Yes. Don’t ask. Just do.
Look, if you’ve lost someone close you should know this, but in case you’ve forgotten (and for those who haven’t suffered yet) NOBODY, regardless how stable and confident and confident, gets past major loss unscathed. Life just got away from them, and while they may still be juggling balls handed them they’re doing it badly. And that’s the solid, competent ones. There are a lot more who are just sitting in the bedroom crying their eyes out. (both sets here, by the way. I’m coping. My sister’s crying.)
Yeah, there’s a lot of things we could probably use your help doing. But first, we’re having trouble thinking of it, and second we don’t want to admit it.
No, seriously. “Oh, I’d love to have you come and load the dishwasher and clean the counters. Or maybe just fix a meal. or …” right. Nobody likes to admit they need help.
So here’s my recommendation. If you’re with a group – a church, a social organization, a gaming club, it doesn’t matter so long as it sometimes does things for people – get up some help so you’re not alone, but even if you’re alone do this yourself. Decide now what you’re going to do: fix one meal, clean a room, whatever. If you need help planning, think of what basic housework takes it out of you OR what you can do really well. Then when someone has a death in the family or loses a pet or a job or any of the other crushing events of life, go into action.
Get your stuff together, call and tell them you’re on the way, and when you get there just do what you planned to do. Clean the bathrooms? check. Clean counters and wash dishes? check. Bring in a basic set of groceries? check. Put a casserole – or a set of individual meals – into the refrigerator for eating when they’re ready? check.
And if they want to talk, listen. Don’t advise, don’t argue, don’t proselytize or question, just listen.
But do that one thing, something they aren’t going to ask you to do. Because they won’t ask.
footnote: food, a lesson learned. Don’t fix a fancy meal or anything that requires much more than dish, heat, and serve. Nothing that requires them to pay attention, whether difficulty or taste or anything else. Nothing will taste right for them, so you’re basically just providing nutrition and comfort. It needs to be ready when they are. If you can convince them to have a little while you’re there, great, but if not at least make sure it’s ready when they are.
If you’re telling them to ask for your help, you’re doing it wrong.