A loved one’s thoughts and experiences might be difficult, but simply listening and allowing them the space to express themselves is invaluable and therapeutic. Some may want to talk about seeking a cure, others to focus on their happiness or spiritual path.
Allow the ill person their choices. In doing so, not only do you help – you honour their perspective and feelings.
2. Offer – and give – practical support.
Instead of saying “Let me know if there’s anything I can do”, make things easier by making concrete suggestions. This allows the ill person to understand the level of help you are offering, laying out both your own boundaries and saving them (the often awkward) task of thinking up tasks you can help with.
When ill, it can be difficult for friends and family to gauge when to invite or include you in events and outings. No one wants to offend or upset a loved one by inviting them to an activity they cannot possibly attend. Excluding or ignoring them completely is equally as gauche.
The simplest solution: ask. Ask if your loved one wants to be invited or would rather not be informed about the event. Once the primary diagnosis-shock is over, chronically ill people often find themselves left behind as people move on. Do your best to keep in touch through things they can do: tea in their home (not in town), chatty letters (without expecting a reply), or place short phone calls. Your efforts to reach out will be deeply appreciated.
4. Don’t try to fix them.
Henri J.M. Nouwen sums it up beautifully:
“When we ask ourselves which [people] in our lives mean the most to us, we often find… it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
5. Gifts, post and Healing Boxes.
Chronic illness can be extremely isolating and lonely. Post, parcels and connection to the world outside the house/bed/hospital/daily round are wonderful, uplifting and essential. Sending a postcard to say, “you’re in my thoughts”, or mailing a small, useful gift can make someone’s day.
Take advantage of appropriate services and products you know will make your loved one smile. You can even order a Healing Box tailored to your loved one’s needs to warm their heart. No matter how you choose to express your well wishes, consciously showing your loved one that you support them is sure to be the best medicine of all.