This is Why (Part 3): It's Been A Year

A year ago today I woke up in a hospital room. It was the first night where I’d been able to get some sleep for stretches of more than an hour since my husband’s car accident, and despite being woken up multiple times by nurses checking my husband and IV machines that wouldn’t stop beeping, I was grateful.

Later that day, Tyler learned how to walk (or rather, hop) on one leg using his new walker and crutches for aid. Little did he know it would be nearly two months before he would be able to touch his injured foot to the ground. When Tyler was released from the hospital and his dad graciously hauled the newly-purchased walker, crutches, bandages, cast cover for the shower, a seat for our bath, and so much more in the back of his truck, I couldn’t help but wonder: “What will life look like for us now?”

In today’s post, I want to explore the ten things that have made Tyler’s recovery process over the last year easier: 

1.     Asking for Help: This was a skill neither of us had honed. I was accustomed to asking others what they need and helping to provide it; Tyler grew up in a fiercely independent family where you just figure your problems out yourself. But no matter how hard we tried, we knew we couldn’t get through this alone. We had to ask for help from each other, our family, our friends, even from strangers. It took courage to bravely articulate what we needed and we’re so grateful for the gracious community of people who responded “yes.”

Tip: If someone in your life is struggling and they take the courageous step to ask for your help, do your best to honor the strength and vulnerability that request requires, even if you aren’t able to say “yes.”

2.     Willpower: Want to see the depth of someone’s character? Watch them in crisis. When I saw my husband in the ER, the first thing he said to me was, “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure this accident doesn’t come in the way of us pursuing our dreams. I’m going to work hard every day to heal.” I’m happy to say, he’s kept that promise every day — exceeding every expectation I, or his medical team, ever had. He’s persevered and pushed through the pain and it shows.

Tip: Those of us who are healthy and able-bodied often take everyday actions like getting out of bed in the morning, walking down the stairs for a cup of coffee, or driving into the office for granted. Yet for some, these simple movements take grit and determination. Take a moment to give thanks for your body and try your best to be conscientious of those you cross paths with for whom these simple steps aren’t that easy.

3.     Make Our Providers Our Allies: So often the media portrays insurance providers as the bad guys who lack empathy and enjoy giving their clients as little as possible. That has not been our experience. Remember, your insurance — whether it’s disability, car, or health — is something you and/or your employer pays for. You are the customer; the provider is working for you. From the beginning, we brought our providers into the conversation in an honest and authentic way. When we didn’t understand something, we asked for their help. We assumed they were on our team, and I’m pleased to say that amicable relationship has continued.

Tip: Instead of rushing to the internet if you don’t understand something about your benefits, ask your provider. That’s what they are there for! They know the specifics of your plan and are best equipped to answer your questions. You’ll likely find a supportive ally and a wealth of information and tools.

4.     Work Benefits: We took this as an opportunity to learn more about the benefits available to us through our employers. I took advantage of EAP (Employee Assistance Program) for counseling, and used flexible work scheduling to be present for as many of Tyler’s doctor and physical therapy appointments as possible. Tyler and I got a short course in his work’s disability program. But probably the best benefit we received was working with our two wonderful managers. From the beginning, we brought them in as allies and in turn, they advocated for us.

Tip: If you haven’t already, take the time to cultivate an honest and trusting relationship with your manager. If this isn’t possible, find someone else you trust higher up in your company to form a positive relationship with. These relationships are important for your career both as you navigate normal work challenges and if you face a time of crisis.

5.     Breathing Space in the Budget: Although my husband and I both received raises at the beginning of last year, we chose not to grow our lifestyle to match this new income. So when the accident came we were living well below our means and had created a cushion in our bank account. This cushion was a cash flow Godsend as we paid for most of Tyler’s medical equipment and anything we needed to make him more comfortable out of our own pocket.

Tip: Check in with your finances: Are you living below your means? Do you have a growing cushion to protect you against any small emergencies that might come your way? Having a little breathing space in your budget can help you weather the incidental expenses and leave your emergency fund untouched.

6.     Date Night: Despite everything we went through this past year, we continued to rely on our weekly date nights (and monthly budget lunches) to keep our relationship strong. As two people with quality time as one of our primary love languages, it was vital that we found ways to spend time together and stay connected. We reignited our love of trivia and crosswords, devoured new TV series together, and found games we could play together during the two months Tyler had to keep his foot elevated for the majority of the day.

Tip: When times are tough, your to-do list can feel overwhelming. It can be easy to put off date night, but these are the times you need it most. Take the time to connect with one another knowing it’s time well spent. Keep the financial conversation going despite the unknowns. Remember, the most important thing is that you work together as a team in the midst of this crisis, so do everything you can to stay on the same page.

7.     Self-Care: As a natural helper, it was hard for me to slow down and take care of myself when my partner was so clearly in need. I’m so grateful for the many people in my life, especially my husband, who encouraged me to take a break and do something I enjoyed.

Tip: In the midst of a crisis situation, keep an eye out not only for your own self-care, but your partner’s. When you see your partner wearing down, encourage them to take a break or give them permission to do their favorite activity.

8.     Grocery Delivery: Taking some everyday tasks off our plate right off the bat was probably one of the best decisions we made. We found our local grocery store offered free grocery delivery. We hired someone to take care of our lawn. We graciously accepted meals from family and friends.

Tip: It’s ok to take some of these routine tasks off your plate— it doesn’t make you weak. Say “yes” to friends who offer to help. Look for free services that can make your life easier. Remember, sometimes it’s helpful to pay a little extra for a service that will buy you more time.

9.     Gym Membership: This has been a saving grace for us. Getting back to the gym helped me care for myself. Once Tyler was cleared to join me, it was a place for Tyler to focus on his healing and a key place for us to spend quality time together.

Tip: As important as the gym is to us both, there were quite a few months where Tyler couldn’t use it. Our gym was incredibly understanding and let us suspend his membership for a few months until he got back on his feet. If you’re going to be out of commission for longer than a month, ask if this is an option for you.

10.  Travel: It took about four months of healing before Tyler was really ready to do road or airplane trips again, but once he was, we took advantage of it. Our short trips reconnected us to our love of adventure and exploration, and they gave us a safe space away from our daily lives to process what had happened.

Tip: Just like date nights, regular time away can help you to get a bird’s eye view on your life as you enjoy exploring a new place. And it doesn’t have to be expensive — check out these great tips to help you travel on a budget.

As I’ve walked through the last year, I’ve been incredibly grateful for the small but mighty community that follows my blog. Thank you for your support during this tough time and for giving me a space to discern my learnings from this crisis situation. I’m grateful for each and every one of you. If this post, or any others, have been particularly helpful to you, I’d love to know — comment below or send me a message through my contact page. If you have a friend or family member in crisis, share this post with them as a reminder that they are not alone.

Join me on Instagram and Facebook this Thursday, May 2, at 8pm (Central) as I discuss emergency funds: how to build them, where to keep them, and how they can help in times of crisis. Bring your questions!

P.S. - Last week’s winner of the free Marriage & Money assessment is Virgil Gibson! Congratulations!