When a friend gets married, you help with a bridal shower. When that friend has a baby, you may take a meal to the family. When someone you care about loses a loved one, you mail a bereavement card. But, there are some scenarios where you can feel paralyzed and unsure how to be most helpful to a friend in need. After I spent nine months in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit with our precious son, I wanted to share a few ways to care for a friend who has a child in the hospital.
Pray: The family is completely exhausted, desperate, and possibly at the end of their rope. They have little to no energy to pray for themselves. So, pray for them often and let them know you are praying. Add the family to prayer emails at your church or in your community. If possible, keep up to date with the current situation with their child and pray specifically.
Send Money: Hospital life drains a bank account fast. Like airports, food and supplies are priced higher than a regular place outside of the hospital. Parking alone can cost $150-$200 per month. If the family had to relocate to a hospital in another town or state, temporary housing costs are immediately a challenge. If the care is long-term, many parents either have to take a leave of absence or lose their jobs altogether.
Send Food: Small things like figuring out a plan for dinner gets so overwhelming with a hospitalized child. You can easily use these online sites like Seamless Web or Grubhub to order, pay, and tip from anywhere in the country. They will deliver it directly to the family at their temporary housing or their child’s hospital room. If you don’t use those specific websites, you can easily find a pizza or sub place near the hospital to deliver the meal and let you pay over the phone or online.
Send Notes of Encouragement: It is incredibly hard to believe words of encouragement or scriptures with truth while in such a dark place like your child’s hospital room. Be a source of strength for your friend by sending scripture and notes of encouragement.
Don’t Stop Reaching Out: Whether a text message, a voicemail, or a note in the mail, don’t stop contacting the parents. They are consumed with fear and dealing with doctors and specialists all day long so they may not reply but don’t back away.
Take Care of their Home While They are Away: If the family is far from home, it’s extremely helpful if they have someone else thinking for their house. Even a family in a local hospital will be extremely grateful if they don’t have to worry about mowing the grass, checking the mail (and forwarding it), cleaning, and laundry.
Go and Visit: I know visiting your friends may be impossible depending on the family’s situation in the hospital and your family situation. But, if you are close to the family and there is a way, go by and see them. If they are local, go even for a few minutes. It can feel like a war zone and like the rest of the world keeps spinning and doesn’t know you are at war. People stepping into the war zone makes you feel remembered and supported. If you can’t physically be with them, mention in a note that you are with them in your heart.
Send Money (or gift cards): I’m mentioning this giving financially twice on purpose. While a homemade meal is wonderful, worrying about rent, house payments, medical bills, and so on is salt in the very painful wound of a hospitalized child. If the family doesn’t have a fund, create one and get friends to give. The only way our family survived was standing on the shoulders of people who love us and gave financially.
Send Something Funny: I know it may seem a little strange to request sending something lighthearted, and it might not work for some people, but helping a hurt parent have a good belly laugh is a gift in of itself. A few friends were good at this for me and believe it or not, that voicemail left in a crazy voice, made me laugh out loud as I had tears in my eyes walking to the hospital AGAIN.
Share their Emotions: If you are grieving with the family, let them know. If you are thinking of them, let them know. If you cry about their child’s situation, let them know. It is so hard to step inside the pain of the situation but somehow it helps. It doesn’t make sense really but it does help to know that others are feeling at least a portion of what you’re feeling as the parent.
A Few Bonus Ideas:
Help with Siblings
Send Care Packages
Schedule a cleaning service for their Home
Help with Pets
Send a Book
Buy a Subscription to Netflix or Hulu
Remember Holidays & Birthdays
Posted in honor and memory of the strongest little man I’ve ever met, our son and heart warrior, Hudson.