Caroline Hardin is a lot of things. She’s a musician, an artist, a writer, and a mother. Yet she has also struggled with anxiety and depression, and (as of September) being diagnosed with scleroderma: a rare disease causing a chronic hardening of the skin and connective tissues.
Since then, many people have come up to her saying things like “let us know what we can do” or given her dietary or spiritual advice that, though well-meaning, wasn’t quite what she needed.
But among all of the people who thought they were helping was one person who actually was: her friend who had been watching Hardin’s daughter while she and her husband visited a specialist and received the life-changing news about her health.
When she got home from her doctor’s appointment, Hardin found her friend had done two simple yet special things for her.
First, when she came home, she found that the whole house had been spotlessly cleaned. This was already a huge help, but then she noticed a handwritten note on legal paper, which “brought me to tears with its sincerity and perfection,” she wrote on The Mighty.
The note “was able to fully encompass everything [my friend would] need to know in order to effectively help me through this season.”
Her note started out without sugarcoating anything:
“Hey! I’m sorry today’s news sucked – royally.
“It’s hard for me to not know what my loved ones need and what they don’t need.”
Then, she continues by offering words of encouragement:
“I just need to say that you are so special and unique. You are brave and inspiring. It’s a great honor to know you.”
… And a promise to stick by her side:
“I’m sorry this is happening. I am praying for your healing, peace of mind and straight up endurance But/and I promise to walk with you through this as much as you want me to, as long as you need me to.”
Finally, there was a series of questions:
“Answer these at your leisure:
My love languages are:
It bothers me when friends:
When I need help I:
A basket of my favorite things would consist of:
Time away from my child is something that I:
You know I am sad/depressed/lonely when:
What I need most when I’m sad/depressed/lonely is:
A list of things friends should never do would be:
A list of things friends should always do would be:”
Each question was followed by a bunch of “girly words,” which she had asked Hardin to circle. The options included things that were incredibly specific to her such as bread, Target, knowing glances, and Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series.
Yet she made sure to leave space for Hardin to write down any relevant information that she might have missed.
“I felt supported across the board,” Hardin said, “and wanted to share this amazing strategy and beautiful example of how to be there for a friend after rough news.”
Hardin was so moved by the act that she continued to talk about it 3 months later. She’s bragged to her doctors and therapist about this friend and has recommended others to try the survey approach, changing the questions and answers as needed to fit your specific needs.
“I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the responses you’ll get, just by enabling people to help and be helped,” she said.
So, next time you’re going through a difficult time or come across someone else who is, it wouldn’t hurt to keep this bold new strategy in mind.