One of life's more difficult moments is when you find yourself talking to a friend who informs you that he or she is seriously, or even terminally ill.
When you find yourself in these situations it's common to be overwhelmed with self consciousness. You don't know what to say or how to respond. The fear of "not knowing" can prevent you from giving the love and support that your friend needs most.
Here are some suggestions that may help, taken from the experiences of hospice patients:
BE HONEST WITH ME. I can tell when your feelings or actions are insincere.
LAUGH WITH ME, CRY WITH ME. Allow me to express intense emotions.
DON'T FEEL SORRY FOR ME. Your understanding helps preserve my dignity and pride.
TOUCH ME. I want to be accepted despite the way I may look. Inside, I'm still the same person you always knew.
LET ME TALK ABOUT MY ILLNESS IF I WANT TO. Talking helps me work through my feelings.
LET ME BE SILENT IF I WANT TO. Sometimes I don't have much energy and I just may want your silent companionship. Your presence alone can be comforting.
SPACE YOUR VISITS AND CALLS. Consistent support is very helpful.
OFFER TO BABYSIT. The children need a break from my illness, and private times with my spouse are treasured.
SUPPORT MY FAMILY. I may be very sick, but they too are suffering. Let them express their grief.
OFFER TO HELP ME WITH THE SIMPLE CHORES. Routine jobs are often difficult to accomplish.
CONTINUE TO BE MY FRIEND. Don't let my illness overshadow all the good times we've shared together. I know this is hard for you too.
We hope this can be of help to you in dealing with illness, loss and grief. Much of what we pass on is learned from the terminally ill themselves, a source of wisdom and inspiration. If you're not sure if what you want to do is appropriate, contact Hospice of the Central Peninsula at 262-0453.
Additional sources of information:
Hospice Foundation of America, www.hospicefoundation.org or 1-800-854-3402
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, www.hospiceinfo.org or 1-800-658-8898.
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