Navigating chronic illness is a challenge in so many ways. Sometimes I forget it can be hard on my loved ones, too. If you want to be a supportive friend to your chronically sick friend, here are my personal tips.
1. Always validate their feelings and symptoms. You don’t have to know what to say to be there for someone. Sometimes we just want to hear “That sucks, I’m here for you to talk about whatever you need.” If you’re like me, a lot of your support system comes from being online. When you’re always sick, making plans is risky business. But you can still be there for your sick friend! Check in on them, ask how they’re truly doing, and see what they need from you.
2. Take care of your needs first. We already feel like a burden to the world sometimes. I love the quote “You can not pour from an empty cup.” As our friend, we want to know you’re taking care of yourself too. We also want you to know it’s not your job to take care of us. We simply want a friend.
3. If you don’t know what to say, simply tell us ask what we need. It’s that easy. I personally hate feeling dismissed when I need a listening ear. Sometimes I just want to be reminded that even if you don’t understand first hand, you’re here for me.
4. If you’re able to, help out your sick friend on flare days. Bring them meals, send them a caring message, offer a gentle hug, knowing you’re there means the world to us.
5. Research our condition(s.) This means SO MUCH to us. It cam be exhausting to explain and it feels wonderful to know a friend is being proactive in our health.
6. Do not offer unsolicited advice or “cures.” We already struggle with accepting our illness and chances are we have tried all we can to feel better. Yes, even essential oils and other home remedies. Rest assured, we do not want to be sick and are often desperate to figure this new life out. I recommend when a sick friend is venting to ask “Do you want advice or a listening ear?” Chances are, we will merely want someone to listen. Chronic illness is a heavy load to bear.
7. Tell us if we’ve done something that hurts you. We are still humans, capable of error, and want to be treated as such. Friendship requires communication on both ends. We want to keep our friends, so being open enables us to adapt or change a behavior you may not like.
8. Understanding goes a long way. We may have to cancel some plans. We may be too sick to do things we used to. This is where the previously mentioned research tip comes in handy. Also, it is vital to mention that not everyone experiences the same illness the same way. To better understand, ask us questions. It personally makes me feel loved to know someone cares enough to ask about my situation.
What would you add?