How to Encourage and Help Someone with a Chronic Condition
L. Connell, BA, Copyright ©1997, Revised 2002, The
Invisible Disabilities Advocate
article contains excerpts from the booklet
But You LOOK Good: A Guide to Understanding and Encouraging
People with Chronic, Debilitating Illness and Pain!
Have you ever
wanted to encourage someone 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?
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.
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 is it 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.
more, we cannot resist acting as if solving the problem is so
simple when we exclaim, why cant 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.
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 arrands, do chores and
help clean someone elses home too!
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 weeks
worth of energy. For example, just picking up a few things at
the store while we are already there and taking out the trash
when we drop them off does not take 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
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.
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!
contains excerpts from the booklet,But
You LOOK Good: A Guide to Understanding and Encouraging People
with Chronic, Debilitating Illness and Pain!
explains how a person can be damaged by an illness and/or injury
on the inside, but still look fine to others on the
outside. It gives detailed suggestions of what not to say
and explanations as to why. In addition, the booklet provides
many examples of what to say to be an encouragement
and offers practical ways to help.
information and to read more articles written by Sherri, visit
The Invisible Disabilities Advocate at: www.InvisibleDisabilities.com
IDA for permission to distribute or publish this article.