10 Ways to Help Your Friend Living in a Hospital

It happens a lot. 

All of the sudden, life kicks one of your friends or family members right in the rear. It appears that friend will be spending an undisclosed amount of time away from home…likely due to health issues. Perhaps they are healing themselves. Perhaps supporting a loved one (child, spouse, parent, etc.).

No matter what the situation, you know your friend needs to feel supported. But asking for help is not an easy thing to do, especially when feeling helpless yourself. As a friend, you want to help, but you aren’t sure what to do without someone telling you. So how can you help?

As the wife of a man who spent almost a month in a hospital…in a city hours away from our home, I’m here to give you some advice. Jeremy survived a head-on collision on the highway in 2012, and the support we received from family and friends is what kept us going.

Jeremy’s 1/2 ton Dodge Ram, well…what was left of it, after the 2012 head-on collision with a semi-truck on Highway 30 in Nebraska.

Because “thank you” never seems sufficient, passing on the love and support to others is what we try hard to do. So let us help you with some ideas to suit any budget. Some of these ideas cost nothing but time, others cost more. Do what works for you!

Here is a list of the top ten most helpful and memorable “somethings” others did for us while we were fighting for health away from home:

  1. Gift Cards

    I am especially a fan of prepaid Visa cards because you can use them anywhere. From gas for the vehicle to food and even clothing runs, gift cards are extremely helpful when you’re away from home.

  2. Hospital Cafeteria Gift Cards

    This is one I never would have thought of. But a friend of the family contacted the hospital we were in and purchased a gift card to that hospital’s cafeteria. That was hugely helpful. I rarely wanted to leave Jeremy’s side, so having the option of eating with him, or very close to him, was so thoughtful. Then I was able to quickly return to my post…beside him.

  3. A Floor Mat

    I know…sounds weird. But those hospital rollaway beds or chairs are horribly uncomfortable for those of us supporting a loved one. I actually purchased a floor mat for myself, but if I find that another person is having to stay in the hospital for as long as we did, I immediately think of this. I was able to roll up my comfy mat and tuck it away in a corner of the hospital room during the day. At night, I simply laid it out on the floor and slept so much better than I had pre-floor mat. And now, we use it as another bed when our boys have sleepovers!

  4. Plants

    Cliché? Perhaps. But having some life in the hospital room certainly brought some positivity to our days.

  5. Snail Mail Cards and Pictures

    Yup…good old fashioned cards and pictures. We loved them. I decorated an entire wall in front of Jeremy with them. The bright colors and inspiring messages, especially those talking about how many prayers were being sent up, were so helpful to our moods. Oh…and never underestimate the power of a child’s drawing.

  6. Gift Basket of Relaxing Items

    Ahhh the basket. I still remember digging into that thing like it was Christmas. We had been in the hospital for over a week with no end to our stay in sight. That basket arrived and I found slippers, crossword puzzles, journals, robes, blankets, stress balls, joke books, etc. Oh, it was a happy day. The sky is the limit here…make it personalized!

  7. Entertainment for the Family and Friends

    Sometimes, if your friends are in a situation like we were, family and friends will visit for hours or even days at a time. We had small children when Jeremy had his accident…Hudson was five and Asher was two. One gift we received included games, toys, puzzles, colors and coloring books, and playing cards…great items for entertainment not only for us and our kids, but for other visitors as well.

  8. Clean House. 

    Yes, literally, clean house. When it was coming close to the time when we were expected to come home, a large number of friends and family went to our home and cleaned it from top to bottom. My sister-in-law and a friend deep cleaned the inside of our home while others picked up our landscaping…primarily leaves and cornstalks that had blown in the yard. Coming home to a clean house with no worries but to care for my family was an enormous weight off my shoulders.

  9. House Sit.

    Offer to watch the pets, pick up mail, keep the house from smelling like a dungeon, etc. Having someone watching our home for anything odd and just keeping an eye out was a usual stressor I didn’t have to worry about.

