Friday, September 30, 2016

Can We Make PEGs A Thing?

A close friend of ours had something bad happen yesterday, and while John and I waited for news and paced the house and looked helplessly at our phones, something occurred to me:

You know how we say, "Please let us know if you need anything," to people in pain? And how that's just putting the burden on *them* to tell us how to help, right when they're least capable of thinking straight?

I think we can agree that doesn't work.

But what if we each had a list: a Personal Emergency Guide. A PEG. And on this list, just like a medical ID bracelet or an In Case of Emergency notice, we could record how and when and to-what-extent our friends and family can help during a crisis.

Obviously you'd have to fill out this list before there's trouble, when you're clear headed, but once it's done you can invoke your PEG at any time on social media. Even better, post it now, so others can reference it as needed.

So what goes on a PEG? Any and everything you'd want to know about your friends when you're trying to help them feel better. Something like this:


I'm no graphic designer - John helped me do this much - but you get the idea.


Obviously you'll want to tailor your PEG to fit; these are just some basics to get you started. Remember this is for emotional emergencies, though, not everyday. Think about how you cope with fear and bad news and sadness, and about what's helped in the past.

In the same vein, don't assume you already know what your friends need; everyone is different, and pain changes things. That friend who hugs everyone may want space, or the distant, cynical one may want company - you never know, and only they can tell you for sure.

I'm planning to post that graphic on my personal Facebook, and ask my friends to fill it out. Call me awkward - 'cuz I am - but I appreciate some guidelines when life gets messy. Maybe you do, too. If so, grab that graphic (or make your own!), and let's start some conversations. Let's learn something new. Let's be better friends.


Now it's your turn: what'd I miss? What would you add to your PEG, and what do you wish your friends would add to theirs?


P.S. Our friend's situation yesterday turned out OK, and we were able to visit and laugh and have an awesome time together. I'm lucky she took charge, though, and simply told us what she wanted. That's all a good PEG is, really, so however you express it, just get one out there, k?

49 comments:

  1. Oh, yes, yes yes yes yes please! People never know what I need, and I cannot tell you how many times people have hugged me and I've lost my temper with them because, ask first please. Only thing I'd add at the bottom is a note about what not to ask me. Please son't ask me if "I'm ok" or tell me "it could be worse" or that "everything will be ok" because when I'm hurting I'm not ok, yeah it could be worse, but it's bad enough right now, and everything might be ok in the future but right now it isn't.

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    1. "All part of God's plan" and "God works in mysterious ways" are two surefire ways to get me not to talk to you again. In the same vein, don't tell people who have been upset BY the actions of another person that they just need to not take things so personally. While hugging them. Without okaying the hug first.

      My vacation was miserable......

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  2. Love it. I'd be curious to see how preferences correlate with their personality type. For example, I'm an extrovert and love people and like attention until it's this kind of attention, and then I become a "mind your own business and leave me the heck alone" kind of person.

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  3. this is great, but I'd add "When in emotional turmoil, you'll be able to tell because ______"

    Too many times, we just don’t know when our people are actually asking for help.
    That person who is “fine,” or “no, just nervous because of the XXX” or “just having a fat day,” really is in some emotional turmoil. Maybe it’s that all of a sudden you’re wearing darker colors, or make fun of your dying plant.

    Whatever it is, and we all have different tells, it’d be great if someone else knew. And had a way to help, even if to say “hey, I see you, even in your deep dark spot. And I love you.”

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  4. This is a brilliant idea! I'm not sure how I'd tweak it to work for me and my friends, but I'll keep an eye on the comment section here and on fb, because I'm sure all of your Epbot'ers (Epbot'ees?) have plenty of brilliant solutions!

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  5. This is awesome. I have a horrible time trying to figure out what my friends need so I freeze and do nothing. This makes me a very crappy friend. I do not want to be a crappy friend. Thank you for understanding what is needing and finding a great solution!

    I also love that you can put this out there so everyone sees so you don't have to have the same conversation with everyone when you are feeling your worst.

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  6. I could really do with this after the awful week at work due to a manager and 2 supervisor,I'm usually not big on hugging but because of this week I could really do with one either that or some cute animal videos.

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  7. You are a genius! This is a fantastic idea that I am going to share ASAP. Thank you.

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  8. I think this is a lovely idea. I'd like to have one on file for everyone I care about, filled out in good times, consulted in case of emotional emergency. Thank you.

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  9. This is a great idea. My dad passed away unexpectedly last year, and I think one of the most helpful things was actually when rather than just a general "do you need anything?", my landlady/housemate asked me a specific question. "You've been really busy and out at your mom's lot. Do you need me to do a load of laundry or pick up any groceries for you?".

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  10. I love this idea! Thank you, Jen. I posted a version that includes all of Jen's suggestions and the commenters' suggestions on the Fans of EPBOT Facebook page. It's a Word file, so it's easy to customize.

