The following is a guest post from a member of our Hand to Hold – NICU Family Voices community. If you have an essay, an experience, or tips you would like to share with our readers, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Natalie Butterworth
This is meant to be helpful for those who have a friend or family member in the hospital. I learned a lot from my own experience and want to share it with others, in the hopes it may be helpful for those who do have to endure a tough time.
It’s impossible to know what someone will need or want until you experience it yourself.
If you have a friend or family member in the hospital, especially if it’s for an extended stay, visit with her. Those hospital days are long and painful. It hurts to be separated from your home, pets and friends or family. Ask if she needs anything. If she says she’s not sure, some suggestions include movies, books, art projects, snacks, toiletries, crosswords, etc. I had a super wonderful visitor who bought a bunch of small trinkets and snacks and wrapped them in wrapping paper. She told me to only open one a day so I would have something to look forward to. I thought this was just the sweetest idea!
If you can’t visit, check in with her through text, phone calls, or even a handwritten letter or e-mail. Every little distraction helps! The hospital is a lonely place, especially during the day. Every kind word is remembered and appreciated.
Complete household tasks
If you feel like you want to do something to help, see what can be done to help out the home front. When I was in the hospital, I worried so much about my husband and that he was taken care of. Even though he’s fully capable of taking care of himself, he was busy worrying about me, so I worried about him! Consider helping out by making meals, checking in, even offering to do laundry. Every little bit helps.
Provide support at home
After the patient comes home from the hospital, check in with her and her family often. If she’s still recovering, offer to bring meals, do laundry, or come hang out while she takes a nap. Just because the hospital has released her, doesn’t mean she’s 100% healed physically or mentally; it’s likely that life is still somewhat in chaos. Now is the time she really needs extra support.
I am so incredibly thankful for the friends and family who were there for us when I was in the hospital. Sitting here now, four months later, I can’t help but think of those who visited, called, and helped out. I don’t know what I would have done without that support. Those 30 days in the hospital and 15 days of NICU were the darkest and hardest days of my entire life. There’s nothing like sickness, birth, or a death to see the true nature of friendship.
Natalie Butterworth is a wife and stay at home mother from Woodstock, Georgia. She is a survivor of preeclampsia, which resulted in a lengthy hospital stay for her and her daughter. She enjoys bringing awareness to these issues through her writing and local support groups.