The reality of life is: No one gets out of here without experiencing loss, illness or disability of some sort. It may happen in our final years, or it may happen much earlier in life. We all need people who are close to us to help us through those times. If you don’t focus on the good and on what you can control, you can easily spiral into depression and anxiety. Then, you’ve got multiple problems.

Nothing in life is the end, unless it’s really the end. As long as you’re breathing, there is something you can look forward to.

Nosrati gave birth to twins. She was almost 36 when it happened, and she remembers experiencing pain like she had never experienced before. But, she said, as soon as she accepted the this is what she was dealing with – and that the pain wasn’t going to last forever – that she was able to get through it. “I just opened myself up to it,” she said. “And that helped me get through.”

Don’t make empty promises.

Don’t volunteer to cook a meal if you think you might not be able to make it happen. If you’re a particularly busy person, realistically, you might not be able to fix a meal or do a friend’s laundry. But you can let your friend know you’re just a phone call or text away. When you have friends dealing with an illness, you might say: “I might not always pick up the phone to call you, but just know that if you call me, as soon as I get your message, I’ll call you right back.” Open the door to an ongoing discussion.

Do something kind and unexpected.

When she had COVID, she woke up one morning and heard a motor running. Her next-door neighbor was mowing the lawn for her. He hadn’t promised to do it; he just up and did it. It was so unexpected and so appreciated.

Use humor.

Humor is magic. Find a way to make your friend laugh. It’ll do wonders.

Remind your friend: He or she is not the disease.

If you’re dealing with a debilitating illness – especially one you may be dealing with for the rest of your life – it can be all-consuming. Tell your friend: You are not cancer. You are not diabetes. You are not depression. You are a person who is coping with something.

Unless you’re a doctor, don’t offer medical advice.

You might find something in an internet search that you’re sure would help your friend. Resist the urge to offer unsolicited and untested advice. Consider giving your friend a book (by a reputable source) on his or her condition – or a book that has nothing to do with the illness.

Don’t stop checking in.

Weeks or months after you’ve initially acknowledged a friend’s pain, check in again. It’s usually immediately after something bad happens – a death, divorce or diagnosis – that your friends rally around you. But the pain is still there months later. It’s good to remind your friend you’re still there, too.

If you inadvertently say the wrong thing, it’s OK.

We’re all human and all fallible. Don’t forget that. If you say something that doesn’t sit well with your friend, you can recover from it. Don’t run away. It’s OK to say, “Hey, I realized I hurt your feelings when I said such-and-such. Can we talk about it?”

Novant Health
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