I Never KnowWhat to Say or Do!Learning How to Encourage and HelpSomeone Living With a Chronic Condition
Copyright © 2004 The Invisible Disabilities Advocate
Have you ever wanted to encourage someone living with a chronic illness, but it seems like you never know what to say? Moreover, when you finally think of something you just know will make them smile, do they snap back at you with frustration?
Well, you are not alone. Because we truly want to help our friend or family member with a chronic condition, we often try to think of just the right words we can say to make all of the pain vanish from their life. If we can just “fix it” then we will not have to see them suffer anymore. Unfortunately, when we do try to come up with a quick answer, we often end up saying something that seems to irritate or offend our loved one
It is difficult to understand why they got upset, because to us what we had to say should have been helpful. Nonetheless, if we could simply jump into the life of our loved one, then we would see why our well-meaning comments were not so well-received. Often, it is our intention to help them “see the bright side” of their situation, so they can realize it is “not that bad.” The problem is that we have then failed to acknowledge their battle is very real and we have gone on to minimize its impact.
Sometimes we even try to point out another person who is “worse off” or try to relate by saying, “Ya, I am tired too.” Often, we disregard their limitations by attempting to talk them into doing what they know they cannot or should not do. Because we forget how anguishing it is to be ill and laid up, sometimes we even try to tell them “how lucky” they are to not have to work or clean their house.
What’s more, we cannot resist acting as if solving the problem is so simple when we exclaim, “why can’t you just take this or do that?” Likewise, we want so badly for them to be feeling better, that we refuse to hear the truth and do not allow them to be open and honest with us about what they are going through.
Besides not knowing what to say, we often do not know what to do. We often wish we could do something to help, but do not even know where to start. Our own lives can be so overwhelming and busy that we could never fathom having the time to run errands, do chores and help clean someone else’s home too!
Nevertheless, what we fail to realize is that what might seem like an insignificant effort to us, may save our loved one an entire day or even week’s worth of energy. For example, we can pick up a few things at the store while we are already there and take out the trash when we drop them off. We can drop them by some fresh flowers, deliver a meal, bring over a video to share or pick up their dry cleaning. None of these takes much of our time, but it can make a world of difference to them!
In all, we can never fully comprehend what it is like to have a chronic condition, with all of the loss and pain it poses. Yet, we know we would not want to feel this way ourselves, so surely we can see what courage our loved one displays! We can even try to remember what it is like to have to put our lives on hold for even just a few days and tell our loved ones how amazed we are at their strength and perseverance!
People living with chronic illness/pain would never choose to willingly give up activities they used to enjoy! In fact, they would do just about anything to get their lives back! Therefore, we can rest assured, knowing they will keep fighting, researching and pursuing ways to regain their lives or at least prevent further progression of the disease.
Yes, acknowledging what is happening to a loved one means having to deal with all of its pain, mourning and changes, but do not sell yourself short! After all, if they are forced to live with it, we can certainly choose to live next to it!