Laura’s Pen asked the chronic illness community what they would like their friends to say to them, here are their suggestions…
I’ve seen a lot of posts telling people what not to say to their friends with chronic illness (including my own poem).
I’ve started to feel that people who say the wrong things and mean hurt probably aren’t going to read such posts, whereas those who love you and mean to be nice but say the wrong thing will.
So in the spirit of us all understanding each other a little better and judging each other a little less, I wanted to give suggestions of what people CAN say to their chronically ill friends.
I’ve collected these suggestions from fellow chronic illness sufferers so there are a variety of approaches.
Please remember, this is a guide not a rule book. These are ideas meant to help you if you are worried about saying the wrong thing or not enough, not a list of things you have to say.
Here are fourteen ideas of things to say to your chronically ill friend:
1. Learn about your friend’s illness, and let them know you’ve been doing it
“I’ve been reading/ learning about your illness. I don’t see how you do it.”
Janice Haynes Houser
2. It’s okay to ask about our illness
“I don’t understand what you’re going through but, if you’re willing to to talk about it, I’d like to try.”
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Our illness doesn’t have to be the main topic of conversation but should not be shut out or avoided when it comes up as a matter of course.
Just as I ask you about your job, family, hobby, etc., you should feel free to ask “What are your days like”? “Are you still able to [… ]”? and “How are you feeling [emotionally]”? If you’re unsure, you can always say, “Is it okay to ask you about X?” or “How do you feel talking about X?”
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3. And it’s also okay to talk to us about your life
Talk about your life. We know you don’t face the same things we do. So it’s okay to talk about your life and struggles.
Tell the funny stories about your coworkers. Come to me for advice. Just be okay if once in a while I want to vent as well because I’m overwhelmed at the “normal” life I’ve lost.”
Blogger at CFS ME & Kingdom Living
4. Ask how we’re REALLY doing
“You’re looking well today, but how are you really feeling?
“I know things are difficult for you. But never feel like a burden. I’m always going to be in your corner”
5. And let us know you’re thinking of us
“I can’t understand how you feel or what your life must be like. But I know that you are going through a tough time. I am here for you. Let me know how I can help.”
6. Keep inviting us and thinking of us
“It’s okay if you can’t make it but I’d love it if you were able to come.”
7. But let us know it’s okay if we cancel because we’re not well enough
“If I’m making plans with friends I love it when they let me know they don’t have a problem with me cancelling on them. They always tell me to let them know in the morning if I’m ok to go ahead.”
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“Don’t worry about cancelling or getting together today, you’re not a flake and I totally understand. Lets get together for an outing when you’re up for it. But in the meantime, is there anything I can help you with?
Blogger at Eco Fluffy Mama
8. And make plans with us that we can manage
Say something like: “What do you feel up to?” when deciding on plans.
“Do you want me to visit? We could lie in the dark together. I can even keep my mouth shut, if you need peace and quiet.”
Blogger at The MeMi Philosophy (posts in English and German)
9. Help us to feel comfortable if we need certain adjustments
“Don’t worry about asking to speak to the chef or not being able to eat the food I made. You being comfortable is more important than trying to people please.”
*Things to also consider: if the place we’re meeting is accessible enough/ if there is an easy route there
10. Let your friend know it’s okay if they need a break
“Let’s find a place to sit down.” It might be helpful to develop a playful shorthand, in advance, like: “Now we take a break,” or something, where we both know that this is when we sit and stare into space. Because talking can be exhausting too.”
“I can see you’re tiring, I better go.”
11. A text is always appreciated
I have a work colleague who texts me every few days when I’m off for weeks at a time. It reminds me I haven’t been forgotten about.
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12. And so is the offer of help
My best friend says: “What would you like me to do? And she means it as she will roll her sleeves up or simply sit.
Eleanor R Albaugh
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“What support/help can I give you? Every person and situation is different so asking THEM is the single most important question.”
13.Check in on how we’re doing
“What can I do to make you happy? How are you feeling? You’re a badass. I appreciate you. I’m here if you need to vent.”
14. And finally, let us know you’re there for us if we need you
“If you ever need help making dinner, want a partner for a Netflix Marathon on the couch or someone to talk to, I’m here. And I don’t judge.”
Since I am now Terminally ill, I find the best thing people tell me is they love me and will be there for me every step of the way.
Thank you to everyone who contributed.
If you’ve got any other things you would like a friend to say to you, please comment below with your suggestions.
Lots of love from,
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