Need Help? No Need to Go it Alone

It hasn’t been easy. Like many people, I’ve been reluctant to ask for help, not wanting to be a burden or inconvenience my family and friends.

But things have changed. Thankfully, for the better.

As I write this column, spring cleaning is tugging at my proverbial apron strings.

I need, I must, make sense of the boxes and bags of family photos, documents and items I inherited after losing my mother and father. I’ve procrastinated far too long. It’s time.

So … I called my dear friend Carol and asked if she would help me begin the emotion-laden process of deciding what to keep, donate or throw away.

A self-described decluttering guru, Carol happily agreed to get me started. Among many helpful tips, she encouraged me to ask myself, “Does it have value? Does it bring me joy?”

I’m delighted to report that we made great progress. Her help was invaluable!

And we had a good time together, often laughing at the silly things I’ve held onto all these years. My grade school report cards come to mind. No need to be reminded that I “whispered too much.”

Below is an essay titled “Asking for Help” that I included in my book, “Alone and Content: Inspiring, empowering essays to help divorced and widowed women feel whole and complete on their own.”

I hope it inspires you to reach out and ask for assistance if you need it.

Asking For Help

A ride to the doctor’s office. Extra hands to move heavy furniture. An emergency dog-sitting request.

Giving and receiving help from my friends and family has proved to be a wonderful way for me to strengthen bonds. I have learned time and again that asking for help brings blessings, not burdens.

Many people — and often those of us who need it most — find it hard to reach out and ask for help in times of need.

The reasons are numerous, but my experience tells me that lots of women and men who live alone avoid asking for help because they fear being seen as weak or vulnerable.

I know that after my divorce I was reluctant to ask for help. I wanted to show the world that I was perfectly fine, thank you very much. I avoided asking anybody for anything, determined to muscle through on my own. It led to isolation and pointless hardships.

But the biggest shame? Not asking for support kept me distant from friends and family. I denied myself (and them) the chance to connect on a genuine and meaningful level. Looking back, it’s clear to me that my healing and personal growth came more slowly as a result.

I encourage you to let go of any excuses not to ask for help, in favor of being true to yourself and to those who love and want to support you.

How can you help yourself?

Be honest. Take a moment to reflect on what keeps you from asking for assistance. Could it be pride? Do you think you’ll be seen as incapable or inadequate? Are you concerned about being a bother? Or, would asking for help force you to acknowledge that, indeed, you need it?

Redefine what it means to be strong. Everyone needs outside support from time to time, and seeking help on your terms is not a weakness. In fact, the strongest people are often those who have the courage to admit they need reinforcements. I’ve always admired this quality in others. Real strength is knowing your personal limitations and having the confidence to recruit assistance when necessary.

Have some faith. Believe that people truly want to help. Just think about how you’d respond if a friend, family member or co-worker asked for a helping hand. You likely wouldn’t hesitate; you might even feel slighted if not asked, especially if someone you cared about was having real difficulty. Know that others, too, want to be there for their friends and family in need.

• Take a chance. When you choose to open yourself up and expose your authentic self, you are taking a risk. That’s a good thing! When you are real like this, you have an amazing opportunity to cultivate deeper, more meaningful bonds with others.

Make the request. First put some thought into where you could really use some support; then ask for help with one specific item. It could be something as simple as asking a neighbor for help raking out a garden bed to something as important as identifying a financial adviser.

If you think you’ll feel awkward making the request, you might start out by saying, “You know, I’m not very comfortable asking for favors, but I wonder if you might be able to help me with something?”

Express your gratitude. You know this, of course. A heartfelt thank you in person or in writing will be warmly received by the person whose help you have accepted. No need to go overboard. Remember, people want to help others and don’t expect to be compensated for doing a good deed.

Offer help in return. Because giving can be as gratifying as receiving, make it known that you are available to return the favor. Better yet, find opportunities to offer help. We all have gifts and can be of great assistance to one another.

So, take it from me … life can be better, just for the asking.

Gwenn Voelckers

Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content, empowerment workshops for women and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to purchase her book, or invite her to speak, visit