Just Show Up! Nancy’s principle

Here’s a clip from a wonderful post by Nancy Beach:

Years ago, I discovered a principle in friendship that I have tried to live out ever since.  It’s the Just Show Up principle – when your friends lose a loved one, are in the hospital, or experience any major storm in life, don’t wonder if you should be there, don’t ask them over the phone what you can do to help, just show up.  I learned the hard way, by taking my attendance at a wake too casually.  Ever since, I know how much it matters.  And I have been the recipient of friends showing up for me when my mother-in-law died and when my 2 yr. old was in the hospital.  I remember all the loving people who visited, made meals, and cared for me!

How have you learned the “just show up” principle?

Remember, we may not have solutions or answers to life’s tragedies, but we can be present. Thanks Nancy.

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  • Rick

    Nice idea, but circumstances and personalities have to be considered. I have heard some say, in certain situations, that it can be draining when people “just show up”.

  • Anna


    Good point, but it’s often impossible to determine which is which.

    My husband and I work in fields where we see a lot of these kinds of situations. We “just show up,” and if possible bring some food or something useful, but then we leave quickly — we stay for no more than 10 minutes unless we are urged to stay longer (in one case a woman was afraid to be left alone, and fortunately I was able to stay with her for the afternoon, but that’s the only time I’ve been asked to stay longer than a few minutes!)

    I am a huge introvert, so visits are draining for me. But having also had children hospitalized and deaths in my family, I remember each and every person who showed up. They gave me energy and strength, which surprised me.

    So I would concur with both you and Nancy Beach by saying, “Just show up — but don’t stay long.” 😉



  • Christine

    Good balance, Anna. I also recall each individual who just “showed up” when my daughter was seriously ill nine years ago.

    I cringe when I hear people say, “Let me know if you need anything,” or statements to that effect, because the person who has a loved one in crisis usually ISN’T able to reach out and can feel very isolated. Far better that WE make the call with a specific offer to help than expecting the person in need to initiate. The energy required to do so often just isn’t there.

  • EricG

    This hits very close to home for me. I was very recently diagnosed with cancer; the 5-year survival rate for my type and stage of cancer is only 4%. I think the “just show up” principle is good as a principle; it meant a lot to me when a friend just showed up out of the blue to give me a quick hug. But it has some important caveats:

    First, there are limits to this; don’t just show up at someone’s house, for example, if you aren’t fairly close to the person. Second, let the person grieve if they need to; your job isn’t to chear someone up in all instances. Third, whatever else you do, do not preach at the person. It is unbelievable what some religious folks feel at liberty to say to someone they have found out has an uncurable illness. Just show up and *listen*.

  • DRT

    Yes. The right lesson, I have learned it from hard knocks (very overt decision to just show up), yet I still don’t enough……Thanks for the coaching.

  • rjs


    I’m so sorry to hear that. Our prayers are with you.

    On the more general topic of the post: As a confirmed introvert I need to hear this – I am far too likely to rationalize away from a need to “just go” and I have regretted it a few times in the past.

  • Having been a patient in a hospital as recently as last week, there are a couple of guidelines that might be worth noting:

    1- Do call first, there were times when I was in medical tests where visiting me would have been problematic. I wouldn’t have been there.

    2- Don’t say “Call me if you need help” rather say “Can I do X for you?” or “Do you need this done?” Think along the lines of transporting the patient back and forth. Think about help for the family, ask the family specifically.

    3- Remember that you are dealing with people who are under stress, whose lives have been disrupted. The more specific you can be in your offers of help, the more the family and the patient can think of possible ways to help.

    4- Don’t offer what you can’t do.

  • EricG

    My prayers are with you. I also totally agree with your point about not being preachy. Those of us who are ill do not need Job’s friends sitting around “Helping”. Sometimes we need to grieve. Also, to visitors be prepared to talk about something other than the patient’s disease. If we’re in the hospital bring news about the “outside” world. As a patient, I will tell you how I am feeling. Just realize that every professional that walks into the room will ask the same question. It gets old.

  • Darcyjo

    Exactly what Steve said. When my husband passed away, a lot of people (including people I didn’t even know) said “let me know if there’s anything I can do for you. Hon, when you’re grieving, you can’t think that far ahead. Offer to do something specific, cook a meal, mow grass, do the laundry, take the kids out for the afternoon.
    My friends were specific, bless ’em all.

  • Small things count as well. Four years ago when I was in the hospital for an extended length of time (5 weeks and then 3 weeks) a neighbor made sure our trash bin was in place for collection and then returned it every week. One less thing my wife had to think about.

  • TJJ

    Great blog post. Oten, the ledss said, and the more “judt present” we are, the better.

  • Susan N.

    My husband provided this type of tangible, immediate friendship — just last night, in fact! (He’s a very social animal by nature, and seems to have an excellent “instinct” for knowing the right thing to say or do when a person is down… Which impresses me more than a little.)

    The situation is, the mother of my husband’s colleague and friend passed away last week, after losing her battle with brain cancer. My husband expressed his condolences, and asked what he could do for his colleague. What does a grieving person say to that? One can hardly ever articulate what they need in that moment.

    So on the way home from an early evening grocery store run, my husband decided to call his friend at home and suggest that he could drop by to lend him our Garmin to use on his trip to Idaho for the funeral. (His friend had borrowed it from us one time previously for a family vacation, and had appreciated the help.)

    I think that’s how “just showing up” works, at its best. First, know your friend — what would really help them? Second, follow up on an impulse (maybe these are the God-urges speaking from our heart?) And, third, call ahead to confirm that it’s a good time.

    I told my husband, you know don’t you that next weekend you will be driving out in the boonies with our son to a GPS/geocaching workshop (of all things!!), without the benefit of our Garmin? He dismissed it with a, “Yeah, I know, whatever; I’ll figure it out.”

    This is faith, and this is love in action — relevant, timely action. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference and speak the loudest.