Whenever we hear that bad things are happening to someone we love, we feel helpless and desperate. But being there for that person can mean a world to them. When someone is suffering from an illness, they may feel like their whole life has just turned upside down. It's up to you to show them they have the support and care they need to see it through.
One of the most important things is the way you interact with a sick loved one. If you feel a bit lost right now and are confused about what is the right thing to do, here is some advice that might help.
1. Listen – it’s about them, not you
The key to understanding another person is in listening. Talking to your loved one about everything even topics that scare both of you, like death, is imperative to help them feel better. When they talk, you listen and observe their mimics to notice the slightest hidden signs about how they really feel.
When you reply or want to provide words of encouragement, remember that it’s about them and not you. Avoid giving examples of other people who pulled through and recovered, but rather be practical with your advice. If you believe that the conversation surpasses your ability to help, see if they would feel more comfortable talking to a professional.
2. Help them with daily tasks
A sick loved one may not be able to do their daily tasks so they may depend on your help. Sometimes they may need you to accompany them to the doctor’s office or a hairdresser appointment. However, there may be some things you will have to do for them, like grocery shopping or helping them get dressed.
Regardless of which type of assistance they need, be respectful, and ask them do they need help before giving it. Create an environment in which your loved one feels comfortable asking you for help and not like a burden. You will most likely find yourself in situations where a sick person is too proud to ask for help or admit they need it. In that case, be patient and calmly explain why you should help them without judging them for how they feel about it.
3. Ask for help
Carrying for another person can be overwhelming and time-consuming. You may not be able to do it all by yourself and accepting that is the first step to acknowledge you need help. The best way to ensure you have it is to create a support system right from the start.
Have open conversations with family and friends of your loved ones and ask them to honestly disclose who can replace you and jump in when necessary. This is very helpful in the event you have to be in two places at the same time or just need a hand with house chores. The biggest mistake you can make is expecting people to know what you need or that you need them at all without you telling them that. It’s best to start with a conversation and explain the whole situation so they can be there for you in the right way.
4. Don’t be invasive
Before your friend got sick, you had a certain pattern of behavior in your relationship. For example, you never hugged, or you were always direct with each other. Now, after the bad news, you may feel like it's time to change that. Your friend may not feel comfortable about that change and find it invasive in an already tense situation for them.
If you want to change something in your relationship that is unlike you, ask them or talk to them about it. Some changes may be welcomed, but others can appear forced and dishonest. Be yourselves, like you were before the illness, and help them feel better with the love you always gave.
5. Surprise them with small gestures
Small gestures can receive the biggest smiles. Do something to surprise them, like sending get well flowers or bringing them chicken soup. It may not seem like much to you, but it can make their day and remind them how loved they are.
Doing something small and yet meaningful may be a perfect way to show your support without smothering them. However, if your friend is not thrilled by the attention, don’t push it and respect their feelings. Deep down they acknowledge your care and know you meant well, they just need time to process that there are good moments in their lives.
6. Remind them how brave they are
Being sick can make a person question their beliefs and doubt themselves. A word of praise from you can mean the world to your sick loved one. Remind them how brave they are through their unfortunate predicament. A journey to feel better may be a bumpy one, but you can help them get there by showing them how great they are doing with encouragement.
The important thing here is not to push them to try harder or do more than they can. Sometimes they may feel psychically exhausted, but other times there may be a psychological obstacle preventing them to move forward. Whatever it may be the case, be gentle on them and applaud them for even the smallest effort they are making to improve their wellbeing.
7. Find an emotional outlet for yourself
To help others, we first need to know how to help ourselves. You may put yourself second when carrying for the sick loved one, but that can only make things harder for both of you. Try to find an outlet for your pain and worries so it doesn't weigh on you and turn into bitterness.
Take a break from carrying for your sick loved one and do something for yourself, like going to a spa or movies. Finding a way to unwind yourself and de-stress is crucial to provide positive support to the person who needs it. By creating this healthy relationship with yourself, you can be a good help to others.
The path you have chosen won’t be an easy one for you. Just like your sick loved one, you will have feelings and opinions that may cause doubt and trepidation. However, with self-care, listening, and encouragement, you may do a lot for the person who is suffering to feel better through this hard period.