Now, what do you do?
First, you breathe.
Then, you pray.
Then, you jump in.
Your biggest goal as the BFF is to remove as much stress as possible from the person you love. Usually, that means creating a wall between her and ALL the people that want to know what’s going on, that want to help, that want to talk to your loved one. You will find that when people are in need, others will want to help. They’ll want to be involved. It’s what makes us unique as humans, our need to help others.
Unfortunately, for the average person handling any kind of crisis, managing all those who want to be involved can be as overwhelming as the crisis itself. That’s what the BFF is for. The BFF needs to help manage the situation.
The first step to managing the situation is establishing a plan for communication. How are you going to let all these people know what’s going on. There are multiple sites out there to manage the stream of communication. The two I’ve used with great success are Caring Bridge and Facebook.
With Caring Bridge, you can create a site in under five minutes that allows you to give a brief synopsis of the crisis in the “My Story” section and then give updates as often as you want in the “Journal” section. One thing I love about Caring Bridge is that guests can sign the guestbook as often as they like. Friends and family can set up notifications so that every time there is a new journal entry they are notified. There’s even an app that can help people stay connected. You must create a Caring Bridge username and password to comment on the site, which allows for some privacy.
Another option is Facebook. You can set up a new page on Facebook very quickly, and it is easy to use because, well, let’s face it, everybody knows how to check a Facebook page. Friends and family can like the page to receive updates. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is as much privacy with Facebook as with a site specifically designed for crisis communication. Anyone can stumble across an open Facebook page and make comments. That is not always a good thing.
Whatever way you choose to communicate, make sure you are posting as often as possible, especially at the beginning of the crisis. This will seriously help the number of texts and phone calls your loved one is receiving. And, if you need to take over their phone so they won’t be disturbed, do it.
In addition, be sure to sign your name to any communication. It helps the reader to know who they are “hearing” from. Multiple people may update the site you create, and every one of them has an individual voice and perspective. By signing your name, you are letting your readers in on a bit of the inside circle, and they will feel more comfortable that you’ve got in under control. For my Katie’s Caring Bridge (if you want to read it, click here), I always signed my entries “K. Hill.” To this day, there are people that call me that.
Sometimes, there needs to be a communication plan for close family and another for the rest of the people. This is going to depend on the loved one’s family dynamic. (Tread lightly here and figure it out fast. Aunt Suzy may get upset if she reads something on Facebook before she gets a phone call. Decide if your loved one is concerned about that or if Aunt Suzy can just get over it.) If family needs to be contacted separately, be sure to set up a phone tree early on so everyone knows who they’re supposed to call with updates.
Establishing a plan for communication doesn’t mean it has to be you doing the communicating. If you have someone who is great at writing emails, blogs, or just spends way too much time on social media in your circle, then that is your communication person. You feed her the information, and she posts it. Wether it’s you or someone else, the key is to get it out there without your loved one having to worry about it.
While your loved one doesn’t need to worry about getting the information out there, you should never post any updates without a quick check to make sure they’re ready for information to go public. There were several times in my Katie’s journey when her husband said, “not yet,” and we waited to post on Caring Bridge until he was ready. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t texting going on between close friends and family, but he just wasn’t ready to make it public yet. Then, there were times when I was borrowing somebody’s computer to post something in a hurry because he wanted prayer cover RIGHT THEN. (I wish they’d had the app when Katie was sick!) Remember, you’re helping your loved one manage the stress. You don’t want to add to it.
A plan for communication is the first step in managing the situation for your BFF. With that under control, your BFF is free to spend her energy handling the crisis, while you handle the other stuff.