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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » How to be supportive to a family who has a critically injured loved one

Author Topic: How to be supportive to a family who has a critically injured loved one
Member # 2314

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Okay, this is a partial rant, because I'm frustrated with my inability to do anything constructive right now. My church's pastor was driving to the airport last night to meet our returning missionaries (we had a group go to Honduras for a couple weeks on a medical mission) when he was in a horrific car accident. A woman going northbound crossed the median and collided with him, he was headed southbound on the interstate. The woman who hit him was pronounced dead at the scene. Our pastor has massive orthopedic injuries - broken hip, broken femur, several compound fractures, etc. He was in surgery for six hours, and last I heard was being moved to his room and they expect they'll have to do more surgery this week.

Okay, so I go to the hospital right after class (he's at UAB hospital, I go to UAB so I was close by) and I sit with his wife while she's waiting to hear the results of the surgery. His wife and I teach kid's choir together, she's a teacher and has been really supportive of me and I consider us good friends.

I sat with her and told her a funny story about a mutual acquaintance, and then we talked about concrete things I could do to help. I told her I would take Natalie over to her house this afternoon - Natalie is my oldest and she babysits their two kids. I figured Natalie could help with the kid's homework after school and do laundry, and just in general help out and since she's babysat multiple times the kids know her and she knows her way around the house. They moved here less than a year ago and have no family near so it really falls on the church family to be there for them.

Their little girl is in the same dance class as my Abigail, so I told her not to worry, I'd handle getting her to dance and all that stuff. In short, I was trying to help the best way I knew - by letting a distraught mother know I would be able to help take care of some of those things mothers need to take care of and leave her free to focus on her husband right now.

I don't know if it was the exact right thing to do, but she seemed relieved that I was able to take some of those responsibilities.

Now, my rant - here is how I think one should NOT help a distraught, upset wife. One of my fellow church members saw fit to sit down and tell this women that at least it was her husband's left side that was basically crushed in this car accident and not his right, because, and I quote: "He'll still be able to wipe his bottom and you won't have to do it for him." WTF? <---I think that's my first WTF at Hatrack but truly I don't know what else fits. [Wall Bash]

She wasn't done though - she then spent five minutes telling the wife and me, about how her father who she cares for cannot wipe himself so she has to do it all the time. While I appreciate being a caregiver for an ailing parent is difficult, and I admire her love and dedication to her father - now was not the time for her to b***h and moan about it. Hey, newsflash - it's not about you right now. So hush. Ugh.

So, any ideas you guys have of how I can be a help to this family, please share them - I want to do all I can without getting in the way and being a hindrance rather than a help. We already have people organizing getting meals to the house for the kids and the company they'll soon have (some out-of-town family are headed in) and I fortunately have a dining account at UAB that I never use up every semester so I have a balance on it and can buy food for her at the campus dining for when she's stuck at UAB.

Prayers are of course welcome - his name is Jerry.

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Member # 5567

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Praying for Jerry.


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Member # 4644

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Every time I hear somebody complain about someone who gave comfort/help in the "wrong" way, it makes me not want to ever try to give comfort/help, for fear of doing it wrong.
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Member # 4941

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I guess I don't understand that reaction. There are differences between "support" and what a friend of mine calls "attacks of help."

Like Belle said - it's about the person that's suffering at the moment. (I do support stuff for Diane but wouldn't think that in a similar situation that I would choose to go off on a riff about how living with a disability is a perfectly fine way to live, for example.)


I cannot honestly think of anything specific to suggest. You are trying to figure out what the needs of the family are and offering that help.


Maybe I do have something to add after all. It looks like you've communicated very well about the help you're giving, but it would probably be good to figure out a way that isn't too cumbersome to make sure that the "help" this family gets is really what they need, instead of things that they don't "want" but make other people feel good. The more people who become involved, the likelier that is to happen, I'm afraid.

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Member # 4644

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I guess I don't understand that reaction. There are differences between "support" and what a friend of mine calls "attacks of help."
I'm afraid that any attempts of support from me will be interpreted as "attacks of help".

I don't get it. I know I don't, which makes me more likely to be one that people are saying "what was he thinkging?" or "wtf?" about my actions.

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The Pixiest
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Yeah.. I totally get MPH's point... I stick my foot in my mouth all the time when people aren't in an emotionally charged state. I think I'd have a hard time living with myself if I managed to hurt someone who was already hurting.

And you never know what's going to help and what's going to hurt.

Last week when my Dad was in the hospital, a well meaning neighbor dropped by some cold cuts. I actually thought "What's he doing here sticking his nose in on my family." Then I stopped myself and thought "He's being NICE. Most people aren't like me and wouldn't think of this as an intrusion, but as comfort."

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Member # 8376

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MPH: I'm very adverse to praying for somebody and saying, "May he/she gets better." I feel its dishonest, as if it's not God's will that they get better, then I am asking for something I shouldn't.

I live in perpetual fear that one day if I am asked to offer a prayer on somebody's behalf, (and it has happened before) that I will say, "If it is right that they get better, that they will do so speedily" and somebody will get angry at me.

I've helped a lot of people and have yet to have them get mad at me for the manner in which I did it, but I completely empathize with what you are saying.

Pixiest: I've done that too! "Why are THEY here? It's not a good time!" only to think, "Am I mad that they came or that they did what they did? Usually it's the former and I always get mad at myself for even thinking it.

[ February 26, 2007, 05:48 PM: Message edited by: BlackBlade ]

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I can stick my foot in my mouth with the best of them, too. I can see both points of view, though. It is certainly not the best thing to say to the poor wife at this time, but on the other hand for all you know right now she's hitting herself in the head going, "Why the heck did I say that? That was so stupid. I just wanted to help."

Usually, I try to stick to "I'm so sorry to hear that" or "I'll say a prayer for you." Those are usually safe. On the other hand, they don't seem real. You are in a position, in this case, to e of some service to the family but most people don't have anything but words and people don't always choose the right ones. I try to judge people's intent rather than their affect. (This manages to be easier sitting here on my couch, not knowing any of you. If I were the wife, I would probably be a little upset by the comments.)

I'm sorry to hear about your pastor. I'll say a prayer for him. [Smile]

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Tante Shvester
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If I'm unsure about what to say or do, I do one of two things. I either try to think about what I'd want if I were in that person's situation, and act accordingly, or, if I'm unable to pull that off, I just tell them, "I don't know what to say. Is there anything I can do?"

But, unless people ask me right out what it's like to be a caregiver for a dependent loved one (oh! I've got expertise!), I don't volunteer. And what I usually end up saying, unless pressed for details is, "You do what you have to in this life."

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I can stick my foot in my mouth with the best of them, too
I do this too, so lately I've taken to saying,
"I'm really horrible at knowing what is the right thing to say but I want you to know that I care/thinking of you/would like to help" and go from there.

Belle, I think that what you are doing is great. It seems like there are always a lot of offers for help at first and then it tapers off. I would recommend continuing to call and being a friend, IOW what you are already doing.

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