When we know someone who’s sick, it’s natural to tell them “let me know if I can help”.
Having undergone a few serious medical procedures this year and taking care of my parents who were terminally ill in the past, I present to you five things you can do that might actually help your friend.
1) Don’t Ask, Do!
I’m fairly outgoing and outspoken. But one of the hardest things for me to say is “I need help”. This year, I REALLY needed help and I hated to admit and ask for it. And the truth is, most people won’t tell you they need help. Just help. Get their groceries, do their laundry, take out their garbage. Unless the specifically tell you, “I don’t want you doing ___” , just do it. Its very hard for people who are used to being independent to suddenly be weak and vulnerable. The best thing you can do is just help out, no questions asked.
2) Don’t Tell Us About Your Other Sick Friends
When my dad was first diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, one of his friends started telling me about their cousin that had an ovarian cyst. I don’t know why they thought it was even relevant, but generally, sick people and their caretakers don’t really want to hear about your other friends’ illnesses. Save it for the water cooler at your office.
3) Don’t Preach
One of the most frustrating things I heard while recovering from my double mastectomy was hearing people tell me how toxic the environment is and how I didn’t need to have surgery if I ate organic food and a butt load of kale or whatever. I got tired to telling people that I was born with faulty genes that had an 87% chance of getting breast cancer REGARDLESS of how much organic kale I shoved down my gullet.Unless, of course, Ryan Gosling is shoving the kale down my throat.
4) Be Honest (But Not TOO Honest)
What IS helpful is having an honest relationship with your friend when they’re recovering or sick. For example, try using statements like “tell me if you want to be alone or if you’re ok with having company”. I actually liked having friends visit me when I was recovering, but not everyone will. Just keep your communication open and honest. But don’t be TOO honest. Don’t tell us how skinny we look (even if you think it’s a compliment). In fact, maybe don’t even mention anything about appearance. If you don’t have something nice to say, save it for when we’re all healed up and getting drunk on New Years.But by all means, please be honest about how obnoxious our selfies are
5) Don’t Say “I Understand What You’re Going Through”
Cause guess what, you don’t.
Even if you think you do, everyone deals with illness differently. Saying “I understand” is just like saying “um”. It’s just filler. You don’t know what to say, so you think that will make us feel better. But it doesn’t, it’s frustrating. Unless you’ve actually been there, avoid talking about yourself and avoid complaining and comparing it to stuff you’ve gone through. Maybe you “understand” maybe you don’t, but sick people don’t really care.
Just be our friends: distract us from the shit we’re dealing with and be there to support us.
And it won’t hurt to bring Ryan Gosling into the mix…