU.

3. Reach out. I’m always afraid to text or call or email people during emergencies because I don’t want to be a bother but through this experience I learned that you should always reach out. Showing someone that you care and are interested in helping is always a good thing. A few people started emails/texts with, “no need to write back but I want you to know….” which was helpful because there was no burden to write back if I couldn’t but the notes themselves were heart warming.

4. Brighten things up. Every bone in my body was tense while my husband was in the ICU and those brief moments of comedic relief gave me the chance to slightly decompress. It’s perfectly ok to try to cheer someone up by cracking a little joke.

5. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. If someone you love is in a crisis, you ultimately then feel as though you are too.  It’s perfectly ok to let down your guard, be vulnerable and cry together. I didn’t need everyone to be strong for me. I needed everyone to just be.

A special and heartfelt thank you to all our family and friends who helped get us through this.  You were so unbelievably and selflessly supportive and I don’t know what I would do without you. I love you. Thank you.

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  1. Oh my gosh I hope your husband is okay and on the mend!! I can’t imagine what you’re going through. This was nonetheless a great read; I think you’ve put it perfectly into words how a crisis can pull the people you love together. I think humor would be most important to me personally, it helps pull people out of a hole and allows better judgement then an emotionally wrecked state. Thanks for writing this, I hope it was somewhat therapeutic!

    xo, Alice || a l i c e / T Y P E N U

  2. Sending you a big hug my friend. Who knows why things happen and when they happen, but it’s understanding what they show us and teach us that help us come out stronger and better prepared. thank you for sharing this story. xx

  3. we have never met, but i have known your in laws for 40 years and grew up in cleveland. i live in los angeles and am so sorry that this has happened to your famiy. if i can be of any help , in any way, please email me. i am a fantastic cook, if i say so msyelf. i was taught b my bubbe. i can run errands ,anything.

  4. I am so sorry this has happened to you guys. Glad to hear your hubby is on the mend. Thank you so much for this list. I never quite know what to say to people. This is such a big help x

  5. Geri, this is perfect and I kind of needed it right now. I lost my mom 7 months ago, and my husband’s father passed 5 years ago. Both times were obviously incredibly trying for our families, and people don’t really know what to say or how to be….coworkers are unsure if they can even ask how I’m doing, so I get a lot of avoidance (which is just the worst). The grief I’ve compartmentalized sneaks out when I least expect it, and having friends around who understand and who can just be normal…hug, crack a joke, offer to meet for drinks…makes it so much easier. Or less icky, anyway.

  6. Geri I’m so sorry that you went thru so much tragicty but it’s really wonderful to have so much support.your letter expressed it all and I’m so happy for you and your husband as well

  7. Have just experienced the death of my mother, I think all of your five points on how to support someone you know who is going through a crisis were perfect. Luckily, I had family and friends that all reached out to me and continue to do so. That has made all of the difference. I wish your husband a speedy recovery.

  8. I echo this completely. We had a similar scary experience with my Dad and I can’t tell you how meaningful all the support was. We felt very supported and lifted up in that time. So glad your husband is on the mend.

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