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October 4, 2015 / 21 Tishri, 5776
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How To Cut Off Support – Unintentionally, Of Course

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(*Names changed)


Coming home to a full answering machine of questions and calls, many insisting that you call back immediately to fill them in during a crisis, is the last thing anyone wants to face. Coming home to an empty answering machine, with no inquiries about yourself or the person in crisis, can be even worse. Left with a feeling that no one cares, the lack of verbal concern from family, neighbors or friends, (even inappropriate concern) makes dealing with the crisis harder. Being totally alone, or just feeling totally alone, decreases your ability to manage in a crisis. That is why the type of support you put in place to help someone in crisis, often needs to be approved by the person you are trying to help. At the very least, the people you are trying to help need to be told what you are doing or planning especially if it will directly affect them. Otherwise your attempt at help could be disastrous.


*Sharon, a well spouse, was in another crisis. She was told by the hospital that her husband was at death’s door, yet again. She had let her family and friends know about this by e-mail. She had been at the hospital for two days without a break. Her husband had stabilized and the doctors told her it was safe for her to go home and shower and rest for a few hours. She drove home and sat in the driveway of her home for a few minutes gearing up for the mountain of calls she knew would be on her answering machine. She promised herself not to deal with them until she did a bit of self-care first. But when Sharon entered her home, the light on her answering machine wasn’t blinking. Thinking perhaps the light was out, she picked up the receiver to see how many messages there were. At first shocked, she quickly began to feel devastated that no one had called. Sharon had never felt so alone and horrible.


But, as Sharon found our later, she was neither alone nor without caring. A friend had received Sharon’s e-mail informing her of the crisis. Wanting to help, this friend decided to ask everyone to whom Sharon had sent the e-mail, not to call Sharon and bombard her with questions and advice. Instead she appointed herself as the contact between everyone and Sharon. She would get them updates from Sharon and send it around by e-mail to everyone. The only problem was that she neglected to tell Sharon of her plan or what she had done. Anticipating that Sharon needed a break when she came home from the hospital, the friend decided to not bother her until the next day. All the while, until her friend told he what she did, Sharon felt alone, isolated and not cared about.

*Shlomi and *Yehuda had been childhood friends. Though quite a distance now separated them, the friendship had survived. Yehuda happened to be visiting when Shlomi was taken into the hospital. When he returned to his home he told all their childhood friends that he’d keep everyone updated on Shlomi’s progress. And so Shlomi heard from no one in his past.


He knew that Yehuda would have told everyone about his hospitalization and wondered why no one cared enough to call or even send a card. Matters became even worse when Yehuda didn’t stay in touch. Yehuda had decided to get all his updates from a friend of Shlomi whom he had met while visiting. The problem was no one told Shlomi this was happening. All Shlomi knew, was that Yehuda had left and maintained no contact. Shlomi was devastated.


In a crisis, everyone wants to lend support. Everyone thinks they are doing what is helpful. But, it is very important not to make decisions for people without their consent. Or, at the very least, inform them of what you are thinking of doing. Both Sharon and Shlomi would have felt much better knowing what was going on. They needed to know that someone was fielding their calls in order to give them some respite. Instead, they were allowed to think that no one called and no one cared − just the opposite of what was really happening. They felt alone in their crisis and were devastated. Knowing that there was support from their concerned friends would have made all the difference.


You can contact me at annnovick@hotmail.com

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