From the Front Lines

Comfort Those in Need of Comfort: 7 Things You Can Do

Do you know someone who has recently received very bad news? Or, do you have a friend who seems down? Even if you don’t know what to say, there might be something you can do. Here are 7 suggestions from the frontlines:

1. Take them a gift.

Just a couple of months into Claire’s cancer treatment, I was feeling pretty detached from my friends. One particularly difficult day the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find a very good friend standing there. She was holding a pan of Rice Krispie treats. She handed me the treats and said, “We were already making them, and we thought of you so we just dumped in some more marshmallows.” She made it sound like a small thing, but it was a very big thing to me.

2. Write them a note.

Throughout the first six months of Claire’s very intense treatment, I was not always myself. This made it difficult to be gracious when talking with people face-to-face at times. Notes of love and encouragement were my saving grace. I absolutely clung to those words - an email, a blog comment, a handwritten note slipped to me in church, or even a card in my mailbox. You would be surprised how many times I re-read the notes from loved ones.

3.  Ask them if they want to talk, but don’t expect them to.

I am, by nature, a very chatty person, so it surprised me how exhausting it was for me to talk about me or even Claire. The offer to talk was appreciated, but so was the acceptance if I said no.

4. Talk to them like you normally would.

     If you normally tell your friend all about your child’s sleeping problems, continue to do so. It is a nice reprieve from one’s own difficulties to hear about someone else’s daily challenges however menial.
     5. Pray for them specifically.

At a women’s conference I heard a speaker say, “If you pray general prayers, you’ll get general answers. If you want specific answers, pray for specific things.” Pray for healing for your friend, for comfort, for answers, for strength to do hard things, and for a bit of happiness in their day.

6. Tell them you are praying for them.

I felt the strength of other’s prayers in behalf of our family. It was still nice to know who was doing that praying. It often brought me to tears to know someone had remembered my family during their prayers, especially the children who prayed for Claire without fail. There is power in joining together in unified prayer.

7.  Be in it for the long haul.

The fall-out from a trial is much more than we can possibly know. The grief might last much longer for the afflicted person then we might expect. I remember someone giving a talk in church the week after Claire’s diagnosis. She mentioned our family and said, “The Bluhm family is in it for the long haul.” She then encouraged the ward to also be ‘in it’ with us. And, oh, how they were! They brought us dinners every week for the first 6 months. Several girls, one in particular, babysat Avery during Claire’s weekly doctor’s visits with no expectation of pay. One wonderful woman wrote a comment on the blog almost every single time I made an entry. Then at church, she always made eye contact and smiled. I learned to expect it and look for it. These good people did this for two and a half years. Be ‘in it’ with your friend.

Did I miss anything? What else do you find helpful when you are struggling? I’d love if you added to the list. Let’s start a discussion and learn from each other.


Welcome to the First Day!

Hello, Caring Bridge readers. Thanks for joining me at the new blog. Stay a minute to check things out. I've got a page explaining the name of the blog here if you're interested. I also have a page that includes about ten posts from our journey as chronicled on Caring Bridge. You can find that here. The Caring Bridge Journal will remain online for you to visit should you ever desire. The link back can be found on the Caring for Claire page. I have lots of writing ideas and projects in the works, and I value your comments greatly. You can find an essay from me on this new blog each Monday, so check back in or sign up to get updates. Lots of love!


An Exercise in Compassion: In Praise of Avery

Although a bit dramatic I always imagine that in the pre-mortal world Avery volunteered to come to our family a tad early. Born just five months before Claire was diagnosed with Leukemia, Avery was a difficult baby. She cried every evening for about three hours. Eating was challenging. The only way to lull her into a nap was to listen to Josh Groban’s You Are Loved loudly while swaying back and forth in our winter-lit living room. I cradled her small body further and further from my own, still swaying to keep the rhythm of my rocking arms the same as the cadence of the baby swing, until she rested in the swing. Then, careful not to jostle the newborn bundle, I held my breath while I released my grasp. Claire, not yet two, rocked and swayed with me. She knew we would read books when Avery was finally asleep.

We had no business getting pregnant with Avery. We had previously struggled with infertility for almost 5 years before getting pregnant with Claire, and we had every reason to believe it could take another five before our family would number four. We were understandably overjoyed with the surprise of her pregnancy. I remember the day well. It was a Saturday morning, and a sleepy Dustin was holding a sleepy 14-month-old Claire. They were in the kitchen making pancakes. This time, I didn’t tell him I was taking a test because, really, I didn’t think it possible that I could be pregnant. Barely able to talk after reading the results I lept out to the kitchen bar. Without preamble, I announced, “Dus, I’m pregnant!” I don’t think anyone could look more stunned than he did at that moment. The best surprise we’ve experienced by far.

Still, I don’t think Avery was ready to come. In January, she arrived to us, and she just wasn’t prepared for this world. She was still longing for Heaven and cried for it often. I envision that her compassionate spirit had discovered what was about to take place in her family, and I think she raised her hand quickly, “I will go now,” she most likely said. “I want to be there for Claire.” I think someone probably told her that it would not be easy to go early, but I’m sure she insisted that she would do her best to make things easier for Claire. “I want to help!” I’m sure she said this because she still says it often.

A couple of weeks ago, Dustin taught a lesson on prayer for Family Home Evening. The girls loved holding the footprints that were the ‘steps of prayer’ and walked along the bright paper prints as Dustin helped them say the words. Claire consistently started with “Thank you for this day” and asked blessings upon “Gangy and Pop Pop and Grandma and Grandpa.” Avery needed a little more prodding, but ultimately thanked Heavenly Father for her beautiful hair and asked blessings upon her umbrella.  As Dustin closed his lesson he told the girls he wanted to give them a present. Claire’s dark eyes lit up at the mention of a present. She loves gifts of any kind. She listened raptly as he then explained that he was going to give them each a father’s blessing. He compared the blessing to a special prayer. He blessed Claire first, and although the words were beautiful, I only remember that he voiced aloud the words, “I bless you that Leukemia will leave your body and that it won’t return.” A Father’s request. For Claire, that’s all I needed to hear. He then blessed Avery. I admit I peeked at her, folding her arms tightly across her chest as only a two-year-old can. The Spirit was strong and both girls were surprisingly reverent. In Avery’s blessing, Dustin began with “You are very special.” I know all children are special, but it struck me that Avery is exceptionally so. He then stated that, already kindhearted, Avery has progressed in compassion immensely in her two years in this mortal life. Tears came to my eyes at this moment as I felt the truth of the declaration and the power in Avery’s spirit.

I know from my own experience as Claire’s mother these past two years that my compassion has worn thin on many occasions. I have wavered in my love when things are most difficult. Avery never has. She has shared beyond her years. More than a younger sibling syndrome of wanting to please the older child, Avery serves Claire. She is concerned for Claire. She loves Claire even when Claire gives nothing in return. In many ways, Avery has grown more from this trial than Claire herself.

Maybe it’s because she volunteered for it.