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  11. I have some friends who recently went to go meet their daughter when the adoption fell through. Devastating! But I get so caught up trying to do the right thing in that kind of situation that I end up not doing anything (which is definitely not my intent). I hate putting the burden on them since life just knocked the wind out of them. But I don't want to just start doing things unsolicited if they need some time to get their barrings. I want them to know they can talk to me, but I don't want to keep bringing it up if it makes them hurt all over again. But I also don't want them to think that everyone just expects them to move on like nothing happened! So I spend all my time thinking of all the ways I'm willing to help and then talk myself out of them all because they might make things worse! Anyway, yes. I obviously need to be told how to person. This is great.

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    1. You are SO not alone - I do the exact same thing!

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  12. You completely forgot the casserole brigade. You know those people who have to bring you food of some kind. Unfortunately some of us have food allergies, and bringing plates of brownies over doesn't help any when we have no idea if there is coconut or any coconut products such as oil or milk in them. Then you are just sad and crying and now have plates of food on the counter that you can't eat because they may kill you and they smell like chocolate. So you know food allergy lists.

    Also if a dog or cat sitter could be helpful (they were absolute life savers for us).

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    1. I know it probably doesn't help with the self appointed cassarole senders, but I know the most recent there was a situation to send meals to a family in my social circle, the friend who was organizing used the website Mealtrain. It was really nice since you could actually note down any allergies (or dislikes, because let's be honest, something doesn't have to be bad for your health to not be what you want when you're in a bad place). You could also sign up for nights so people didn't bring food all at once.

      Not sure if it's free or not, but I appreciated it quite a bit when I was trying to figure stuff out.

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    2. FWIW, Www.takethemameal.com is easier to use since it doesn't require the volunteers to create an account. Looooove the meal volunteers. Food is my love language!

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  13. Apparently my roommate from college is autistic (I'm guessing she's not super far on the spectrum since it was never really a problem for us to interact, but that could be my ignorance about how autism manifests in girls talking). I posted the PEG on my facebook in case it could be useful for someone, and apparently she already filled one out and sent it to her new roommate.

    So, it's already been potentially helpful to one person and their roommate. Thanks, Jen!

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  14. My girlfriend has really bad RA and I have wanted to know, if during her worst times, if I could help clean, simple, do the dishes, kind of things. This would be wonderful if someone would do them for me, but I might be too embarrassed until it was a really terrible time.

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  15. There is something very much like this on my husband's mental health power of attorney forms. I never thought to do this for myself but it's a great idea! I would add that IRL it would be helpful if someone would just come be with me, or just in my house, without making small talk. I always feel pressured to entertain, which wears me out & makes me feel worse in the long run...

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  16. Holy cow this is pure genius!

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  17. The LAST thing I was capable of doing after my fiance was killed in a car accident was to call up a friend and say, "Hey, bring me a sandwich" or "Can you just come load the dishwasher?" I think the burden shouldn't be on the person going through a rough time to properly communicate their needs, but on family and friends to stop saying, "Let me know if I can help!" and just HELP. A plan helps, but if your struggling person hasn't made their wishes known, just show up with dinner one night. Whether you stay and visit or hug and run, they'll appreciate it forever.

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  18. Jen, this is wonderful! 👏👏👏

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  19. This is a fantastic idea, and I'm so glad your friend is okay!!

    KW

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  20. Such a good idea, and one that this is coming up during Invisible Illnesses week, even better:

    https://themighty.com/2016/09/what-to-know-during-invisible-illness-awareness-week/

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  21. My mom died this summer, and LOTS of people said "Let me know if you need anything." But I'm not the type of person to ask for help. I don't think I would have even felt comfortable filling out this form to post.

    BUT, one friend sent me an email and said "I can help on Saturday or Sunday. Here are the things that I am willing to do:
    1. Get you groceries
    2. Cook you a meal
    3. Mow the lawn
    4. Do laundry"

    This was awesome. It felt like a Seamless order. I didn't have to talk to her. I could pick off the menu what I needed. I knew when she was available. And I didn't have to worry that she would say no if I asked for one of those things.

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  22. A neighbor's daughter was killed in a car accident and after seeing how many family members and friends were coming by and staying, I decided to fill a large basket with boxes of Kleenex, toilet paper, an assortment of beverages (tea, soda, cocoa, bottled water) along with some disposable cups. I placed the basket at her door step with a note.

    The neighbor never mentioned the basket. I have always wondered if my basket of items were not appropriate. EPBOT'ers- please weigh in.

    Thanks.

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    1. Omg, I'm sure they were appreciated. When my grandma passed away, one of the most thoughtful things dropped off was a basket of paper goods so we wouldn't run out of cups or something and then have to worry about getting to a grocery store.

      My guess is your neighbor is like my dad - when his wife passed, my sister and I made sure to write everything down so thank you notes could be sent. 2 months later, he still hasn't. 6 months went by, and then he admitted it felt awkward to send them so long after.

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    2. I think that was an excellent idea! Paper goods and beverages always come in handy. And I suspect, like others have said, that they probably didn't think of a thank you note right away and then felt awkward.

