That’s such a vital question for caregivers that even the Wall Street Journal tried to answer it this month. The all-business newspaper published some tips from a new book by Ms. magazine co-founder Letty Cottin Pogrebin. Her newly released book is called How to be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick. You may want to click on the book cover and visit the book’s Amazon page. It’s getting rave reviews.
But today, for readers at WeAreCaregivers, I’m going beyond the news about Pogrebin’s book. I’m sharing four of my own tips. Please, add a comment below with your advice.
Here’s the challenge faced by millions: We learn that someone is sick. We visit. Often, our conversation turns uncomfortable. But it doesn’t have to. I have been on both sides and honestly, it doesn’t feel good for anyone if we are clumsy. I have gotten so much better at this over the years by remembering:
Heather Jose’s Four Ls for Visiting a Sick Friend
It is easier to get things out in the open than to dance around what’s happening with your friend. You may be hesitant to ask for information, but I’ve found that it’s best to go there. Don’t avoid the subject. I broach the issue carefully but quickly. I often start with something along the lines of “I’m sorry” or “Tell me what’s happening.”
As with with many things in life, less is often more. Start by talking less and listening more. Stay in the moment with your friend and take what comes. When visiting a friend, your presence likely matters far more than anything you could say.
Really listen. Once a person begins to talk, I acknowledge that I hear. Sometimes we move so quickly in a visit that we barely know what is being said. But, believe me, the sick person needs to be heard and understood. It feels good to know that someone cares enough to listen—and is willing to acknowledge what is happening.
I try to maintain a balance. In most cases, I try to level out our conversation between talk about illness and talk about normal life. Going back and forth between the two helps keep a healthy perspective in a tough situation.
Now it’s your turn
What works for you when visiting a sick friend?
Or, when you’ve been sick: What do you wish people knew?
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