Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Crisis in the family: How to deal

I try to avoid the Pain Olympics, i.e. my pain is greater than your pain, because... but I can at least say that I've been through some legit crises. As such, I can now call myself a Certified Pain Expert, and can advise you as such. 

So, let's say that a family member or friend of yours is in crisis. Someone has died, or a child is very ill, or there's been an accident, or Russian Mafia have abducted the President's daughter. 

Let me start with what you should never say. "I know how you feel." Unless you have been through the EXACT thing, you don't. In line with this, don't compare, for example, "I know how you feel. I haven't had a baby die, but in 3rd grade my cocker spaniel was hit by a car. I cried for DAYS." No. 

In line with that, don't try to be helpful about the silver lining. "Well, at least you still have ONE leg!" No. 

One of the things with crisis is, it is all consuming. When you're in it, nothing else matters. People in crisis often move into survival mode, where everything else is stripped down, so they can devote all their strength and mental energy to surviving. That is why it's not a good idea to ask them to call you and update you on the status of their tragedy. No. Find a relatively stable contact person, who is on the close outskirts of the situation without actually having blood on them, and get updates from them. Or if there are general updates online, work with those. People in crisis will tell you the nitty-gritty when they're ready. 

Some things that are generally good to do: 
Give food. Everybody has to eat, and even if there's no appetite now, at some point there will be. 
Say something. "I'm so sorry" is a good start. 
Give money. Crises are expensive. 
Give practically; offer to babysit or clean their house. Don't say "Let me know what you need." They probably won't.
Offer an ear, when or if they're ready to talk. Often after a tragedy, you might not know what you are and aren't allowed to talk about, so let them lead. If they bring up their loved one, then don't act awkward or change the subject. Just listen. 
Hug them, pray for them, and most of the time, don't offer advice. Odds are good that you don't know what you're talking about. 

Ultimately, you will do some things right and some things wrong. The important thing is to be there, physically or emotionally, however the person in crisis prefers to be supported. Good luck! 


  1. This is so good stuff. I have talked with a friend of mine several times who has been dealing with loss and pain and what she got most from the people surrounding her was them minimizing her pain by pulling out the old, "WELL IT COULD BE WORSE", or "WELL I WENT THROUGH SOMETHING WORSE THAN YOU".

    I never knew the exact words to give her... so I just listened.(over and over again sometimes) I think that's all people need sometimes!

    love your insight jess!
    btw my dog was hit by a car when i was in 3rd grade. THANKS FOR BRINGING IT UP! ;-)

  2. u in a crises?

    i am sorry

  3. I once had someone tell me after having a miscarriage that "God told them there really wasn't a baby"!

    Yikes! I couldn't believe the words that left those lips!

    They have since been forgiven though the memory is still there.

    You have given some very wise advice. Good for you!

  4. in the photo is the baby in crisis

    maybe if you cuddled that poor thing he would not cry

    snarky anon

  5. anon 1: I'm not in a current crisis, thank goodness

  6. Once when I was in crisis... a very wise friend, Connie came and sat next to me and said NOTHING..... just cried with me and held me and sat there.... I remember how comforting this was. God has reminded me of this on occasion and so, I have been the one to just sit there and hold someone and say nothing. Its all we need when we are in the all consuming deep of it. God is good and HE sends what we need.

  7. if Jess or one of Jess's was in a current crises, she or hers would call both grandmothers and we would know about it before it was on FaceBook or blogged because we love our grandbabies and our children and those things are so deep and important and PERSONAL.

    Sometimes it feels like the crises are so close together that you can not even take a breath before the next one. God is so good and It is nice to be able to breathe again. I did not know that all this time I was holding my breath.

    Life's pains strengthen us and shape us. What do we do with it? How do we respond? What is our next move.

    I was emotionally and spiritually paralized once for about 18 months..... and then again a couple years ago..... and 3 weeks ago....but this time it did not keep me. I am FREE and GOD is so AWESOME and everything is changing and healing.

    This is a good post..and much needed... everyone faces tragedies and people want to know how to "be there" and what to do and what to say.... and all they have to do is say nothing and actually "be there" .

  8. Good words, Jess.
    Unfortunately I know this all to be true from personal experience as the one in crisis.
    But I had so many, many friends who knew to do all of this...I was blessed.

  9. Well, thanks for making me cry. No, really...thanks.

    In the pit of my crisis, it was nice to read your post. It's nice to know that someone gets it and is willing to give advice on how to handle an emotional basket case like myself. Thanks Jess! I'll be gently sharing your post with friends because well, they "totally know how I feel" ;)


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