12. Please let me know if I can do anything to help.
Help in what way exactly? Are you offering to fund me for a course in intravenous vitamin C? Or to research some stuff on the internet for me? To put Lion and me up for a weekend to give us a break? To look after the beagles if we went abroad? To find out where in the world you can get some vitamin combinations that the EU has banned? Or do some shopping for me? Or spend a little time with my mother? Honestly, I seriously don't know. So how can I ask?
I'm not trying to be mean here but actually it's a pretty unhelpful offer without any indication of the level of help you would like to give.
When Henry died, people said the same thing and because I didn't realise this, I did ask for things.
I asked one friend who lived in Hong Kong if I could come out and stay with her for a couple of weeks. It would have been so lovely to have had some time away in the warmth. You've never heard anyone backpedal so swiftly! And of course it was really hard for either of us to keep in touch for quite a while after that because she probably felt guilty and I realised I'd seriously overstepped her "how can I help?" mark.
Mostly though it was simple things that I asked for like "please would you mow the lawn for me?" it was a big lawn and I didn't have the energy.
The (lovely) friend who said "yes, of course" came round six weeks later. I'd mown the lawn four times in that period of time and it really didn't need mowing when it was at his convenience. But he mowed it and I thanked him and gave him tea all the same.
I also called people at times when I was very lonely or needed some company. When it was close friends they were wonderful — but on the days when all my family and friends were unavailable and for some reason I had just lost it (which you might reasonably expect to do when you are widowed after a year of marriage) I would call some of those who had offered to help and as often as not they were busy, or just on their way out. Fair enough - they had a life - but I remember so clearly one of them saying "Oh hello Maggy, can it wait? I'm cooking dinner. I'll call you back tomorrow." And of course I said "yes of course it can wait," and went and sat in the bath and bawled.
So if you want to help someone who's dealing with any stuff whatsoever, may I suggest that you make a couple of suggestions to them rather than just offering to help? That would at least give some idea of what level of assistance you would like to offer so they don't ask for something right out of your range or that you really don't want to give.
Trust me, they will be truly grateful that you did.