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    3. Someone did this for us when my grandfather died. We were all staying at my grandma's house and one of my aunt's friends from high school brought over a whole bunch of paper goods and it was the best complement to the casseroles we were getting from other sources. No dishes to do, no running to the store for toilet paper (or kleenex). We could just stay together and grieve.

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    4. I think this sounds absolutely brilliant! How thoughtful of you.

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  23. @Anonymous, we didn't have a lot of people coming over after my mom died. (In fact, no one even brought us food!) That being said, it sounds like a very nice idea. Disposable items are actually awesome. And if someone else provides them, then you don't have to feel guilty. If they're not great with thank you notes (and what a chore it is to get myself to write these notes), it's not surprising that you haven't heard anything. That doesn't mean it wasn't appreciated.

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    1. Thank you, Rose, for your comment. I am sorry to hear that no one brought you anything after your mom's passing. I imagine that was difficult.

      I should have mentioned that this was well over 10 years ago and even though I wasn't expecting any form of acknowledgement (their grief was too strong), in hindsight I have always been a little embarrassed at my choice to fill the basket with, of all things, toilet paper... to a grieving family! Yet, my horribly practical nature won out (what if they ran out?) and the rest is history.

      I guess I am taking a "poll" and asking if my practical basket idea is appropriate or not. One always hears of casseroles and baked goods being delivered but never other, equally needed, items.

      Thank you for your opinion.

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    2. I think it would have been appreciated, and I'd bet it may have even been a bit of a random giggle in a very rough time.

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    3. @Anonymous...I think practical is awesome. Right after my fiance's death, it was all I do to keep myself and my dog alive, and get myself to work every day. I couldn't handle trips to the grocery store and to Target. I actually starting ordering things like toilet paper and laundry detergent on Amazon. I wish someone had been as thoughtful as you, and these are things I consider now when someone I know loses a loved one.

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    4. When my mother-in-law died,someone brought toilet paper! She explained that when a relative of hers died, they ran out. It maybe a bit unusual, but it is very practical, and just might be something that can prevent a crisis. Oh, I did write thank you notes for my father-in-law.

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    5. Thank you, everyone, for the thoughtful replies. I can put that embarrassment demon away forever now!

      Jen, this post has really brought about a much needed dialogue about the very real dilemma that everyone faces during a crisis involving friends and family. Well done!

      Best wishes to all!
      Karla in CA (formally known as Anonymous)

      Delete
  24. My chart:
    Are hugs ok?
    Absolutely

    Should people visit?
    Yes, but call first

    I prefer :
    All of the above

    When I'm upset :
    Talk about it

    Things to send me online :
    All of the above

    Things that help me IRL:
    Cupcakes
    Discussions about SFF
    Funny movies
    Bring take our

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  25. Dear Jen, I am a psychologist (not currently in practice), and I can tell you for sure that your PEG is brilliant and the thoughtful additions listed in the comments are also brilliant! There are so many people who want to help and feel awkward or helpless. There are so many people who are in pain for a variety of reasons, and cannot fathom asking for help when they need it. This helps with all the awkwardness.

    Thanks!!!
    Jessica

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  26. This is such a good idea -- I was just elected chair of the team building and care committee and am going to ask our league members to fill this out! Tweaking it to be specific to us.

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  27. OMG, I wish I'd had this in 2009 and 2010 when I went through the most horrible losses of my life! We lost our baby daughter and our twin baby sons in subsequent pregnancies ending prematurely due to my cervix incompetence and the first couple of weeks after each death we could barely stop crying long enough to fix frozen dinners. Going to the store was torture (because it seemed there were babies and pregnant women EVERYWHERE)and picking up the phone to talk to someone other than our parents and siblings was just impossible. I blogged a lot, but that was more ramblings of whatever went through my mind. A list like this would have been SUCH a relief back then and I'd like to bring it to the attention of the (Swedish) national association for bereaved parent's that I lead a local chapter of now. Thank you so much, Jen! <3 /Lina from Uppsala

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  28. Wonderful idea! I would add a section of "Please be aware" - Allergic to flowers -- lactose intolerant -- etc.
    And please keep in mind that not everyone is on social media or even online, so this may need to be printed off and given to some people in advance.

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  29. This is genius. I am just finishing a very difficult week with my husband in Brazil and me home with three kids. I sent out a prayer request when he left, and then at least three people asked me how they could help me. I realized just how private a person I really am, because I didn't want to go to someone's for dinner or have someone hang out. But I totally could have used help mowing the lawn. This would have been great!

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  30. Thank you for putting this out there, the concept sounds intriguing, and I have posted your article on my FB to show my friends. I will consider making one of my own.

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  31. Wonderful. When my Mom died, we had wonderful friends who brought a meat and cheese tray with some rolls so we could have something simple to eat when we could. The one thing I wished someone would have done is Mow the yard! I'm trying to get things done and having to mow the yard because it was spring and the grass was too tall at Mom and Dad's house.

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  32. Ha! I noticed a few "I wish someone would have mown my lawn".
    Our next door neighbour mowed our property when my sister committed suicide. Blew me away.

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