  10. Freezer Meals

    Coming home to a freezer stocked full of meals was incredible. Friends made meals and froze them. That way, when we came home, we were still being taken care of and could concentrate on healing. And it’s important to let your friend know that you are making meals. That way they know that food, upon arriving home, will not be a problem. It takes away a lot of stress.

So there you have it. Feel free to share our list and pass on the goodness to others! And never underestimate the power of prayer.

Our family in our home away from home for a full month in 2012…

Peace!
– Jeremy & Bailey Koch

I watched my husband cry today. I watched my husband heal today.

Today has been a hard day, like, really hard. Today, I held my friend as she sobbed on my shoulder. We stood together next to her son lying peacefully in his casket. Barton was 34 years old, and we paid our final respects at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Holdrege, Nebraska. Barton had a good life and he was loved by many, but the challenges he faced on this earth were too great. He had hundreds of friends and family members who supported him and tried to help him in this life, but ultimately, a disease had a strong hold on Barton.

2015-09-08 11.53.52

We have an amazing God, and He called Barton home to give him peace. I know with all my heart that Barton is walking with our Father because God decided he had struggled with his illness for long enough. Now comes the beautiful truth that Barton is whole again. He is at peace. I know Sherry’s faith, my friend and Barton’s mother. We shared many stories of faith, healing, and signs from God in the years we shared an office as special education teachers. So today I was heartbroken when I saw the gray skies. Just what she needs, cloudy skies, I thought.  So I did what I have learned to do on so many occasions.

Heavenly Father, I know You are here with us.
I know you know Sherry and the family, so I am asking you now.

Please give them light – Your light, sunlight, light in their hearts.
Help them see through the darkness they are feeling.
Help us all see You.
In Your Son’s holy and precious name. Amen.

The pastor who spoke at this funeral withheld nothing; he discussed that those of us whom are left on this earth to try to heal without someone we loved have it the worst. Could we have done more? Would Barton have accepted help if we had shown up on his doorstep just one more time? The answer lies in understanding that we will never have answers. God places good in our lives everywhere; but we have to choose to see the good. We have to choose to live every single day. And if we can’t do that on this earth, because God sent His son for us, we can be at peace knowing that our God is all-forgiving. He is only good. And those we loved so wholly get to be whole once again.

Did you know there is no time in Heaven? When I spoke to Sherry the day after Barton passed, I shared with her what a faith mentor of mine helped me understand. I struggled when friends lost their children; I imagined that all these children in Heaven only want one thing…their parents. It’s hard to imagine a world without fear, without pain, without questions; we can’t even fathom it. So I struggled with the idea that if I lose my children, they won’t miss me? How can that be? How can my children not miss me when my heart is breaking for them?

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” 2 Peter 3:8 (ESV)

And I understood. When those we love walk through Heaven’s gates and meet Jesus, they may very well ask, “Where is my mom?” And I imagine that Jesus may answer something like, She will be here any minute. There. Behind you.

Barton is okay. As I sat silent next to my husband, I watched the clouds outside the enormous picture windows part. I watched the blue sky emerge as hundreds shed tears of pain and cleansing, of forgiveness and faith, and of hope. I leaned in and told my husband what I had prayed. He answered, “I noticed that too.”

But my story doesn’t end here – I know God makes good come from every situation. And even as I sat mourning for my friend midst the loss of her son, I felt healing. More importantly, I witnessed healing on behalf of my husband, who came with me to this funeral in support of Sherry and I. But he was there for a much greater purpose, and now we understand.

Jeremy has fought illness very similar to Barton’s for years. Barton struggled with alcoholism because he didn’t understand his brain, but Jeremy has suffered from severe suicidal thoughts, often not understanding why he should have to take on such a monster within himself. The Why me? is very dangerous, but it is also very common. It is a stage of grief before acceptance of mental illness is possible. After years of battling by himself because of his refusal to let anyone in, Jeremy finally began accepting help. He finally understood that God had placed good everywhere in his life to help him see Him. He survived five suicide attempts, a near-death car accident likely caused by a medication failure, and an awful lot of medication adjustments because of meds that caused him to black out or have horrible suicidal thoughts.

It seemed like hell on earth, but do you know why he fought? He fought for us.

