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YES You Can....! Ways To Be An Encouragement To Others


Showing You Care With Your Actions

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    Visit. If your loved one or close friend is sick in the hospital or confined to their home, the most important way to encourage them is by being present. You can help to take their mind off of their illness and to maintain a semblance of normalcy during this hard time.
    • Think about what you might do on your visit. If your friend likes to play card or board games, you might bring something along. If you have children, you might want to leave them at home, but you could ask them to draw a picture for your friend to help cheer her up.
    • Be sure to call first and make sure it’s a good time, or schedule your visit in advance. Sometimes illnesses require extra care in planning for visits to schedule them around appointments, timing for medications, naps and early bedtime, and other contingencies.
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    Treat her like your friend. Someone with chronic or terminal illness lives with daily reminders that she is sick. What she needs is reminders that she is still the same person that you love and care about. Treat her the same as you would if she was not sick.[1]
    • Maintain regular contact. A chronic illness can be a true test of a friendship, and for your friendship to withstand the emotional and logistical challenges of the illness you must make a point to prioritize staying in touch. Someone who is undergoing treatment or confined to a hospital or their bed is often "out of sight, out of mind," so be sure that you put a note on your calendar to remember to reach out on a regular basis.
    • Help her do the things that she normally enjoys. If your friend is living with chronic or terminal illness, its important that she still finds pleasure and joy in life. You can help by offering to take her out for their favorite activities.[2]
    • Don't be afraid to joke around or make plans for the future! This is still the same person that you know and love.

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    Support her and her family. If your friend has a family or even pets, this illness is probably even more stressful because not only does she have to worry about her own recovery or prognosis, but she has to worry about those who are depending on her. There are practical ways you can help to support her family through this time:
    • Cook for them. This is a classic, tried-and-true way to support someone who is ill. Whether or not the ill person will be able to partake, cooking a home-cooked meal for her family will ease her burdens by letting her rest easy knowing her children, husband, or other dependents are well taken care of.
    • Help her plan for their care. If your friend has small children, elderly parents, or others who depend on her, ask how you can be proactive in their care during her illness. For instance, she may need someone to visit and check up on her father, someone to walk the dog, or someone who can take the kids to and from school or pick them up from soccer practice. Sometimes planning for small logistical errands can be difficult for people suffering from illness, but having a trusted friend to help carry the burden can make a difference.
    • Clean her house. Some people may be uncomfortable with this kind of support, so be sure to ask your friend first; but if your friend is open to it, ask her to let you commit to one day a week (or more, or less, whatever you are capable of offering) that you can come by and take care of chores. You can offer a specific chore that you know you are good at (mowing the lawn, doing the laundry, cleaning the kitchen, grocery shopping) or you can just let her tell you what will be most helpful.
    • Ask her what she needs, and follow through. People often say "Let me know if you need help," but most people are too timid to ever reach out and take them up on that offer. Instead of making her get in touch with you when she needs something, call her and ask her what she needs. Tell her you're headed to the grocery store and wanted to know if you can pick something up for her, or ask her if there is a night this week that she needs any help around the house. Be specific, and be sincere in your willingness to help. Then follow through and do it- that's the most important part![3]
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    Send flowers or a fruit basket. If you can't be present, at least send a token of your affection so that your friend will know she is in your thoughts.
    • Keep in mind if the illness might make your friend more susceptible to strong scents (some cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, for instance, may not like a bouquet) and instead think of other things that might work like their favorite chocolate, a teddy bear, or balloons.
    • Many hospitals offer a delivery service from the gift shop, so if your friend is an in-patient, consider purchasing a bouquet or balloon arrangement directly from there. Most hospitals list the phone number for their gift shops on their website, or try calling the hospital operator.
    • Consider going in with mutual friends or co-workers to buy a nicer gift or flower arrangement.

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    Be yourself. You are unique, and you don't need to pretend to be Mr. or Mrs. Fix It, or Do it all or Got the answer for everything. Just be yourself.
    • Don't pretend to know the answers. Sometimes, even if you do, its best to let them figure some things out on their own. Also being yourself can involve your sense of humor; it can feel like treading on eggshells being with a sick person but if you're nervous or acting as though you don't know what to say you could make them feel uncomfortable so be your laughing, joking self (if that's the way you usually are).
    • Be pleasant. You want to be as supportive and as comforting as possible. You want to lift their spirits up, not bog them down with gossip or negative opinions. Even wearing cheerfully colored clothes could brighten their day!

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    Make her feel needed. Sometimes asking advice or asking small favors can help someone with a chronic or terminal illness feel needed, which can give them some motivation to stay engaged.
    • In many health conditions people's brains are as sharp as they ever were and thinking about other people's lives and problems can take their minds off their own for a while.
    • Think about your friend's area of expertise, and ask any questions you have that might be relevant. For instance, if your friend is an avid gardener, and you've been meaning to put in your Spring beds, ask her advice on when to get started and what kind of mulch to use.

