Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend

September 14-20 is National Invisible Illness Awareness Week, and I have been blogging all week to promote education about people with chronic illness. Below are some excerpts (used with the author's permission) from the book "Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend" by Lisa Copen, founder of Rest Ministries. Many times people truly want to help, but just don't know what to say, or what to do, so they say, "If you need anything, call me." Well, here are some specific suggestions from a chronically ill person. Anything in {brackets} are my words.

339. Don't pretend the illness doesn't exist, and don't act like that's all she is about now. Tell her if you feel awkward about how to address it.

345. Allow her the occasional pity party on your shoulder without your advice or perky attitude.

356. Give her a jar of encouragment. Fill a jar with slips of paper each bearing encouragement, such as verses from the Bible or positive sayings. Tell her whenever she is feeling down to pull out a word of encouragement.

363. Remember that the weather can dramatically alter how one feels physically. A bit of rain could make him bedbound for a few days. {or extreme cold, or high humidity}.

366. Understand the difference between sympathy and empathy. {In my (Kerri's) own words: try to put yourselves in my shoes, but don't feel sorry for me. We don't want sympathy, we want understanding.}

372. When you pray for him, remember to pray for his family (children and spouse as well as parents and siblings). It will bring him comfort because he's worried about how his illness is impacting their lives.

380. Suffering is humbling. Recognize he may be embarrassed to accept your help. Don't make a big deal out of it.

396. Validate her feelings by saying, "That would scare me too," not "You shouldn't be afraid."

405. Remember, you may be the only "Jesus" she sees visibly acting in her life right now.

412. You don't have to have money to encourage someone. It's about your presence not your presents.

417. When he cries, just sit with him. You don't need to do anything. Don't tell him, "Don't cry" or "This isn't worth crying about." {Or, try to "top" his misery with your own.}

422. Offer to change her sheets. This is an impossible task for many people with chronic illness but an awkward task to ask for help with.

433. {If you don't know what to say} Say, "I wish I knew what to say, but I don't. I'm here for you though." {In other words, don't just avoid a person because you don't know what to say!}

446. When you visit, leave behind a little gift or a note for her to find later.

453. Try to see the world through her eyes. How would you feel if tomorrow you suddenly couldn't stand, if you forgot your children's names, or had to quit your job?

472. Stand up for her when others make ignorant remarks about her illness in your presence.

482. Ask, "How far can you walk comfortably?" Don't take any amount for granted.

485. Understand that being chronically ill and sick are two different things. When your friend is both sick AND chronically ill, she desperately needs you.

486. Leave an encouraging message on her answering machine {or voicemail} when you know she will be gone so that she comes home to a message of warmth.

I think for me, the biggest thing is that I don't want to feel forgotten. I used to be a thriving, contributing member of society, and now I am basically home-bound. In my head, I'm still the same person, but my body has betrayed me. I am still the same person you have known, I just have different limitations now. Don't forget that's it's still just me.


Debbie said...

What fabulous tips. So many folks have no idea how to act. This would help us all.

Pam said...

I am crying Kerri, this is so true all week you have been saying exactly how i have been feeling....I am normal ...well sort of...
May I post these On my blog so that others will know how I feel...I will say I took them from yours...and you wrote them...just let me know...
I love you!

Kerri said...

Pam, ABSOLUTELY!!!! The book is Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend. Lisa Copen is the author...I think you can get it for about $5.00 on the Rest Ministries website.
Love ya sister!

Michaela said...

Those are great tips... it's often hard to know how to act, and these tips really help!!

Lamonica Epps said...

Wonderful blog post with great tips. Some people have a hard time figuring out how to act towards a friend that becomes chronically ill.

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