HOW TO BE A GOOD FRIEND TO SOMEONE WHO IS ILL
Recently three dear friends of mine fell extremely ill. We are not talking a cold or mono. Out of nowhere and abruptly. Without these extreme illnesses never crossing their minds, they had to put a halt on their lives. They are all radiant, smart and beautiful and successful women only tiny bit over thirty. Two of them are moms and both fully living their lives. The news of the severe illnesses really broke my heart. I was numb.
I know this shouldn’t be about me and still it taught me two things I want to talk about today.
When receiving the news of these toxic and awful diagnoses I did not know how to be there for them properly especially after the first shock was over. In those weeks after surgeries, after check ins, after therapy, while waiting, etc. Everything is highly sensitive (or at least I thought) and you want to do everything right.
I always communicated two things: I don’t know what to say - and is there anything I can do to help? (Even though it seemed ridiculous tbh.
I am not saying I am perfect and I am sure I most definitely have not handled every situation perfectly right (far from that) right but here is what I did:
Give them space
Also if they don’t answer your calls, questions or don’t reply to your thought trough present you sent, accept it. Have no expectations. If you don’t hear back from them.
Accept their no
If they want to be simply by themselves, want no visits, no contact for a while because they just want to be their family, accept it. This is not against you or your friendship.
Check in regardless of an answer
Don’t hit them with a full questionnaire on how are going constantly. Maybe they need space - so give it to them. Sending little things without lots of question, maybe a simple heart emoji or a flex muscle without any words, is just enough that you think of them.
Voice your emotions
When you don’t know what to say, say exactly that. If you don’t have the answer to one of their questions, say exactly that. Now it’s not the time to be perfectly perfect. If you think of them, express it. If you cross
A lot of times, this is the only thing you can do. Do they want to hear like your daily stuff because it distracts them or do they want tell you about their last doctor’s visit or therapy? You will find out pretty quickly when you sense the mood. They don’t want to be treated differently by friends they told me.
Send them stuff
You can send flowers, yes. Or.... Yes it depends on the person if they like stuff like that. Put together a small care package with memories and stuff they like or that made you think of them. Be sensitive: have they been in the hospital and you send a book but they cannot read at the moment, don’t fucking send books. Buy them an Audible subscription or pay their Netflix for a month.
Check in with their better halfs
That’s priceless . No one knows it better than their partners. Is she up for seeing me today? Is she really fine today? Because they tell their significant others maybe more than they want to tell you for the moment.
Remember important dates
They have this check up today? Or they get their results back on Thursday? Or they leave the hospital tomorrow? Remember the dates, send a text or a card or flowers- whatever you believe is right.
Don’t stop being funny
Only hardcore serious topics are not helping the mood. Sometimes it’s lovely to have a good laugh. And they will thank you for it.
Of course there is a thousand other ways to “help” or be there for them. Ask yourself:
Can you babysit for a few hours or the weekend?
Can you cook something and send it over to them? Soup? A cake?
Can you help them with money? even if it’s just a little bit?
Can you send them over a massage therapist for an hour?
If they don’t tell you, ask their parents or mothers or siblings what you could help out with.
Invite them for dinner if they are up for it
No matter how little it may seem of an effort or help or no matter how often you think this is not enough, trust me, doing something small is better than doing nothing.