How do we support a friend who is sick? As soon as a friend tells us they don’t feel well or are having a hard time, we gush to them, “what can we doooooo?” We drop the ball in their court and wait for it to be served back over the net. Of COURSE we are at the ready to help. But waiting to be told what to do is friendship mismanagement. And seriously – we have ALL done it. We’ve done it to friends who are going through breakups, friends who are having hard financial times, friends who are job searching, and friends who are across the spectrum of sick. Toss, hit, serve – SUPPORT BALL!
On the other side of the court maybe sometimes this is helpful. Especially in those times when you need to be reminded that you are not alone on an island. But, for the most part, if you are not doing so great, there are probably things you wish you could yell out. Things you need. Things you do NOT need. If you are very sick there is not enough energy or time in the day to deal with the onslaught of support balls being flung your way.
So let’s break this down. Let’s get some feedback from the other side of the court and find out what is needed. This is an anonymously sourced list a little bluebird told me. But if your friend who is sick, really sick, could tell you these things – she probably would. (feel free to ask her!)
What Your Friend Who Is Sick Wants To Tell You
1. Do not use her illness/recovery as the time for her to be YOUR therapist. She may be on the couch, but that doesn’t mean she has the energy to give you all the answers.
2. Don’t Ask What You Can Do.
3. Your friend probably has a porch or a lobby or a deck…you know what those places are great for? Dropping stuff off.
4. TEXT! Reach out! There is a 99.4% chance she won’t write back, but that human connection is gold. Do it!
5. Don’t tell your friend what to eat.
6. Remember that porch we talked about? Feel free to leave a bottle of wine.
7. Chances are that your friend has an immeasurable amount of guilt for not being able to thank people. Please do NOT expect an instant response. Please do not “follow up to make sure you got the ….”
8. You know all those cliche statements? Yes. ALL of them? Can it. No kittens in trees.
9. Cards are AWESOME! Cards that have nothing to do with sickness or cancer are even better.
10. If your friend tells you she is not strong – believe her. That is not your invitation to give her a pep talk or fix her. Sometimes friends just need to say how they feel and need their pain and fear acknowledged.
11. Are you researching cancer? Great! Your friend actually has it and thinks about it ALL THE TIME. So do her doctors – from every angle. Sharing medical discoveries with your friend does not help. She does not want to hear about the latest “miracle cure”.
12. For every person who checks in, there are many who never do. Are you THAT person in your friend’s life – keeping a distance? Cut it out. Disappointment in this journey is the biggest heartache you can put her through.
13. Coolers are great containers for food and wine and chocolate covered strawberries. Coolers also fit well on porches…
14. Your friend is not responsible for your feelings and she can not control how you feel about her dying.
15. You can have a hangnail that hurts, but when you tell your friend, “that doesn’t compare to what YOU are going through” you diminish the essence of who your friend is. Of COURSE your friend cares about you. Don’t rob her of returning love and concern to you when you need it. Friendship is EPIC. Trust that.
The bottom line is – your friend is craving YOU. Not conversations about her illness or super serious stuff. Text her about the show you have been binge-watching (she may be ready to watch something new!). Drop her a card just because it looked silly. If you haven’t dropped a “thinking of you” note to your friend in a while – go for it. Just please don’t tag her in social messages or statuses on-line or nudge her to respond. Be a pal and a confidant.