I can’t remember how long ago, but I was texting a friend about an upcoming deployment and said, “Well, it’s been years since he’s been over there. It’s our turn, now.” Her response?
“It should never be anyone’s turn.”
I have smart friends, don’t I? That one statement made me think of how many have come back injured, and how many more that didn’t make it home to hug their families. Oh, how I wish that it was never anyone’s turn… to have to leave their family, and ESPECIALLY, to experience so type of casualty.
I’ve been to more Memorial Services than I wish to count. Serving in the FRG (Family Readiness Group) shed a light on many intricacies that you don’t realize. Intricacies like how to support your friends that endure tragedy, and serving, supporting and loving them through some of the hardest days in their lives.
All too often, we don’t know the right things to say. We want to comfort our friends, to take care of them, but we aren’t sure how. It’s okay. Your friend won’t know what to do or say either. And truthfully, there is nothing you CAN do or say that will alleviate their pain. There’s no need to try to put that kind of pressure on yourself- to comfort her. You cannot, because what they want most is their soldier back, unhurt…breathing….loving, talking and laughing. You cannot give them that, but you can support them- the entire family. What more honorable way to support your friend, to stand with them…than to serve them during a tragedy?
We all tend to say the same thing to people experiencing pain of any kind, “If you need anything, let me know”. I know the majority don’t think like me…but when I hear these words, it translates to “I-only-want-to-pretend-to-help-by-saying-this-general-statement- that-doesn’t-actually-mean-anything”. It is passing the buck, putting the ball in HER court for YOU to take action. So, the best thing you can do is PICK your action.
There are SO many things we can do that will allow our friends to do what they need to do… mourn, make arrangements, sit in silence, sleep- whatever they need to do. Pick an action so that she can get these things done.
Now, picking an action doesn’t mean imposing, being overbearing or causing additional stress to the family. You want to offer a few options where you can assist, instead of giving a blanket statement. “Would it be okay for me to take the kids out for movie and ice cream for a while?” vs “Let me know if you need anything”.
What kind of actions, you ask? Things like:
* Answering her cell phone and fielding calls and texts; keeping a call log
* Being at the house so that she may sleep or think without being interrupted, answering the door
* Setting up a Meal Train for intervals that the family approves (I’ve found that many families prefer to not have a meal brought over every night.)
* Picking up any family members from the airport
* Keeping a gift log
* Cancelling or Rescheduling any upcoming appointments
* Household chores
* Go grocery shopping for the family
Keep in mind, that you’ll want to do these things with the family’s approval. Many military units have teams in place that volunteer to take care of their families during a casualty. You’ll want to offer her a few options and let her decide, and work beside any thing their military unit has in place for assistance.
The most important thing you can do is simply be there. She may not remember every conversation, everything you did to help…. but she’ll know that you were there. It’s a hard thing to think about, and something none of us actually want to be a part of. My friend was most definitely right, it should never be anybody’s turn. Not to be away from their family for so long, not to experience a casualty, not to have to support a friend through any crisis.
But, from personal experience, some of us will be in this position, and more than once. If you find yourself there, be sure to pick your action. Don’t put the ball in her court. Support her and the family in real and tangible ways. You won’t be able to comfort them, but YOU can find comfort in knowing that you supported them in a very real way.
Praying for the day it won’t be anyone’s turn….