How to Survive: How to Support an Ill Friend

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By Susan "Honey" Good

We used to have so much lighthearted and pleasurable times with one another. We played canasta, dined out with our guys, researched like tic tock detectives to find the best price for a piece of jewelry that we were anxious to own (never letting the jeweler know!) and ultimately happy as two larks when we said, "mission accomplished!" We talked about our families, traveled together, laughed together, and spent time visiting each other in our respective cities.

And now, my dear friend is ill. And now, I am beside myself with what to do because my girlfriend is a very private person. And I am a very open book.

Here is a conversation:

"Let's get together tomorrow. I will come over. I will bring lunch or we can lunch out," I said to my dear friend.

"Let's see how I am feeling tomorrow. I will call you," she replied.

The next day she calls and apologizes that she just can't get together for one reason or another, and always ends her conversation by saying to me, "I want you to know it is not that I don't want to be with you; I just can't right now. Thank you for always asking and I love you."

I always answer, "Don't apologize. I understand. I respect your wishes. I love you, too. I am just a phone call away."

As someone who has been ill, I know her feelings of utter despair. I've learned through first hand experience what made me feel comfortable when my friends took action.

Here is my advice, darlings...

MAKE JEWISH CHICKEN SOUP (AND OTHER HELPFUL TIPS)!

Respect your girlfriend's feelings. This is not about you. This is all about her. If your friend does not want to get together tell her you understand, but tell her you will continue calling... until she asks you to stop! You want her to know she can count on you. Stay in touch, but don't hover! I think close friends should be honest with one another. Open dialogue, darlings, open dialogue. The problem is many healthy friends feel insecure on how to handle the newness of the changed relationship with their ill girlfriend. They don't know what to say. Here a few things you can say:
  • If you want to be alone, please tell me. I understand.
  • Tell me how I can be helpful.
  • Tell me what is not helpful.
  • If you say no to me, I know how you are feeling. I have been there. But, if you have not been there don't say, "I know how you are feeling."
  • Keep in touch. Phone calls, e-mails, texts, and little gifts through the mail will bring a smile. Tell her, "I am here for you, 24/7."
Be consistent. My close friends called before and after every one of my tests! Their friendship was a constant. They showered me with compassion. They lit up my days. Their sincere and loving ways reinforced how much they cared. It helped. Be a good listener. This is the time to listen to your girlfriend so just say, "I am here to listen to you."

Respect her privacy. Some of us are open. Some of us are closed. This is her story to tell, if she chooses to, darlings.
You know your friend's personality. You know what she likes and what she dislikes. You know what makes her happy. Be mindful... conscious, aware, wise, and alert... and you will be a fabulous friend.

Do you have some insight into helping a sick friend? Or has your own sickness taught you what is needed to comfort and support a girlfriend in difficult times? Do tell! You can comment below or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram. Let's talk