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Episode 35: When someone is NOT actually helpful

There are people who truly want to help, and then there are "grief tourists" who are in it because helping makes them feel good about themselves. What do you do when you've got a grief tourist on your hands?


[00:00:01] Sometimes we don't like to ask for help because the person offering the help is not actually helpful.

[00:00:09] It can be a form of co-dependency when someone is trying their hardest to help you because their identity is all tied up in being useful. They just *really* want to show up for you. They just *really* want to help. And you end up feeling sort of slimy because you realize that they might *seem* well-intentioned, but they want to be and look like a saint.

[00:00:44] These are the people who post about how much they help you on social media. They are the people who stick around too long. They drop your stuff off, but then they want to talk about how helpful it is that they dropped all this stuff off. They're in it for the glory. They're in it because it makes them feel good about themselves. And that, my friends, is not helpful.

[00:01:11] We sometimes feel trapped by people who give us pity or sympathy because we don't know how to accept help without letting someone totally take over, and that loss of control is actually a loss of power, which feels *terrible* in a hard situation.

[00:01:31] So an example of this type of non-help would be somebody who overstays their welcome and you don't know how to get them out of your house. They come to drop off a casserole and then they stay all day long yakking about all of their problems until you're emotionally drained and can't cope anymore.

[00:01:55] Sometimes we don't want to accept help because the person who is giving the help is not actually helpful, and in that case, my friends, it is perfectly okay *not* to accept help from this person. The crappy thing about it is that it requires putting up boundaries at a time when you are emotionally taxed and don't really have the energy to deal with it.

[00:02:25] So sometimes we will not share what we're going through, or we will just blanket not accept help because we don't want to deal with people like this.

[00:02:38] And a lot of us have people like this in our families, which makes it even more difficult because it's really the big kahuna to have to put up boundaries with someone that we're related to. But it's absolutely necessary to put up those boundaries, because it isn't fair of these people who *need* to be helpful to use you in that way, and basically use your problem to make themselves feel good about themselves. That's not cool.

[00:03:21] Recognizing the difference between those people and the people who are really offering you help is the first step. And for me, social media is almost always the way that I can tell the difference. During cancer, for example, I had friends, one friend in particular, who snuck all of these wonderful little granola yogurt treats that she had made in mason jars for breakfast. . . she snuck them into my refrigerator when she came over once and then she left. And I didn't discover them until the next morning. And then I had three days of delicious breakfasts. She did it because she wanted to help me and not because she wanted any glory. She didn't even give me the opportunity to say thank you. . . . versus another friend who dropped by some stuff and then posted all over social media about how she was helping her friend with cancer. And I was just like, "why? Why do you need to do that? It makes me feel icky. Like you are a tourist in the land of cancer and you're taking pictures of me like I'm the bearded lady." That doesn't feel good.

[00:04:53] You can tell the difference between someone who is doing it to be kind, and someone who is doing it because it's part of their identity. It's okay not to want to accept pity or sympathy from people who are going to do that to you, because you're *not* the bearded lady.

[00:05:15] So learning to put up boundaries with those people, and not letting them in and pushing them off — or, if you're in the middle of something truly devastating, make somebody you trust be the go-between here. My mom did such a killer job of being the go-between between me and other people. She was my scheduler. And she would say to people, "Sara doesn't feel well right now. And, you know, if you want to drop something off, that would be wonderful. But she can't talk right now." Because I couldn't - I was so tired. If you have someone you trust that you can that you can give that duty to, by all means, do it.

[00:06:02] I'm all about making your life easier, especially in the middle of something really difficult. And if boundaries are hard for you, give that job to somebody who has an easier time with it.

[00:06:14] I hope that has been helpful and that you can understand the difference between someone who is giving something freely to help, and someone who is giving because it is part of their identity.