Saturday, May 11, 2019

GOOD GRIEF, "Ask for and Accept Help"

Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation
Ordinary men hate solitude. But the Master makes use of it,  embracing his loneliness, realizing he is one  with the whole universe.
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Few people are mind readers, so don’t expect them to know what you are feeling or what you need!
This next concept is important to grief processing — at least in my opinion. “Ask for help!”

I repeat, “Ask for help!”

Just do it. Here’s why: Asking for help can decrease both your stress and the helper’s stress significantly. Don’t be surprised who you’ll find placed in your path of need. Set your intention to positive! Expect that there is someone waiting for you to ASK. “If you build it, they will come” has as its corollary, “if you invite comforting, it will take place.”

This was a hard lesson for me to learn. I had many conversations with myself about whether I should call and ask, knock on a door and ask, or just ask. Of course, I asked God in my prayers — but that was easier than exposing my vulnerability by asking people I knew.

I was about to learn that I could ask and I could receive and still feel OK.

I felt so alone with the loss of my husband; we had lived side-byside in each other’s presence for so long. When I was out and saw other couples, twosomes like my husband and I used to be, I felt even more lonely and withdrew into solitude. I was ONE, no longer part of a couple. Indeed, in some sense, I was a HALF of the person I had been for so long, now disconnected from my other half.

It took time to come to terms with the martyrdom of keeping it all together and to “tough it out” by myself. I was drowning in arrogance and self-pity. I needed to dig my way out. The key was to acknowledge my inability to “do it all,” and instead accept the help others wanted to give and even — to ask for help! This was hard. I have been a selfsufficient woman for many years. My change in attitude to needing, asking for and accepting help had some amazing results.

Guess what? Some friends don’t know what to do, what you need, or how to offer help — a real eye-opener. So, what did I do? I started asking for help, and was rewarded by smiles and sighs of relief from my friends. My loss was really “not all about me” but included so many others, as we are all connected with the universe. We are told not to ask for whom the mournful church bell tolls…it tolls for each of us.

Some memories of how I asked for and received help from both friends and strangers are included below.

I was out for a drive and called my friend, Anne, at her home and said, “I’ll be driving by your house on my way from work. Could I stop in for a hug?”

“Ok,” she said, “but don’t mind my messy home.”

I did not care what the home looked like! I focused on the physical comfort of a hug and the comfort I would feel being with my friend. I did stop by, did not notice any messiness, and got more than her hug. Her husband, Jim, hugged me, too. I also received licks from the dog, nudges from the cat, and kind words from her son. There is something to be said for the benefits of pets. They seem to know when a person is hurting and they just stay close. I felt so cared for sitting at their table, surrounded by friends and pets and sipping a cup of tea.

Two days after my husband died, I went to Target to get some romance novels (my usual coping/escape mechanism when under stress). When I came out, the car wouldn’t start. At first, I sat there in shock, not believing this was happening.

Looking up to the sky (and thinking Fred was watching), I said, “Are you kidding me?”

This was followed by a few choice words I’ll not mention here. I could just picture and hear him having a good belly laugh.

Then, I went into problem-solver mode and checked the dials on the control panel, the gas gauge, and anything I could think of that could be causing the problem. The electric windows worked. The lights worked. So, why didn’t the car start? There were too many signal lights on the dashboard to identify an easy solution — I was a woman, after all…some would say.

I looked around the parking lot, thinking someone would appear and know that I needed help. Not so easy, because when alone, you are fearful of reaching out for help from a stranger. It was now dark and starting to rain, with strong gusts of wind. I was afraid to ask the person in the white car parked facing me or the person in the black truck in front of me. I was alone, insecure, vulnerable, and downright scared.

So, I called my daughter, and she came to help — whew! My brave Bonnie traveled during a severe thunder-and-lightning storm to help her mama. When she tried to start the car, it did not start either — it’s not just me, I mused.

We could not figure out the problem. We had a few laughs during this, saying, “I bet dad’s just laughing so hard there are tears in his eyes.”

So, we went to Plan B.

Plan B: We traveled in her car to the Home Depot in another section of the shopping center. I entered the store with this thought in my mind: I’m looking for a man who knows something about cars. I need a man.

Holy cow, that sounded creepy! Worse, finding one was easier said than done. I walked past the first man I saw behind the customer

service counter, dismissed him, and approached three other employees, asking them for assistance or at least some knowledge that would be useful — no luck here.

Then, on the way out of the store, I stopped the first man I had passed and asked about the oil I had in my hand — after all, one of the lights identified low oil and seemed worth a try to fix the problem. I told him the problem with the car and that my husband had just died this week and I did not know what to do about the car.

“I am so sorry for your loss,” he said. “Just give me a minute.”

Then he picked up the phone and asked someone to cover for him while he went into the parking lot to help a customer for a few minutes. He came to my car, jump-started it using my daughter’s car in the stormy, rainy night. Then he hurried off, even though we offered him a ride back to the store. His name was Bob, and I thanked him. A week later, I saw him again at Home Depot and thanked him again for his care and help.

I learned that asking for help was not such hard thing to do and that exposing my vulnerability allowed the experience of asking and accepting help from others to happen. I even found out that those who responded to my request for help felt good about having the opportunity to be of service. Everyone needs to be needed in some way, and everyone needs to help someone in some way.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
— Matthew 7:7
        I accept myself and acknowledge my needs.
        I make my own choices and reach out to meet my needs.
        I am courageous and fearless, knowing others await my requests for the opportunity to care for me.


With her permission, I am serializing here nurse Cheryl Barrett's valuable book on transcending grief. I had the pleasure of being her coach and editor through my Write Your Book with Me enterprise. 

Douglas Winslow Cooper, PhD

Perhaps the easiest way to obtain a copy of her book, published by Outskirts Press, is through this Amazon link: 

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