You meet an old acquaintance and learn that he is seriously ill. Or a friend tells you about her father’s illness that leaves no chance for light faith. Or a friend tells you about the death of a loved one. In this situation there hangs that excruciating pause, which seems to last an eternity. Fear? Stupor? Confusion? Emotional numbness? Anger? Pity? A whole gamut of emotions arises, which reduces all the standard “hang in there”, “you’ll make it”, “everything will be okay” to mockery, mean jokes, indifference and even indifference. However, in such cases, to help, support, be there for you is important, but you have to find “those” words. You don’t know what to say – just saying: “I have no words”, “I do not know how to help, but you are important to me” is much better than a devaluing “don’t worry.”
Don’t Pull the Blanket Over Yourself
Everything we say, think, and do is about ourselves. The situation with a serious illness is no exception. Upon learning, for example, that someone is sick, we involuntarily slip into the temptation to remember that we have not seen a doctor for a long time, we begin to worry, to fear to the point of a panic attack. But don’t forget that the person you’re talking to needs help – the focus is on him right now. Tell him that it’s hard for you to imagine how he feels right now, ask him if he wants to talk.
Help, Not Talk About Help
“If you need help, ask for it”. These words carry nothing but good intentions, but they embarrass the person you’re talking to. In fact, it turns out that you have offered help, but not offered something specific, which means that he will still be uncomfortable making his requests (a real torture for some!). Just help with what you know the person needs: babysit the kids while they’re at the doctor’s office, take them to school or take them to your place for the evening, make dinner, give them a ride to the clinic. These “chores” help you remember everyday life, which distracts from sad thoughts, to feel real support “here and now”.
Don’t Ask About Appearance
Remarks like “you look so thin,” “what about your hair,” “and why so pale” are tactless and uncivilized. Here and there is nothing to discuss: silence – the best position. But sometimes you want to cheer up, so you say something along the lines of “you look better today,” “you look great. Phrases seem harmless, but can cause a person to protest: he knows exactly how he looks and how he feels, and could take the compliment for a careless mockery.
Compliments should be made, but not about the color of your hair or the thinness of your waist, but about what is not affected by illness or depression: responsibility, kindness, caring, intelligence.
Maintain the Rituals of Normal Life
They help to stay afloat and feel among people, distracting them from sad thoughts. For example, if your friend after the accident was locked in four walls of the apartment, come and have tea with him. If your colleague loved to take a walk in the park before the accident, support this. There are many such daily activities: go to yoga together, walk the dog, do the cleaning, even do the dishes. You can visit a psychologist together, learn more about your favorite sports for betting at 20Bet, or paint.
Also it’s important to pay attention to positive little things that remind you that for the joy of life you don’t need much. Anything will do: a tasty bun for breakfast, the sun outside the window, the squawking of birds.
“Everything will be okay,” “you’ll win,” “we’ll get through this,” will not do. First of all, unfortunately, no one can say that you will definitely be okay, that you will win or you will make it. Second, in the moment, when the person you’re talking to is immersed in his or her own pain, it’s hard to think about good things. And that’s okay: the whole spectrum of emotions from anger and bargaining to acceptance has to be lived through.
It’s better to support the belief in good things indirectly: tell stories when people overcame difficult life circumstances, watch motivational movies together, and read books. But there is one important aspect: none of this should be about illness or tragedy.
Don’t Take the Harshness Personally
A person experiencing a tragedy or illness often shuts down and does not want to talk at all. Don’t insist. Perhaps silence is what is needed right now. For some people it is vital that people around them are not reminded of the disease or drama, “get behind” with it. Just be there, and the person will regain strength (surprisingly, many people need just the silence for this).
Besides, people are often aggressive, angry, irritable – so the body is trying to cope with stress. They may swear that the soup is not warm enough or a cutlet is not salty enough (perhaps, this is encountered by all those who care for the critically ill). That it is raining outside. That no one cares about their condition. Don’t see this as a personal insult or grievance – it’s the disease talking about itself, not the person about you.
And being around in complete silence and enduring irritability is hard. But remember that it’s harder for the person next to you.
Support All the Aime
Recovering from an accident or major surgery, battling illness, and coming back to life after the loss of a loved one is a long process. And if you want to go through with it, go all the way.
Usually the bereaved person gets the most attention in the beginning, and then it gradually fades, making a giant setback in the condition. Meet more often, and if you can’t be there in person, call or text, chat on social media.