When someone needs your support
When someone has been in a car accident, it can range from a fender bender to a devastating crash. Even the mildest of car accidents can result in whiplash and tissue damage; at speeds of five miles per hour, drivers and passengers can develop cervical soft tissue injuries, and 10-15% of patients do not recover full functionality.
These events can result in life-changing damage or limitations like brain injuries.
After an accident, your friend or neighbor might need to leave their job or switch roles because they cannot fulfill their functions. They might not be able to hang out with the social circles that they used to, or they may have to see friends much less frequently. Their lives will become an endless cycle of doctors’ appointments, pharmacy visits, psychiatric checkups and sitting on the couch as they wait to feel better.
Some of them will.
Some of them won’t.
For the ones that don’t, it takes a while to get out of the funk of post-accident depression. Doctors will very often prescribe antidepressants for this situational despair, as they also work for any chronic or nerve pain that remains after six months (because generally, after six months, acute pain is considered to be chronic).
You, as a friend, will likely be frustrated. This is normal. You want your friend back. However, try to understand that your friend is suffering, and you need to meet him on his level until he’s back on his feet.
You also need to know that this might be where she is for the rest of her life, and that doesn’t mean that she, as a person, is any different. She’s just dealing with some stuff, and she needs all the help she can get.
Here are some ways you can help.
Offer to hang out at his place
This helps more than you can imagine. Your friend is exhausted beyond belief, and going out places can seem insurmountable.
Putting on gym clothes and showering any given day is hard enough – putting on real pants? Are you crazy? Then getting into a car (which always brings out a twinge of a memory, no matter how commonplace driving is) and going somewhere, sitting in a restaurant for a few hours, putting on a normal face, and being “on”?
Offering to spend time at your friend’s place, on his terms, where he can wear his comfy clothes and be on his couch, is a God-send. This also helps him feel social and connected. Watch some funny movies and laugh.
Keep inviting her places, even if you know she can’t go
People like being included. Don’t take for granted that she wouldn’t want to be a part of the group or that she could not physically do the activity the rest of you are doing. Keep inviting her. There is always the off-chance that your friend might feel good one day and that she will say “yes! I’ll come with you!” Plus, if you keep inviting her, she gets a special feeling knowing that her friends still think about her and want her there. It’s good to know you’re not forgotten even though you’re not as present as you used to be.
With friends who have pain or limitations from accidents, it helps to offer multiple choices so they know you are being considerate.
As an example, say a group of friends is going to a movie. “We could go to the theater near Bob, but that doesn’t have the reclining seats, and that’s not comfortable for Judy,” you say, knowing that Judy has a bad back after her recent car accident. So, even though the other movie theater is a bit farther away, you offer the option so that Judy knows her situation is being taken into account.
Plus, who doesn’t like reclining seats?
Help out, and be specific
Don’t just say, “Let me know if you need help.” Your friend will literally never take you up on that offer. It is vague and could mean anything.
If you say, “Hey, I’m swinging by the grocery store, do you need me to pick up anything for you?” That is far more specific. Here are some more ideas:
- Pick up medications
- Clean up the house
- Make meals
- Walk the dog
- Drive him to doctors’ appointments
- Get the kids from school or make their lunches
- Make phone calls for doctors’ appointments
- Help with his calendar (medications can make this foggy)
- Go with him to visit his lawyer for his personal injury case
- Keep him company and send positive energy
Even just making dinner and bringing it by to stick in the freezer is welcome. People are too shy to ask for what they need, but if you make the offer, he will likely take you up.
Helping a caretaker
If your friend is a caretaker for someone with a life-changing limitation, offer to relieve him for a while so he can take a break. Caretaking is a challenging, all-consuming role, and often thankless.
By taking over for a while, your friend can focus on himself, which might be the first time in ages that he’s done so. If he insists that he can handle it, try buying him a gift certificate for a massage or something else that focuses on self-care.
It can be difficult readjusting when your friend is going through a hard period in his or her life. However, that is when you find out just how good of a friend you really are. And now is the time when your friend really, really needs you.
Here are some more resources to check out:
- Resources for emotional recovery after an accident
- Tips for coping with chronic pain and depression as a result of injury
Do you have any ideas to add here? Have you helped a friend – or been helped by a friend? What did you do? Please add more ideas below!