The Disappearing Act

The number one thing people like to say to my family is “let me know if you need anything.”  I realize they probably have good intentions but I have also realized this is their key phrase for several reasons:

  • It gets it mentally “off their plate.” They can think of my family and then think to themselves that they need not worry because they said “let me know if you need anything.”
  • They care but do not know what else to say.
  • They care but do not know what to really offer to do.

Here’s the issue with this when your Mom has something like MS- MS is not temporary. It’s not like Mom is in the hospital for a little period of time and we need someone to feed the dogs. It’s not like Mom is going to get well and needing your help is temporary. MS is going to continue but I have noticed that the offers of “let me know if you need anything” tend to discontinue after awhile. Not that people do not offer, instead they disappear.

I have noticed recently that a lot of our family friends don’t call as much. Couples my parents used to get together with do not get together with Mom or Dad or call to check in on them. Instead they have just disappeared. Mom gets down thinking she doesn’t have any friends. The primary people in her life are Dad and her two care takers. She text messages her close group of friends from college on a daily basis on a big group text. She keeps up with people on Facebook. She essentially watches life go by as she sits still at home.

It is sad and something that is starting to bother me. I told Sister K from now on when people ask if they can do anything or ask how Mom is doing, instead of giving them an answer about her physical health, I am simply going to respond “She’s really lonely. It would be great if you would give her a call or stop by to say hi.”

I am curious what people’s responses would be in that scenario. Would they act? Would they call? Would they follow through? I think the sad part is I honestly do not know. People get busy. They forget. They don’t understand what our family is going through. They don’t understand what it is like to have a Mom in this situation.

What lesson have I learned in all of this? I have learned do not ask if people need anything. Instead insert yourself into their life and do something. Do not wait to be called. Take the initiative and make the call.

Choose not to disappear. Appear. Appear again. And appear again. I promise I am never going to forget who showed up during this time. I am also never going to forget those who disappeared.

What are your thoughts on the phrase “let me know if you need anything?” Has your family ever gone through something tough and people stepped up or people disappeared? How do you manage emotions of being disappointed by people in your life? 

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2 thoughts on “The Disappearing Act

  1. Not a single friend remains from when I was diagnosed. Not one stayed with me. The friends I have now don’t ask, they do. I know if I need them they will come, but if they see an issue they act on it. That is a friend.

  2. The loss of portions of the former social circle is a familiar situation for anyone affected by MS. Yet, I have also discovered two things about that. One is that I have had to learn to ask for help. Two, is to be specific about the help needed, even if it’s just, I’d just like to talk. That said, I still find this process very difficult, especially the part about, hey, I just want some friendship, someone to talk to!

    In any case, there is a tool which many people have used to organize their support network, and their needs were as varied as helping a mom with her new triplets to helping a wife deal with her husband’s terminal cancer. It allows one to create an online private support network. You develop a calendar with things you need help with, invite those in your support network to join, and the members of the group receive the calendar via email and then volunteer if they see something they can help with. The site then keeps track of which activities have found volunteers and which haven’t. I have been using it and find it helpful. There is no cost. I also found the people who run the website to be open to phone calls.

    http://www.lotsahelpinghands.com/

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