When to Visit
So, your friend or loved one has had a medical event occur. This could be surgery, accident, or even the birth of a child. You want to be there, you want to help. How do you make sure that your visit does not create stress or cause additional trauma? When is “helping” becoming hurting?
I have reviewed what has worked well for me, and identified some commonalities.
- Check yourself. Before you do anything else you need to do a reality check. Is the visit really for them, or is it for you? Are you looking to offer support or do you want to hear the story of the accident/injury? If there is any reason for your visit other than concern for your loved one, if how they behave during the visit will affect your perception of them, skip it. I mean it. People go through so many changes that if this visit is about you or what you need, drop it. They don’t need the stress. Send a card, flowers, or a care package. If you can’t trust that you will be ok with whatever they need when you show up, then you don’t need to go.
- Schedule it. Set a day and time that miss necessary appointments. Therapy and medical visits are vital, usually a friendly visit is not. Be respectful of their time and the impact a late or unscheduled visit can have on their day. I schedule things a week in advance, with one simple activity per day. Anymore and I am useless by dinner time, or it knocks me out and I fall asleep at random throughout the afternoon.
- Accept changes. You called before you left, you planned a time that was low impact and missed vital appointments such as medication dosages or therapy appointments, but they fell asleep. If you are thinking “How rude!” I invite you to revisit bullet point one. No, really. I repeat if you are not ok with whatever they need during your visit, skip it. I set my schedule weekly, but I set it “In Jell-O”. This means I allow lots of additional space for changes and bad days, my loved ones must accept this and they have been amazing.
- Your loved one is different. Before you go, know that the person you see will never be the same. No matter the incident; radiation, car accident, or giving birth, their life has changed permanently. It is never the same, they are never the same. I apologize, a lot, to my family and friends. I know it. I can feel it. I can see it. Every time I speak, I hear it in my voice. The best response I got was from my baby sister. M looked at me and flat out told me to “Shut up. Stop it! You are not dead. I don’t care about anything else.” Accept that they are different now. Before going let go of preconceived ideas and ideals. Just listen and accept that they are still here now.
- Leave the advice column/article/book at home. Really, just drop it. If they are dealing with an injury they have masses of information that they cant yet review because they are healing. If it was an accident then no amount of hearing about your cousins breathtaking car accident will help them. And, good heavens, if you found the “must have” new book on child rearing, use it for yourself. I read way too much on brain injury and brain tumors. Nothing is written from a survivor perspective (Which is why I started journaling in the first place.) If the person asks for the book, with no prompting, then you can offer it. But no amount of sermonizing on your personal views will endear you to your loved one.
- Be there. Be it in cards, letters, meals dropped off, care packages, or visits. All of it is noticed. All of it is appreciated. Don’t let fear overshadow your friendship. If you have questions or concerns about any of the above, talk to your loved one or their advocate. They can best answer any questions for their specific situation. This also allows the love you feel to come through, even if you struggle. Let the love be there. Laugh about it, admit to your concerns. they will let you know what they need and can tolerate.
Remember that it is about love. Love can heal and your acceptance of their journey will free them from expectation and allow them to focus on the most important goal right now, healing. God bless you.