This year the internet came together to celebrate the “errand hang” and we at What’s Your Grief are absolutely here for it. A couple of months ago, over the course of a few days, I had no less than three friends send me this screenshot that was making the Instagram and Twitter rounds:
Needless to say, I’m pretty sure these messages came in because I have always been a fan of the errand hang. Even going back to high school, I’ve always found a weird comfort in it that I can’t quite put my finger on. And so I loved reading Annika Hansteen-Izora put it into words so perfectly (if you want to read more of her writing, you can subscribe to her newsletter). She gave name to an experience I have loved for decades and captured it in a way that made me (and so many other errand-hangers).
The Practicality of the Errand Hang
There has always been a practicality in the errand hang for me as well. I have ADHD–errands and details are not my thing. Letting my vehicle registration get dangerously close to expiring, procrastination, and overdue library books are my thing. The errand hang has often created an external accountability for me. If I ask a friend to hang while I return those library books or stop by the MVA registration renewal kiosk, there is a much greater chance that I won’t forget to do it. Heck, I might even look forward to it!
The Vulnerability of the Errand Hang
But for that same reason, there is a vulnerability to the errand hanging. The reason there is a unique intimacy with an errand hang friend is because they are a friend you trust to look into the messy, undone errand corners of your life. The “hey, want to run to Target with me to pick up school supplies for the kids?” on the day before school starts includes the subtext “I didn’t have my sh*t together enough to get my kids school supplies sooner, and I know you are the kind of friend who understands that and will not judge me for it”.
Now, I am a person who likes doing things alone – I love going to a restaurant alone, the movies alone, and traveling alone. So my errand hang love rarely comes from a place of disliking doing things on my own. That said, I have a couple of friends who call me to errand hang for that very reason – they just love company and don’t love being alone. And there is sometimes a vulnerability there, too. The subtext of “want to go to Costco with me” is “I really miss going to Costco with my ex” or simply “I hate doing it by myself”. In a culture that privileges autonomy and independence, there is a vulnerability that comes with trusting someone enough to say “hey, I’m kind of lonely and sad” or “hey I don’t like doing things alone. Will you come along?”
This cultural bias against the vulnerability of saying “I just want someone to do errands with me” was captured in a commentary about on the errand hang newsletter on Twitter by Cindy Wang Brandt:
There was some disagreement as to whether our culture is actually errand-hang averse over on Scary Mommy, but strong agreement that an errand hang friend is a good friend. You just can’t argue it, really.
Grief and the Errand Hang
I’m guessing you might see where I am going here. We’ve long touted the benefits of finding grief-friends. We’ve also explained that it is important to remember that not all friends are right for all of your needs. In grief, identifying and seeking support from your errand hang friends can be SO HELPFUL. Why?
- While you’re grieving, your motivation is often zapped. Errands feel like a greater chore than ever. A friend for company and motivation can be more helpful than ever!
- There are often new errands you have to run, and many of them are heavier than usual. Maybe it is dealing with probate issues and closing bank accounts. Perhaps it is just running the errands that your partner took care of for you before they died. Whatever the reason, a little moral support from a friend can be critical.
An errand hang friend can be a mental health lifeline, though from the outside it just looks like they’re waiting in line with you to return the nine pairs of shoes you bought and never wore right after your mom died. Internally they are actually the only reason that you left your house and did a single thing you felt good about today. Identifying the errand hang friends in your life and reaching out for their support when the mundane, day-to-day tasks are piling up can be hugely helpful. It might not sound like “grief support”, but living after loss means even learning to deal with every part of life again – even the mundane errands.
What if You’ve Never Been an Errand Hang Person?
That’s ok! Just because you haven’t been errand-hanging before doesn’t mean you can’t start now. In fact, grief can be a great excuse start. Remember all those people who said “let me know if there is anything you need” right after the death? Well, viola! Here’s what you need.
Make a quick list of things (inside or outside the house) that are feeling particularly daunting. This can be anything from doing laundry to getting new tires on the car to going grocery shopping to assembling that Ikea dresser that has been in a box in the corner for two months. Now, start thinking through who might be willing to come over and errand hang with you while you get the task done.
Just Ask – Seriously. Right now.
If you’re hesitant about asking, don’t think too hard! Just send them a quick text. If you think they’ll think it’s weird because there is no errand-hang precedent set, that’s okay too. Just label that from the outset. (“Hey, I’m worried this is going to sound totally out of left field, but grief is brutal and I need some out of left field support. I keep putting off getting new tires, for no clear reason other than lack of motivation. Or maybe it’s this feeling like I’m moving through cement half the time. Who knows. Regardless, any chance you could come with me for some motivation and some company (and to help me make sure I get it done!)”. Simple enough, right?
Thoughts about the errand hang? Suggestions on how to strike about an errand hang relationship? Feedback about how the errand hang has played into your grief? Whatever you want to share about errand hangs, we want to hear it. Leave a comment!