As Americans, we live with this pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps, rugged individualism mentality. It’s almost viewed as weakness if we end up accepting help from others.
And yet, during divorce and separation, it’s vital to your survival that you learn to graciously accept help that is offered to you. It doesn’t matter how big or how small. Just the simple act of accepting help from another person will keep you from feeling completely alone and isolated.
During my separation from Husband #1, I lived in a house surrounded by 50+ mature trees. Once Fall rolled around, the 1/2 acre lot was completely blanketed by leaves. Night after night I would return home from work and rake leaves around the yard, never making a dent in the seemingly endless drifts of maple, oak, and dogwood foliage. The community had a leaf pick up policy, but that entailed moving the leaves to the curb for the street sweeper to collect. Try as I might, I was losing the battle. Hundreds of thousands of leaves were having a party on my lawn.
My next door neighbors were still just acquaintances at this point. I’d only been in the house for a little over two months. They knew I was working as much as possible to shore up my finances. They knew Husband #1 had left and wouldn’t be there to help with the yard work.
Imagine my surprise upon returning home from a long Saturday of overtime to find four of their family members raking leaves in my yard. They were a sight to behold. They had the rakes, leaf blowers, tarps, and manpower to move my ocean of leaves to curbside. I was stunned. Of course, I tried to wave them off. “No, no, I have this covered.” It was the natural thing to do…avoid accepting help from others.
But they shushed me and then they HUGGED me. I was so touched that I broke down in tears, resulting in more hugs. These sweet people ushered me inside so I could take care of my young children and they continued to rake and blow and handle everything outside until the yard was leaf-free.
Did I feel like it was all one sided? Like I was taking advantage of them? Of course I did. I barely knew them, after all. My inner shame meter was off the charts as I continued to accept their help. All I could do was to make lemonade for them…which they graciously accepted.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. Accepting help from others was not a sign of weakness. It was a way for me to open myself up to the generosity of others. Over the next few years, we became close and spent holidays together. They were my family. And in accepting their help, they received something in return. They are immortalized in my heart.