Illness is a very very real tough thing that is all around us. I know that I, at least, have a hard time knowing what to say or how to show support, and can get shy and awkward around my friends with illness when really all I want in the whole world is to help them and love them through it.
I hope you are blessed and encouraged by this post (I know I was!) and a HUGE thanks to Sara for this amazing, heartfelt work. ❤
Make sure to check out her fantastic new site that is jampacked with helpful articles for the ill teen and those around them. I’ve seriously been binge-reading it! And yo, I really need to read her book!! Have you? ~Anna
4 Ways to Support Your Friend Through Illness
You asked about his mask or offered her some toast. You invited them to go hiking and they said no. They told you they were sick. And they never got better.
Long-term illnesses are nasty. When they invade the life of someone we love, it can be so hard. Having been ill myself I understand what it’s like to be chronically ill, but I also understand what it’s like to try and support an ill friend. So today, I want to I want to share four ways you can support your ill friend.
1. Don’t Leave Us Alone
Check in on us, even when we don’t reply. Send us texts and emails and snail mail and flowers. Keep letting us know that you are there for us. If we don’t reply it isn’t because we want you to go away or we’re upset with you . . . we just have physical and mental problems that don’t allow us to reply right then. But knowing that we don’t have to face these things alone, that there are other people out there rooting for us, is so helpful.
Even if you don’t know how to help, just sit there with us. Your words don’t have to be eloquent. Just be there with us and make sure we know we’re not alone.
2. Don’t Leave Us Out
Send the invite to the birthday party, even when you and I both know we can’t come. And when we decline, go over the top to help us not feel guilty. It’s the thought that counts. And if you do everything you can to make events or conversations fit with our needs, it counts big.
(Of course, also keep in mind the fact that making a big deal of things isn’t always the best option. If we say we want to bring our own food, we usually want to bring our own food. If we say we’d rather stay home and watch a movie while y’all go to the beach . . . we might actually mean it. Then again, we might not, but hey, I never said this post would make humans make sense. 😉 )
The point is: try to include us if you can to the best of your (and our) abilities. Don’t try and protect us from your struggles either . . . let us in. We need friends. And friendships are two-way.
3. Ask How You Can Help
Maybe you are afraid to help because you’re not sure how to. What if you do the wrong thing? What if you make it worse? Often we long to help someone but we don’t know how, so we helplessly watch from afar.
But I want to share a secret with you: it’s okay to ask how you can help!
Even if you think you know how to help.
Ask your friend battling illness what you can pray for specifically, what tasks you can do, or anything else that will help them cope. Make sure they know you are sincere and don’t be afraid of being clumsy in your helping. We’re all still learning. And keep asking every so often as their needs will change over time.
4. Pay Attention
Many of those with long-term illnesses also identify as having an “invisible illness”. An illness that appears to not even exist on the outside, or that can be hidden for short periods of time with a whole lot of effort. And the truth is, no matter how foolish or unhealthy it can be, we sometimes like to hide. We like to pretend we’re normal. We often say “I’m good!” when we are (very) not.
So pay attention to the things we don’t say.
And even more, pay attention to the things we do say.
When we say we aren’t feeling very well, it could mean we feel like we’re about to faint or throw up, or that we’re in so much pain we could scream (except it would take too much effort). And when we do open up, or when we go into long technical speeches about our illness: pay attention. Google the terms you don’t know. Ask more (educated) questions. Remember what we say. Do your best to truly understand us and our limitations. And use the information and understanding you glean well.
A friend of mine had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which means driving can be dangerous for her since she is sleepy all the time. So a friend of hers chooses to do the driving every time they went somewhere. Find out what “the driving” is for your friend and pay attention to know when they need you to do it . . . even if they don’t tell you outright.
Illness is scary and hard. But a good support system can make all the difference. If you know someone who is sick, I want you to know how important you are in this battle. And how amazing it is that you desire to help them through it. It won’t be easy for either of you, but hang in there! There is a light at the end of the tunnel of sickness for you both.
S. G. Willoughby is a seventeen-year-old girl with Lyme disease, toxic mold poisoning, and MCS. Currently, she resides in Arizona with her parents and two siblings. In her spare time she loves to write, read, and have adventures.