If you have ever felt lost for words or helpless as to what to do support a loved one or friend who has ill health, you are certainly not alone.
Quite often out of embarrassment we may say or do the wrong thing and then end up walking on egg shells to avoid doing this again. Even health professionals can get it wrong, e.g. a friend who is undergoing cancer treatment was introduced to new hospital work colleagues, and his boss said "and this is ... and he has cancer!!". My friend found this insulting, and felt that his status shouldn't have been up for public discussion. His boss later apologised and remarked that she'd made this revelation out of embarrassment. And at the other extreme, a few family members didn't know how to talk to their mother who was critically ill in hospital. Each visit to see her was uncomfortable for all parties concerned.
I recently discovered these 10 tips from the British Heart Foundation about communicating effectively with a friend or loved one who has a physical or mental health issue. Part two of this article will include tips on active listening, but in the mean time I hope you find this list helpful.
1. Talk to them about what's going on
Talking is one positive way of showing that you care. Ask how they're feeling and if you haven't spoken in a while, get back in touch and simply ask "How are you?"
2. Share your feelings too
Keeping things bottled up can drive you apart and can be damaging to your own health. It’s common to feel guilty about burdening your partner with your own emotions, or feel somehow to blame for what has happened, so tell them what's on your mind.
3. Clarify whether you're being helpful or overprotective
What we may feel is being helpful may feel overwhelming and unwelcome, especially if the person is normally independent. Keeping this in mind it’s wise to ask if your help is welcome or too much, and if so, ask what you can do instead.
4. Actively Listen
Sometimes just listening is enough. Try to show that you've heard what they're saying, that you've understood and that you empathise with their feelings, e.g. "That must be really worrying for you!"
5. Hold back on advice
They may be getting lots of this already. Simply wait to be asked, or check out if they would like to hear your suggestions.
6. Offer to help
This could be helping out with specific things like shopping, walking their dog etc, or ask them to tell you what they need.
7. Be understanding and patient
This is important, especially if they need to cancel social plans.
Someone who is ill may not feel like socialising. Tell them that you're still there for them when they are ready to meet up.
8. Keep communication going
It's likely to take a few conversations to improve things.
9. Talk whilst doing something together
This is especially helpful if you're finding it difficult to communicate verbally, e.g. shopping, walking, cooking or gardening.
10. Talk to others too
Your loved one's illness will affect you physically and emotionally.
Therefore it can help to talk to someone else, such as a friend, about how you feel.
I support people in crisis through the healing power of Reiki and although it isn't a total cure it can really help with depression and anxiety and the symptoms associated with chemotherapy, arthritis, frozen shoulder etc.
If you would like to discuss how Reiki can help you please do get in touch via email to email@example.com or by telephone on 910 665 601.