Have you been in a situation where one of your close friends calls you and tells you their child is seriously ill? Even if they haven’t asked for help, it’s a struggle to provide the right empathy and support. What are the right words to say, we all wonder. How do I help my friend in the hour of need?
I got to support my best friend when her mother was in an advanced stage of a brain tumor. She was my closet buddy. We shared the dorm room in college together and even moved to our first apartment in San Francisco together. We got our first Internet subscription to the preferred 100 Mbps plan together. This is what I learned over my journey of supporting her…
1: Don’t Stop Calling Them
Some of us don’t call because we feel like we are bothering them. It’s natural to feel that but you still need to check in on them and let them know you are there. If you stop communicating, that connotes that their situation is unimportant to you and they will remember that.
2: Assist Them on a Major Test or Surgery
If there is a major test or surgery, make sure you are there. Mark your calendar in advance. If you cannot accompany them, send a message of support. They will be glad to hear those words.
3: Don’t Ignore Because You Think They Might Cry
Your friend will be flooded with emotions. When you call them or pay a visit, they might end up crying. Don’t be afraid of their tears. Tell them you care about them and you are here for them.
4: Keep the Communication Going
Don’t stop communication. Whether it’s email, text or phone call, keep checking in. “Call me if you need anything” is not good enough but chances are they might be too embarrassed to ask for help. So, you have to take the lead.
5: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask How They Are Doing
Whenever you talk to them, don’t hesitate in asking how they are doing and how their family is. You must be thinking the last thing they want is to talk about the illness of their child. Sometimes, it’s all that they want to talk about. Make sure you offer them your shoulder. Asking them how they are doing might even get them to talk about their feelings.
6: Don’t Say Stuff Like “He Will Beat It” or “She Is a Fighter”
Of course, their child is a fighter but such phrases miss the entire point no matter how well your intentions were.
7: Avoid the Clichés
Make sure you avoid common clichés such as cards with flowers, sympathy notes, etc. So many people rely on these things when they don’t know what to say. Such gifts lack a personal touch and since you are a close friend, this doesn’t seem right at all. Also, leave your sad eyes at home. They wouldn’t want to see the sadness written all over your face.
8: Don’t Take Their Mood Swings Personally
Your friends are definitely going to express mood swings. Anger, depression, or manic – you have to bear with them. It’s a part of the natural grieving process. Be supportive and understanding. If they say something mean, don’t take it personally.
9: Don’t Believe The “I Don’t Need Anything” Statement
When you ask them if they need anything, it’s obvious they would say they don’t need anything. You have to take the lead. Drop off a meal, clean their house for them, offer to pick other kids from medical school. Above all, give the gift of prayer.
The caregiver usually has a hard time asking for extra help. Knowing that food is available at home, the house is clean and kids are getting help, it would make them get through the day.
10: Be Supportive, Not Overly Emotional
Be loving, kind, and supportive without putting on a hangdog face. You are here to comfort your friend, not the other way around. Be direct and succinct. There will be times when your friend will cry and it’s ok to cry with them. Just be sure they don’t have to comfort you.
11: Don’t Act As You Can Relate to the Situation
Your actions must never show that you can relate to their situation unless you have been through the same. However, acknowledge that you are trying to understand them. Don’t try trumping their story with your own.
12: This Is Happening for a Reason
This is another statement you should avoid at all costs. Firstly, your friend might not have the same beliefs as yours. Secondly, it doesn’t offer comfort to most people. The best way of showing you care is by offering tangible help. This might be exactly what your friend needs to get through this difficult time.
My friend’s mother used to love listening to Johnny Cash. I made sure whenever I visited her, I made her listen to her favorite song on YouTube using Cox high speed Internet specials. I hope these tips make it easier for you to help your friend.