There are countless stories that we share at Guardian Nurses. Stories of our patients and their families, of nurses, of providers like nurse practitioners and physicians, and of other members of our big, confusing healthcare system.

Given our role in our patients’ lives, coordinating their care, many of those stories are very compelling, sometimes heartbreaking. But throughout those stories, there is a theme of someone ‘showing up.’

This month, prompted by an email from a friend (see main article), we are sharing some examples of how you might ‘show up’ for a family member, friend, co-worker or even a neighbor who might be going through a challenging time.

— Betty Long, RN, MHA, President/CEO, Guardian Nurses Health Advocates


The Gift of Showing Up

When a friend saw this recent photo of President Biden hugging Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky she said that it reminded her of the importance of ‘showing up’ during hard times. (Not that any of us have access to Air Force One to fly to hug a distressed friend). It got me thinking of how important just ‘showing up’ is—whether it’s personal or work-related.

Showing up for good times is easy. Family get-togethers, friends’ parties, or sharing tickets to a sporting event. It’s the hard times that tempt us to stay away and leave well enough alone. But those are the times that count and likely will be remembered.

There have been many times in my life when situations have presented themselves and something tells me ‘go.’ A few years back, a dear friend in Boston called me to tell me her cancer had returned. The next day, I drove to her home armed with wine and cheese to surprise her at happy hour. She was quite surprised and we spent the evening laughing and enjoying time together.

Another more recent example is when I was home with COVID and not feeling all that well. A dear friend had called to ‘check in’ on me and two hours later, drove to my home and dropped off containers of soup, fresh fruit and chocolate brownies (who doesn’t like chocolate?) She didn’t stay, of course, but I did enjoy those brownies!

Here are some other suggestions to offer the gift of ‘showing up:’

  • Don’t be afraid to visit–whether in-person, by phone or if you’re lucky to have a laptop, computer, or smart phone by a video call. Just ‘pop in’ to say ‘hi!’
  • Sit with your person and just listen. Don’t worry about having the right words. Don’t try to fit it. Listen.
  • Ask ‘How can I help you today?’
  • Offer to help with household tasks that are difficult to complete (e.g., housekeeping, lawn mowing, etc.)
  • Drop off a favorite treat (chocolate brownies anyone?)
  • If your schedule allows, offer to drive to doctors’ appointments or treatments
  • Communicate regularly—plan to check-in at the same time of the day, or send handwritten cards, letters or emails
  • Send flowers that will brighten and cheer up the home
  • Investigate and look into appropriate community services, like Meals on Wheels and suggest them
  • Send a gift card for something that might be appreciated

Besides these suggestions, think of other ways you can show up. Not everyone is capable or able to care for physical needs. Not everyone is capable of having an emotional discussion. That’s OK. Show up by finding something you can do that will ease the burden of the person. You don’t have to be perfect to show you are present and care. And remember, you do not have to fix it.

Hard times will come and go. In those times, love demands that we show up and be present—physically, emotionally, spiritually—however we can. Others may not ask that of us because they don’t want to be a burden, but we should demand it of ourselves. Next time you have an opportunity, don’t worry about a grand gesture. Just give the gift of showing up.


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