What to Say to a Friend who is Ill, part 2.

This is a continuation of a blog I started last week.

I read a very good article in More Magazine, What to Say to a Friend who is Ill, by Donna Jackson Nakazawa, April, 2014.  It gives a lot of practical advice.  I decided to share some of it in my blog.

Accept that you are in uncharted territory: “…Irene Levine…author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup., ‘Some people become less talkative when they fall sick, others more communicative.  Some go into super-coping mode, while others may catastrophize. A friend who is ill may express herself with a harshness or candor or emotionality that you’ve never seen her display before,’ says Levine.  “We have to remind ourselves that it may well be because she can’t demonstrate those raw feelings to any other friend, perhaps not even to her family.’

Cultivate honesty: “I may not be able to read you well when you’re feeling sick, so I may not know what you want.  But I want to know.  Tell me what to bring and what not to bring and when you do and don’t want company.  Several women who have had illness told me they were most moved by offers of specific, proactive assistance. ‘I am going to do something for you, and I’d rather you tell me what it should be.  If you want lamb chops or a foot rub, say the word.’ ‘…To find out what someone needs most, you often have to ask, ‘What are you most concerned about?’…It can be greatly appreciated when friends offer to combine your errands with theirs, ‘I am headed to the dry cleaners. What can I drop off for you?, or I’m going to the groomer and thought I’d pick up your dog too.'”

Know your limits: “A likely factor in how much energy you’re willing to commit is whether your friend’s condition will continue over many weeks or years….but often, the prognosis is unclear…’Be honest; says Levine’. ‘Ask yourself, Can I really do this? If you are hesitating to visit your friend, Levine suggests telling her why rather than letting her guess.  You might say, ‘Your illness stirs up memories of my mother that make it difficult for me to see you in the hospital.  So I want to find other ways to support you.”

Maintain some normalcy: “Even those facing (illness) need their circle to know they haven’t totally checked out on what’s happening around them.  When a friend is ill, you make sure to keep sharing your life, appropriately….Hey, would you like to hear the funny thing that happened to Paul yesterday when he went to the grocery store?’ Occasional distraction can be beneficial.”


More later….