We Need You to Check In (More Than Once)
What’s the difference between an acquaintance and a friend?
I’m sure there are many answers, but over the past few years, I have noticed one in particular:
An acquaintance will check on you when something bad happens. A friend will check on you again and again for weeks or months or years.
When something big happens; like a death in the family, or a divorce, or a diagnosis, many people reach out. They bring casseroles covered in tin foil, and ask if there is anything they can do.
But after a couple of weeks, people go back to their own lives. The casseroles stop coming and the phone stops ringing.
Unfortunately, grief and pain don’t have expiration dates. After the buzz has died down for others, the one hurting is still hurting.
After the initial outpouring of support, a hurting person is suddenly all alone with a pain that others were helping them bear.
After the whirlwind of dealing with the “big thing” slows down, a hurting person begins to regret saying “nothing” when people have asked what they could do, because, finally in the quiet, they think of things they didn’t before.
That’s when the grief turns into depression, the stress turns into anxiety, and the loneliness sets in.
That’s when a friend is needed.
After all of the floral arrangements have wilted, a widowed spouse or surviving child needs help and support with the Will and Estate.
After everyone else has forgotten, a mother who has miscarried still remember her child’s due date, and aches to say her baby’s name out loud, but never knows when it is “appropriate.”
After the initial flood of notes and teddy bears, an ill person often sits all alone during dialysis or chemo.
That is when a friend is needed.
Don’t let your own discomfort stop you from reaching out.
I recently received a message from a friend telling me a frustrating story. Her family is going through a “big thing.” It’s scary, and life-threatening, and heavy. After the initial buzz died down, she also noticed a drop-off of check-ins. But worse, she also noticed a complete withdrawal of some of her friends and colleagues. They stopped interacting and small talking all together!
She was able to chat with one of these people recently, (when they couldn’t run away, as she put it) and they said, “I didn’t know how to ask, so I just didn’t talk to you.”
Ooof! Way to abandon someone in their time of need!
Personally, I would take a hundred nervous conversations from someone who cares. It is better than feeling forgotten–or worse–shunned.
Check in with your friends, even when you don’t know what to say.
You can even say, “I don’t know what to say.” Being silent with someone is still a form of caring.
What matters, is that you show up.
What matters is letting your friends know that they haven’t been forgotten.
It’s so easy to forget during our busy lives that someone else’s world is at a standstill.
But now that I know just how important second, third, and fourth check-ins were to me, I am determined to train myself to do it for others.
I hope you will join me.
Add a reminder to your digital calendar, or flip forward a few pages in your daytimer and write your friend’s name in the margin.
Don’t feel bad about scheduling your check-ins. It doesn’t make them count less. What matters is that you do them.
To the friends who haven’t stopped checking up on me: from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
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