When a Crisis Happens: Tips to Help You or Your Loved One

Chances are if you’re reading this, either you or someone you love has gotten a life-changing phone call. For us it happened on October 24. 2018 when my husband got a phone call from his mom to tell him his dad was missing. Twelve hours later another call— he had passed away.

Truly, if you’re here reading this, I’m so sorry for what you’re living through. I wish I could take it away. In this life we all live through some form of loss/crisis. If that’s not currently your story then you have a friend who’s there. Sister, I’ve been on both sides of the coin and I’m just so sorry.

Fresh off my own personal crisis, here is the summary of the ways I’ve found that have helped me survive to help you or your loved one walk through this darkness.

To help your friend in crisis:

1) Show up in whatever way you can.

Whether your far or nearby, you can do something. Send or bring flowers. Bring food or send a gift card. Send a text or DM or call. Send emojis or a voice memo or a hand-written note. You won’t know what to say, but trust me, show up some way and it will make a world of difference.

2)  They don’t know “how they are,” but ask anyway.

”How are you?” Terrible, tired, exhausted, in shock, desperately sad, full of hard thoughts, etc, etc. When you see or talk to your person who is in the midst of the worst, it’s going to be hard, but ask how they are. If you don’t ask, you’re communicating that you can’t handle the answer. If you’re reading this then you are the kind of friend who can handle a friend’s emotions during their hard time.

3)  Have grace...it’s not you, it’s them.

They might not text or call you back. They might not acknowledge the gift you sent right away. One of the best things a friend did for me was she just kept texting, even when I didn’t text back. When someone is going through trauma they have very low capacity emotionally, so don’t add to their plate by taking their reponse (or lack thereof) personally. It’s not you, it’s them having the hardest time of their life.

If you’re the one in crisis:

1)  It’s ok to not be ok.

Whatever happened to you...death, miscarriage, divorce, infertility, dishonesty, injustice, injury, job loss, etc....it’s not ok. It’s the worst. Sit and let yourself feel how you actually feel, instead of pushing it down, because that will just result in those emotions bubbling up later on. This is hard and terrible, and you’re not crazy for thinking so.

2)  Take care of yourself, regardless of if you “feel like it”.

Two days after losing my father-in-law, I ran the fastest four miles of my life, crying the whole way. Two weeks after the loss, I was eating non-stop like I was a bear about to go into hibernation. Our bodies respond in crazy ways to shock and trauma- there are all sorts of hormones and chemicals that go haywire under that kind of pressure. Sister— for your sake and everyone around you, do at least one thing a day to take care of yourself. Take a bath, get your nails done, go for a walk, read your favorite book, or go to yoga. Personally the days I have gotten endorphins from exercise have been better days emotionally, so I highly recommend moving your body.  

3)  Ask for help.

My first full sentence as a toddler was “I’ll do it my own self,” so I’m practically allergic to asking for help. But in this trauma, girl you’re going to need help. The first three days after Chris died, Zach was gone in Wisconsin but I had stayed behind with Leo and we weren’t going to tell Leo what happened until Zach got home. Those were probably the three hardest days of my life, and I couldn’t have lived through them without our neighbor who picked Leo up from school for a playdate and dinner, or food being delivered to my house. People are eager to help you in your hard time, just ask them!

My heart sincerely hopes these suggestions help you as you navigate trauma in your life— and please remember, you’re not alone.