Jeremy is a daddy. He is a husband, a son, a brother, a son-in-law, brother-in-law, nephew, grandson, cousin, friend…everything. He is everything to many. And when we walked out of that funeral and shut the door to our van, Jeremy hung his head and sobbed.

“It was like sitting at my own funeral. It was like watching the pain left behind,” Jeremy said through tears. “That could have been me. That could have been you.”

His tears dropped one after another into his lap and I joined. We tried to console each other, but mostly we just cried together. Jeremy and I had not said a word to each other as we sat there looking through the glass at a wall of windows with enormous and breathtaking crosses towering outside, but we both felt it. I shed tears as I remembered those days not knowing if I was about to begin planning my husband’s funeral. Watching hearts break on this earth because of missing someone so desperately is torture. Even with the faith in knowing our loved ones are whole again, it is still hard. And that’s okay. We can all learn from loss. We can choose to let sadness envelop us, or we can choose to see the good.

Jeremy today.

Jeremy this afternoon.

We said goodbye today and we supported Barton’s family and friends. But God helped us heal ourselves at the same time. He let us see what it would be like to lose Jeremy to his illness, to be separated on this earth, to not follow what we completely understand to be our mission in this life. We are still here together for a reason.

We are ready to dedicate ourselves to helping others understand there is hope in mental illness. It’s okay to accept help; it doesn’t make us weak. Today, we can say that Jeremy’s depression is the best thing that ever happened to us; it led us to our faith in God and our purpose in life.

Jeremy designed the cover of our book himself as this was such a personal endeavor.

Jeremy designed the cover of our book himself as this was such a personal endeavor.

Our book, “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith”, was published this year. It tells our past story of hurt, anger, and finding faith and healing, but now we think it’s time to write more because we continue to see God at work in our lives. It’s time to keep the story moving, to explain how submitting to God’s will and embracing the past, rather than being afraid of it, continues to help us heal as we share our story – complete with tears and triumphs. We found hope and we pray we can help others find it too.

As we continued to drive home talking about our faith and our trust in knowing we are on the right path, I noticed a voice mail on my phone. Last night, I wrote a simple thank you letter to the staff and administration at Richard Young Hospital in Kearney, the place I brought my husband to on September 11, 2009 the first time he tried to take his life. I brought him there to keep him safe from himself, and it was one of the hardest days of my life. But it began our journey toward the acceptance of faith and healing. The voicemail was from a woman named Marsha at CHI Health Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney; she received our thank you and asked if we would be willing to share our story with many at the Light Up the Night walk for mental health awareness this Friday night, September 11, 2015 in Kearney. The tears continued to fall as Jeremy said the dates are not a coincidence. The walk is six years to the day from his first mental health hospitalization. And we were already signed up to attend and support others and ourselves since Jeremy’s sister demanded our presence with her; she desperately wanted to walk in support of us and in healing herself. Watching your brother live with mental illness is not easy; supporting is not easy. But Jacqui, you are an inspiration to us all and you never would take no for an answer. We love that about you. So Friday, on the six year anniversary of the first time Jeremy fought the darkness so hard, we are humbled to speak at the Light Up the Night walk for mental health awareness in Kearney.

Healing Via Walking

Healing Via Walking

We had a breakthrough today as we said goodbye to Barton and supported his family and friends. Good has already come from this and I can’t imagine the peace Barton has now, it’s impossible to comprehend. Today, I watched my husband cry. I watched my husband heal. I watched my husband get truly fired up for his purpose while he is here on this earth with us.

To the family and friends of Barton, please take pride in knowing we feel Barton with us. We didn’t know him well, but we know his mother well. We know her desire to do anything to help others, and we imagine Barton is just like her cheering us on in Heaven. While a disease on earth held Barton back from being whole, he is whole again now and he is already doing amazing things. It’s time to help others. God bless you all.

1467309_1023004814394968_6832056052554300547_n

Learn more about us, Jeremy and Bailey Koch, on our website. There, you can find our story and even purchase our book, “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith”, on Amazon or from us directly in paperback.