What does it mean to show up for someone?
I’ve thought about this quite a bit over the past several years. Prior to breast cancer, I would have focused only on tangible things. Like literally showing up at an event, delivering a meal or donating necessary time. I still think of these things first. I’m a do-er as I’ve often said. That being said, I do still think that showing up does contain a physical component.
What is less tangible is the emotional support of showing up for someone. I wrote a post earlier this year on “Holding Space,” and I think there are a lot of similarities between the two.
Yet, there are some fundamental differences too.
In my mind, you have to first show up in a meaningful way to be able to make an impact holding space for someone. I also wonder if a person doesn’t know you are holding space for them, is that still helpful? Do you need to tell the person you are doing so? Maybe a little too existential for me.
So, to me, there is a physical component to showing up, and to holding space for someone else. Showing up is extremely important in life and becomes especially important when there has been a trauma. A trauma could be a death, a diagnosis, a serious illness, a job loss … life is full of trauma and some of us get more than others.
When a friend has experienced a trauma, here are my tips for meaningful ways to show up …
- Actually show up — visit the hospital, the rehab center, the person’s home.
- Set up a meal train. It’s an amazing tool that makes it easy to organize meals for someone who is struggling to do so. People can send money or food and it’s easy to open up or close dates.
- Send a note, a card, a letter, a carrier pigeon, an email, a text, whatever method you use to communicate to others. Don’t expect a response right away or maybe never, the point is the effort to reach out and to continue to reach out.
- Schedule a play date, with or without adults and with or without wine or maybe some medical marijuana.
- Drop off cookies or fruit or chocolate.
- Show up at gatherings, for the person experiencing trauma, and ask them about normal life stuff, NOT cancer.
- Send a present … this could be a book for bookworms, bath stuff, essential oils, jewelry … pampering gifts are always appreciated. Also, sending spoons is a great website for gifts for people with chronic/ongoing illnesses.
- Schedule a spa date! Getting a pedicure, drinking something fun, and having good conversation is a recipe for an amazing afternoon.
- Schedule a vacation or a staycation together.
- Just keep showing up.
One of the most painful things about the aftermath of a trauma are the people who leave. I don’t fully understand why people don’t stick around. I’m sure some of it has to do with the fact that life changes and maybe relationships have more to do with convenience or proximity than actual connection.
This is what I’d like each of you to remember, when someone you know or care about has experienced a trauma, they need you more not less. When someone you know or care about is struggling, rather than being concerned about what you say, say something. When someone you know or care about has experienced a trauma, lean in and show up. You will experience dividends in return.