how to support your loved ones during hell week
Welcome to hell week.
This is a week in which lots of people who don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about decide that they get to pick who’s lying about sexual assault. In other words, this is when the foxes get to tour the hen house.
I guaran-fucking-tee that even if you don’t have a trauma that has grown into your life like a clump of blackberry bushes, you know and love someone who does. Yes, I’m talking about your partner, friend, sibling, co-worker, parent, grandparent, child.
Someone you love is listening to pundits
laugh at the traumas that they don’t need to imagine
because they remember them.
If you’re feeling helpless, want to help, but aren’t sure what to do, here are a few tips:
Keep your shock to yourself, champ.
In the context of this week of unsurprising surprises about the experiences of girls at college parties, the more shock you express, the more you show just how long you’ve been ignoring us.
Unless you have just arrived on this planet, or were homeschooled in a bunker by a robot and have never met another human or engaged in any representations of our culture, and YES, that includes Friends reruns, you have no right to be surprised.
You were at those parties too.
Our lady eyes aren’t X-woman mutations. They see the same things you do. We just never had the luxury of looking away.
You may well be surprised. You may feel ashamed at how much of her pain was okey-dokey for you. You may be horrified when you realize that her pain was part of your normal, happy life. Your horror is an appropriate response to her pain. This is perhaps the first time you’re having an appropriate response to her pain. It’s horrifying to realize that you didn’t really see her as human. I know. That’s how I felt when I really started working on my anti-racism.
Your feelings are valid, important to work on, and not her fucking job.
When you express your galloping shock that this totally fucking normal thing ACTUALLY HAPPENED, it proves that you haven’t been listening, and that you are still primarily preoccupied with your own experience, not ours. It reminds us that you’re not on our team. We already feel like the only person left on the dodgeball court. We don’t need you on the sidelines, yelling, “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE THE ONLY ONE LEFT!” AND YET I AM, so shut the fuck up, dude, and let me focus on dodging these balls.
“I can’t believe it,” “This is just such shocking behavior from someone like Kavanaugh,” and, “Wow, who would have thought there would be such a barrel of bad apples,” are all examples of unhelpful shock that make us feel like you thought we were taking crazy-pills this whole time until RIGHT NOW when suddenly YOU believed us and your belief made our lived experiences real.
Your feelings are allowed. They’re just not her fucking job.
Do not reach out to old girlfriends or hookups to apologize for “anything you might have done.”
If you are genuinely worried that you might have done something shitty in the past, your first instinct might be to reach out and ask her if you did.
DO NOT DO THIS.
There is a time for closure and it’s not this fucking week. Right now, women and survivors need boundaries and safety, and nothing screams boundaries and safety like you charging into their DMs, dredging up past humiliations and demanding their emotional energy so you can feel better about yourself and sleep well tonight. (That was my sarcasm font.)
If you genuinely want to atone for something shitty that you might have done (and let’s be honest, probably did do, you can trust your gut on this one), then you can start by choosing NOT to do a brand-new shitty thing today!
WAIT, dude. We do not have the energy to tuck you in tonight. We’ve lived with what you did for years now; you can live with it for a few more weeks while we stabilize again. If you want to be part of the solution now, you’ll want to be part of it in a month. More importantly, you’ll want to be part of a solution that you perform with our fucking consent.
If you want to write a letter, write it, then send it to a mouthy, filterless bitch (a word I proudly call myself) for another set of eyes.
Fuck it, I’ll even open up my own shop. I’ll call it #BitchNoFilter. Paypal me $20 and email me your letter with the subject line “APOLOGY LETTER DRAFT.”
I will read it and educate you.
We know we need self-care.
We do not need you to tell us to do self-care.
The concept of “self-care” came into my life around the time my first son was born. Chicken was a newborn baby, I was a brand-new mom, and suddenly I had a to-do list that stretched the length of the rest of my days on Earth, and that needed to get done or PEOPLE WOULD DIE.
Then, people started telling me to do self-care. They didn’t say, “Hey, I’m going to come over and let’s take a walk in the sunshine.” They didn’t say, “I’m picking up dinner tonight.” They said, “You need to take care of yourself!” See the difference between those statements?
Okay, I’ll just add “self-care” to the bottom of a list that will never, ever get done. Thanks for making my to-do list longer; that’s SO RELAXING. Thanks for the reminder that I’m ALSO terrible at taking care of myself. THANKS. THAT WAS SO NICE OF YOU.
If you notice that someone you love is in distress, just show up. Just do something nice. Just take one chore off her plate. Just do it. Don’t point out that you’re doing it because she’s A HOT MESS. Don’t point out that she wasn’t capable of taking care of herself, so you’re stepping in to save the day. That’s shitty. Don’t be shitty.
Besides, she is capable of taking care of herself. If the water is exactly at her head, that means she hasn’t gone under yet. Show up with a life preserver. Don’t remind her to go get one herself and congratulate yourself on your thoughtfulness. Just toss the fucking ring and bring home some dinner.
Be a potted plant.
Hang out. Make no demands. Be quiet. Be present. Don’t follow her around. Just be there. She’ll let you know when she’s ready to talk. She’ll let you know when she’s done.
She knows you’re there. She doesn’t need you to announce, “I AM HERE FOR YOU.” That’s annoying and this isn’t about how AWESOME YOU ARE and “HERE-ING FOR YOU.” Ssh. You’re a potted plant. Lose the ego, ficus.
You’re there to be quiet, comforting, and clean the air for her, silently. You’re there because other living things were too needy. You’re there because she loves growing things. Just be there.
Do you have a suggestion for loved ones who want to support survivors who are doing everything they can to keep their heads above water?
Please comment below and share your wisdom!