Showing up

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 …

  1. Actually show up — visit the hospital, the rehab center, the person’s home.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Schedule a play date, with or without adults and with or without wine or maybe some medical marijuana.
  5. Drop off cookies or fruit or chocolate.
  6. Show up at gatherings, for the person experiencing trauma, and ask them about normal life stuff, NOT cancer.
  7. 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.
  8. Schedule a spa date! Getting a pedicure, drinking something fun, and having good conversation is a recipe for an amazing afternoon.
  9. Schedule a vacation or a staycation together.
  10. 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.

15 thoughts on “Showing up

  1. I get what you mean. In the world we live in today it’s hard to find people to show up for you. Most of the time when they do, its family! Which is just great with me. Most people only focus on themselves. Showing up for the ones you love and care about is everything!

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  2. Ur post can be related to our day to day activities.Many a times we encounter such kind of people who are in trauma or are trying out to get out of depression.”Showing Up ” our greifs nd sorrow can be of great help with that provides mental satisfaction , but to be careful, while showing up….show up to those only who r Worth of our trust , helpful & careing rather than to those who gossip around our backs ..

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  3. Bravo! There are so many things we can do to show up. And, like you say, keep showing up! So many have stopped showing up in my life, even my own mother. Even just a text, a card, a call, a pile of money … 😊 Keep reaching out, long after the initial trauma. Cancer patients often have PTSD for a long time, sometimes for the rest of their lives. Authentic human connection is essential in this journey.

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    1. Human connection is necessary for everyone, especially people who have experienced trauma. Cancer is trauma from beginning to end and for those of us who will never stop treatment until we’re dead, the reminders are non stop. Thank you for reading and commenting!

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  4. Such a great post. It seems like from this side of the fence it all seems so clear, how to show up. But for those who are basking in the glow of better health, it’s murky. If I sound a little passive aggressive… if the shoe fits. I try not touch that pain (from all those who disappeared) but it’s pretty close to the surface. Hoping today has been a peaceful one for you 🌸

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    1. I hear you! I also think there are different cultural expectations in different areas of the country. Where I’m from in the Midwest, if someone is sick or someone has died, everyone brings food, everyone. Where I was living when I was diagnosed, Orlando, that just wasn’t part of the cultural expectations. Anyway, we all need something and we all need to speak up. Thank you for reading and commenting!

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  5. I think the people who leave don’t intend to abandon you. I think some of them may be reminded of traumas in their own lives that they can’t deal with. Some of them I’ve never had one and don’t know what to say, and they are more afraid of saying the wrong thing than saying nothing at all. Some just don’t understand it. They can’t. None of us could understand it until we started living it or had a close family member they’ve had to watch go through it.

    Get this: I kept showing up for a friend whose husband was diagnosed with cancer. We had known each other for 20 years. Finally, I don’t know how it came up, but she admitted to me that she did not like when I showed up and supported her, because she knew that my story did not end well and it just reminded her of that possibility for her husband. I had never thought of it that way. I felt terrible.

    I had to learn after several attempts to try to prepare people for things so that they wouldn’t be as hard, that there were no words or advice I could give that would stop them from having to walk through it themselves. And I realized I was not helping.

    From that point on, I told my friend I was here if she needed me, but that I would not be offering unsolicited support because if it isn’t helping, it’s not support. I was grateful that she was honest with me. And it made me more mindful of trying not to overstep, which I’m sure you know is difficult for people like us, who always want to help others. It’s so hard to just sit and watch people suffer and not be able to help.

    I think that may be why some people walk away. They don’t know what else to do. Or they can’t handle more than that. Not offering it as an excuse, or devaluing how much it hurts… because you of all people know exactly who has walked out on me and how traumatic it has been. But at least trying to understand with you the reasons why, and that the intent was most likely not to abandon you. We can only hope, anyway. ❤️

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