HOW TO HELP A FRIEND AFTER SERIOUS INJURY ACCIDENT
Family and friends of someone who has been seriously injured want to do the right thing and help. An attorney in our office recently came across a book called How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick, by Letty Cottin Pogrebin.
Our MN lawyers have represented many people who have been seriously injured in an accident. Often times, this means the person has surgery with extensive medical bills, can’t work, and is stuck at home – not even able to fully care for themselves and their family. This book gives some good advice about how to help a friend who was seriously injured in an accident. Here are some of the ideas:
One of the best things you can do as a friend goes through treatment and recovery from a serious injury, is to simply stay in touch. Just a quick checking in on text message, on a regular basis — ‘Hi how are you?’ and ‘Just thinking about you’ — can do so much.
Be mindful of not implying fault: “What do you think caused it?” or of bashing treatment choices
Also not helpful, after they’ve chosen a doctor or a course of treatment — suggesting that there is a better way. “Someone who says, ‘Why would you go there? You must go to my doctor, in fact I’ve called and made an appointment for you,’ doesn’t work. If your friend calls after a diagnosis and says, ‘I’m clueless, can you please give me the name of your doctor?’ that’s a very different story.”
Don’t be like, “Oh, my [mom, sister, aunt, etc.] died in a car accident”
It’s truly the opposite of comforting to hear, while grappling with the shock of the situation, about someone you knew who was killed by in a similar situation.
Examples of well-meaning but often maddeningly meaningless clichés: “Everything happens for a reason,” “God never gives us more than we can handle,” “Just be glad it isn’t worse,” “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Also unnerving to some people is being told, “You’ll be OK” or “You’re not going to die,” because how can anyone know? Some survivors have specific vitriol for any “warrior” or “battle” talk, like, “‘You’re so strong! You can fight it!’
Be a good listener
More important than what you say is that you are prepared to listen. And listening, especially to details, can sometimes help you offer specific follow-up help. One person noted, “I found it very therapeutic to talk about the whole process, and friends who patiently bore with me and listened to the nitty gritty of my lab results and surgical options were the most helpful.”
Also, if it doesn’t feel too intrusive, ask specific questions about the treatment — what type of surgery will you need? What are the risks? How long before you can try to walk again? Where are you doing in therapy?
Just show up
Finally don’t ask if you can help, just do something nice. Most people don’t know how to ask for help or don’t know what they need. But anything you do will be appreciated. Send a pretty plant with a nice note. Some other specific, favorite examples of how to just show up:
- Ask, ‘Do you have any favorite soup recipes?’ Then make a batch.
- Say, ‘I love you. I’m here for the long haul.’
- Send a card now and then with $20 or $40. No mandate, just cash and love. It allows them to go to lunch with a friend, take a kid out for a treat without feeling like it is affecting the family budget. It is not waiting for me to ask for help, but it is not overly intrusive, either.
- “I’m stopping by [whatever] restaurant, what do you guys want?” As opposed to, “let me know if I can help.”
- If you’re a good admin type, step up and… organize food delivery.
- Say, “I will pick up your kids and take them to school…” and then do that.
At the Rochlin Law Firm, our attorneys have worked with hundreds of people throughout Minnesota seriously injured in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip fall cases, dog bites, explosions, defective products, and many other situations. Our primary focus is to handle the insurance issues and make sure our clients are fully compensated. However, that is only one aspect of the situation after a serious injury. It takes a community of family and friends to rally around the injured person, to make a difference and help them get back on their feet.