How to support people and accept support

Dear John and Hank,

Whenever someone is going through an awful experience, people always say: “let me know what I can do to help.” That is great that people want to be supportive, but often the person going through the awful experience doesn’t want to think of ways that others can help; often, going through the awful experience means that you can’t think of anything except the awful thing. Can we decide as a society (like with hot tubs and airplane armrests) to strike this from our collective vocabulary and as a society accept that you should either a) ask someone else (not the person going through the awful thing) how you can help or b) see a need and fill it? Is there a better way to deal with this platitude?
Alternatively, can the person going through the awful experience request /anything/? Like a gold fork? Or that someone performs a silly dance at intervals? Or an unfallen autumn colored oak leaf?
Any dubious advice for both giving and accepting help/support when going through awful things would be greatly appreciated.

Best wishes,


Horsepooallthetime
PS I found out today that I have cancer.

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