Why Asking for Help is Hard

OCTOBER 16, 2018  /  BLYTHE HUNT  / 

Why Asking for Help is Hard
This is one of my all time favorite blog posts because I think we are all tempted to not ask for help when we need it. I know I am. I hope Blythe's beautifully written words will encourage you to let your friends know when you need them. ~Adina
When I was 20 years old, my parents were killed instantly in a car accident. I share that not to elicit shock or sympathy, but to explain the friendships I've been blessed to develop over the years. It seems to me that once you've experienced loss, you tend to gravitate toward others who have also experienced loss - you want to be around people who understand sorrow and who aren't weirded out by your tears sobs when you're watching Dumbo, or maybe who will even cry with you. You want to be around people who won't flinch and squirm when you tell them your parents are dead, but who will try to engage your heart, even if they feel awkward (because let's face it - of course they feel awkward!). People who understand - or can at least imagine - how hard the holidays can be or what it means to get married when you don't have a dad to walk you down the aisle or to have babies with no mama to come help afterward.
As I've grown into adulthood and looked for this special brand of friendship, I've noticed it gets easier as I get older, just by default - sadly, life dictates that we will all experience tragedy at some point, and it's not as uncommon to encounter people who have suffered as it was when I was in college. And I have also had the gift of walking some difficult things with friends I love dearly. I've sat beside a friend at the doctor's office while she received a cancer diagnosis; I've had the honor of bidding farewell to my dear friend's beautiful, perfect stillborn twins; I've wept with friends grieving their babies lost to miscarriage; I've held space for friends navigating the darkness of depression. The list goes on, as does life, despite suffocating grief.
Two and a half years ago, my community walked the illness and death of my close friend through her battle with breast cancer. I sat next to her in bed as we planned her memorial service together, and then once she was gone, I carried out her wishes during the hardest week of my adult life. She was the wife of our pastor, so as our sweet church journeyed with their family through what felt like the impossible, we attracted other folks to our church who were also going through tough circumstances; I think because we were not afraid of suffering or tears, hurting people felt safe inside our doors.
So over the course of several years, I've been a part of this beautiful, needy group. We've done life and death together, sickness and babies - lots and lots of glorious babies! We've cried in sadness and in joy. We've found our rhythm as a community, lending a helping hand, not thinking twice when someone needs something, whether it's help moving, childcare, or just a shoulder to cry on. And I've set up many - countless, probably - meal calendars, which have been a saving grace to countless families. So this summer, when I experienced my first close loss in many, many years, I was taken aback when, instead of being the part of my community who was reaching out to help, I became the recipient of that help. Instead of being the person sending out the text about setting up the meal calendar, I was receiving the text asking if a meal calendar could be set up for my family.
It's a strange thing to go from a support role in friendship to the person needing the support. I was really used to offering help - you know, asking friends if they needed me to come take their kids for an afternoon or bringing dinner or dropping off groceries. It was nothing to change my plans to run over to a friend's house to cry with them or make a meal or wrangle kids. That's why when friends started texting asking to take my kids or inquire about when they could bring a meal over, I didn't even know what to think. It had been 20 years since I was on the receiving end of this kind of outpouring of help, and when my parents died, everything was such a blur - folks were in and out of our house bringing food and toilet paper. My siblings and I were in a daze, not capable of understanding all that was happening around us. We were young and gently cared for by grownups who knew what to do. And though we were grateful, I'm sure we will never know the full extent of everything our friends did for us.
But now, as an adult and mother and wife, I wasn't sure what to think. One of my initial responses was just to say, No, thanks. I mean, I didn't want to inconvenience anyone or bother them. I wouldn't want to trouble them for dinner or upset their schedule by asking them to drive to the other side of town to pick up my littles and keep them for the afternoon. It seemed like such an imposition to accept their offers of help. I did wonder why they'd offer if they didn't actually want to help, but then I told myself they were just being polite. Is that even a thing these days? Just being polite?
I did accept offers of help from my closest friends, not because I'm gracious, but because they wouldn't leave me alone about it. Which is a sign of a true friend - pursuing consistently. Then I got a text from a friend whom I respect deeply. We aren't BFF, but we've been through a lot, and there is no B.S. between us, only years of doing life and love together. She said, Please let me set up a meal calendar for you - will you let me do that? I realized that my need was legitimate. Knowing her, I knew she wouldn't offer unless she knew I needed help. You know? Maybe I just needed someone to tell me that I was seen, my loss was real, I was loved, and it was okay that I was needy. So I texted back, Yes...
The week that followed was amazing. My family was loved so well through that simple calendar. And we ate so well! We were never without and had extra food even with family in town. After everyone was gone and the leftovers were picked over, I sat down to write thank-you notes. My heart was full of gratitude, and as I wrote to each friend, whom I knew had sacrificed to love my family through food, I realized, that's the point, isn't it? It's not the food, but the love. By accepting their offers of food, I was really accepting their offers of love. By admitting I needed help, I became vulnerable and communicated that my heart has needs and my friends could help fill those needs. I thought back to all the times I've brought a meal to someone else or those times I mentioned above when I've shown up to be a support to someone, and I realized what a gift it's been to help others. Planning and carrying out my friend's memorial service - that week I said was the hardest of my adult life? I wouldn't trade it for anything; it was such an honor to love her and her family in that way. An honor and a gift that I will treasure all my days.
And so in accepting my friends' offers of help in my own time of need, even though it felt very humbling (after all, aren't I the one who gives help, not receives it?!) and maybe even selfish, I see how it was a two-way gift. I had the gift of their care, and they received the gift of caring, of being transformed through their own love and sacrifice. I understand that gift because I have enjoyed it so many times. It is far easier to be the giver than the receiver; I'd much rather show up on my white horse Prius, help in hand in the shape of a casserole, but it's also a sweet gift to be able to extend the opportunity to allow someone else to love you with their own casserole. To be the recipient of lavish love and selflessness. What sweeter gift to offer someone than to admit you need and want their friendship?
About the Author - A freelance writer and editor, Blythe Hunt's passion is building community, which includes hosting parties and asking awkwardly personal questions; she is currently writing a book on introverted hospitality. Blythe and her husband Aaron have two children, live in a bungalow in downtown Colorado Springs, and dream of being minimalists. She can be found all over social media at Mundane Faithfulness.
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Adina & Maureen
Adina & Maureen

Welcome! We're thrilled you stopped by. Our own joys and sorrows have taught us that a well-timed meal delivered by a friend is one of the best gifts imaginable. In this space, we share our favorite recipes to take to friends, meal-taking tips, and other ways to care for those who are dear to you.

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