a friend is diagnosed with a chronic illness the natural cycle
of healing doesn't take place. What do we say? Do we encourage
her to remain hopeful? Chronic illness is permanent and often
degenerative, requiring her to change nearly everything about
her life. The emotions that accompany these changes in her
life are often more difficult to cope with than the pain itself.
to Say | What Not to Say | How
honest. Say “I wish I knew the right thing to say, but I care
and I am here if you need me.”
her if she’d like you to pray for her and ask what she wants
you to pray about. Respect her request. Don’t pray for healing
if she wants prayer for new medications.
him that coping with life’s difficulties is a process and
that the length of time is different for everyone. Tell him
that he is coping well. Just listen. Let her share her thoughts
and feelings with you and don’t say, “I understand,” if you
haven’t been there yourself.
where he is with his faith. If you see him struggling, be
sensitive to it and don’t tell him to snap out if it, that
God is still good. Pray for him silently and be patient.
Treat her as though she is still a whole person, despite her
limitations. She wants to feel capable and in control. Let
her make the plans.
Become somewhat educated on his illness. Ask him if he’d mind
answering some of your questions. Remember, just because you’ve
read a book doesn’t mean that you know how he is feeling physically
assume that she copes with things the same way you do. She
may gain strength by alone time while being alone depresses
you. Let her cope in her own way and don’t tell her she is
coping in the “wrong” way.
him know you are thinking about him. A card or a phone call
can make the difference.
Not to Say
giving “God balm.” If you say “God will heal you” or “all
things work together...” she will believe you don’t really
understand and avoid sharing her feelings with you in the
feel compelled to share every “cure” you’ve heard of for his
illness. He’s constantly bombarded with cures and he needs
you to be his refuge from that.
aware of the fact that illness is not just a matter of attitude.
Don’t say, “When are you going to get rid of that cane?” or
“Did you know illness is caused by stress?”
her limitations and be sensitive to them. Don’t say, “A little
walk might do you some good” or “No pain, no gain!” Only she
knows her limits and they will likely change from day to day
depending on many factors. What she could do yesterday may
not be possible today. Don’t question that.
specific ways that you can assist your friend. Say “I am going
to the drug store. Can I pick something up for you?” Look
around her home and see where your friend might need some
help. Does the shower need scrubbed? The leaves raked? The
carpet shampooed. Offer to take care of these things.
Volunteer to pick up some groceries rather than do the cooking.
Many times people with illnesses have restrictive diets, so
they may prefer some fresh fruits and vegetables than a casserole.
Ask what meals he is eating and then freeze some of these
for him to have on hand.
her to places where she may need some assistance. Get your
haircut at the same time, or have the oil changed in her car
while you are eating lunch. Bring an uplifting personal little
gift when you come to visit: some fresh cut roses, a new book,
a funny movie, some cookies for the children, a blanket, potpourri
to make the house smell good.
that one’s spouse and children have needs too and these often
concern your friend. Take the children out for awhile so s/he
can get some rest. Plan something special for the children
and before you drop them off at the house, pick up a small
“something” that will make their parent smile like some fresh
your friend what her concerns are and how you can address
them. One woman who was ill said that she would like for a
friend to make sure her children made it to Sunday School
and church when she couldn’t go.
the person’s spouse how you can help the family. One spouse
was appreciative of gift certificates to the local fast food
restaurants so that the children could occasionally have a
quick meal and his wife didn’t have to worry about making