Supporting sick friend

Do you have a sick friend or relative and you don’t know how to approach them?

Do you feel awkward and scared of saying the wrong thing so you end up saying something silly or you avoid them completely incase you do?

Other people’s illness makes us nervous and we don’t know how to act.

In most cases this person will need your love and support, not avoidance, so it is important to step up to the plate and learn how to approach them in a thoughtful and considered way.

One thing to keep in mind is how you would want to be treated. Would you want someone to assume they know what you are going through? Would you want them to try to draw parallels with their own ailments? Would you want them to keep their distance because they didn’t know what to say? No.

In her book ‘How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick’ Letty Cottin Pogrebin advises against phrases such as “Everything happens for a reason” or “you need to be strong for your kids”. During her research for her book, Pogrebin interviewed almost 80 hospital patients to find out how they really wanted to be treated by others.

What To Say To a Sick Friend

Pogrebin stressed the importance of being honest with your sick friends, she also notes that everyone should be able to say these three statements:

  1. Tell me what’s helpful and what’s not
  2. Tell me if you want to be alone and when you want company; and
  3. Tell me what to bring and when to leave.

It’s also important to express empathy and availability, such as some of the following phrases that she suggests sick people want to hear:

  • I’m so sorry this happened to you.
  • Tell me how I can help.
  • I’m here if you want to talk.
  • Just give me my marching orders.
  • That sounds awful; I can’t even imagine the pain.
  • I’m bringing dinner.
  • You must be desperate for some quiet time. I’ll take your kids on Saturday.

Never assume or suggest that you know how someone is feeling or what they are going through. Don’t treat them like a child or pressure them into them into socialising or doing things they don’t feel up to. Don’t pressure them into being positive.

Generally show as much empathy as possible.

For more information refer to this post and source on PsychCentral.