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Expert Advice

Ask for the help you need

If you know someone who is grieving or facing hardship, you may be looking for ways to support them through a challenging holiday season. This year, the COVID-19 crisis is making it more difficult for people to connect and lend support. We’ve compiled safe and practical ways for you to show your loved ones how much you care during the holidays. With #OptionBThere, you can still be there for others, even if you can’t be there in person.

You’ll probably hear the phrase “Let me know if you need anything” from at least one person this holiday season. It can be a difficult offer to accept. Maybe you’re overwhelmed and don’t know how to answer. Maybe you’re worried about being a burden. Maybe you think you “should” be able to handle things yourself—“should” being a word we say too often to ourselves when we’re struggling. Whatever the reason, it can be hard to take a deep breath and say, “Actually, I’d love your help with something.”

Taking some time to think about this in advance can make that conversation easier. We’ve made a list to help you identify the little things people can do to help you and your family. You can go through it on your own or brainstorm with a friend, if that’s easier. In fact, the next time someone asks how they can help, this could be a good place to start: “Can you help me think through good answers to that question?” Then pull up these prompts and start thinking.

Brainstorming prompts

What would help you around the house?

  • Preparing meals: If you need a break from cooking or food prep, ask people to drop off one simple meal that can be frozen.
  • Picking up supplies: Are you out of something essential—pet food, toilet paper? Ask your friend to make a quick run to the store to keep the house stocked with essentials.

What tasks on your to-do list are weighing on you?

  • Organizing paperwork: Are bills piling up? Ask for help getting organized.
  • Making phone calls: If there’s a phone call that you’re dreading, consider asking someone to handle it for you.

What would give you more emotional support?

  • Company: See if a friend can meet up with you for a regularly scheduled call or socially distanced walk, as something to look forward to.
  • Positive messages: Ask friends to send a supportive text message or two, especially during the days that you know will be particularly hard.

What would help you reclaim small moments of joy?

  • Making crafts: Have a friend join you over video chat for a small project you can work on together in parallel like painting, board games, knitting.
  • Virtual volunteering: Serving others, even if virtually, is a great way of boosting our own spirits, and it’s just about always better with friends.

If you have children, how can loved ones pitch in?

  • Making time for yourself: There’s no shame in needing some time alone to recharge. Ask your friend to do a virtual story time for your kids so you can have some time to yourself.

Once you’ve composed your list, it’s up to you how to use it. Share it with friends, post it on your fridge, keep it in your wallet for the next time someone offers to help—whatever feels right. And if you still can’t quite come up with an answer to the question “How can I help?” consider just sharing this list of ideas for your friend to choose from.

Whatever your approach, it takes courage to accept help from others. Just remember that people really do want to offer support. If someone says, “Let me know if I can do anything for you,” believe them. Accepting their offer can even bring you closer together. There may be occasional disappointments, but nothing you can’t handle. And you may be surprised and delighted by how many people come through for you.