Showing You Care With Your Words

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    Talk to your friend. Learn how to be a good listener and let your friend know that you are there for them if they want to vent about their condition or if they'd rather talk about something else. Either way, having someone to talk to can be a huge relief to someone who is ill.
    • Be honest with your friend if you don't know what to say. Illness often makes people uncomfortable, and that's ok. What is important is for you to be present for your friend and offer your support. Tell your friend that you are there for her no matter what.[4]
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    Send a card or make a phone call. If you can't be physically present with your friend, send a card or make a phone call. It's easy to send a text or make a Facebook post, but mail and phone calls feel more personal and will feel more thoughtful to the recipient.
    • Consider writing a thoughtful letter. This can be easier if you are someone who doesn't know what to say around people who are in difficult situations. You can write a letter, and then take time to edit it and rewrite it if you feel like you haven't conveyed your feelings well. Focus on kind wishes, prayers for recovery, and good news that is unrelated to their illness.
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    Ask questions. While its important to respect your friend's privacy, if your friend is open to questions they can be a great way to learn more about her condition and to find out more ways that you can support her.[5]
    • You can research her illness online, but asking her questions is the only way to know how her condition affects her as an individual, and just as importantly, how she feels about what she is experiencing.[6]
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    Talk to her children. If your friend has kids, they are probably feeling isolated, lonely, and confused. Depending on the severity of her illness, they may also be feeling scared, angry, and worried. They need someone to talk to, and if they know and trust you, you can serve as a mentor and friend to them during this time.
    • Take them out for ice cream and let them talk to you. Don't force them to say more than they seem comfortable. Some children just need you there as a reassuring force in their lives, while others may want to pour out all their feelings to you. Be open to their lead, and follow up with them every few days or weeks, depending on how close you are.[7]

Knowing What Not to Do or Say

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    Watch out for common faux pas. There are a lot of cliches that people use when other people are going through hard times, and more often than not these common responses just feel insincere or painful to the recipient. Examples of what not to say include:
    • "God will never give you more than you can handle," or its even-worse variation, "This is God's will."[8] Sometimes well meaning people of faith say this phrase, and they may truly believe it, but it can feel very harsh to the recipient, especially if she is experiencing something that is very difficult or overwhelming.
    • "I know how you feel."[9] Sometimes people say this phrase to others who are going through hard times, and while its true that everyone has experienced trials in life, it's impossible to know how someone else is feeling. This phrase is even worse if its accompanied by personal anecdotes that really don't match the intensity of what the sufferer is experiencing. For example, if someone is facing the loss of a limb, don't equate it to the time that you broke your arm. It's not the same thing. However, if you have truly had an experience that is on par with the experience the sufferer is going through, it's ok to talk about and say "I've been through something similar."
    • You'll be ok."[10] This is a common phrase when people don't know what to say, and we often say it more as a wish than a statement of fact. In fact, you don't know if someone will be ok, and in many cases of chronic or terminal illness, the person will NOT be ok. They may die, or be condemned to a life of physical suffering. Saying they will be ok minimizes the experience they are having.
    • "At least..."[11] Don't minimize the person's suffering by suggesting they should be thankful that their situation isn't worse.
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    Don't complain about your own health problems. In particular, avoid discussing minor health issues such as a headache or a cold.[12]
    • This can vary depending on your relationship with the person and the length of their illness. If they are chronically ill, or a very close confidant, it is more likely to be appropriate to discuss things that you're going through.
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    Don't let fear of doing the wrong thing keep you from doing anything at all.While its true that its important to be sensitive to the feelings of someone who is sick, sometimes we overcompensate for our fear of doing the wrong thing by doing nothing at all. Its better to stick your foot in your mouth and apologize than it is to just ignore your sick friend altogether.
    • If you do mess up and say something insensitive, just say, "I don't know why I said that. I really don't know what to say. This situation is just very hard." Your friend will understand.
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    Be considerate. Try to pay attention to your friend's cues so that you don't visit too frequently or overstay your welcome. When someone is extremely sick especially, it can be very difficult to carry on a conversation and they won't want to offend you so may over-tax themselves by trying to please you.
    • If your friend seems distracted by television or her phone, or seems like she is struggling to fall asleep, those might be signs that she is growing tired of the visit. Don't take it personally! Just remember she is dealing with lot, both physically and emotionally, and it can be taxing.
    • Be mindful of the time, and be sure that you don't extend your stay into mealtimes or other times that your friend may need to be alone. Ask if your friend would like you to pick up some food for them or cook them a meal if you plan to visit during mealtime.

Understanding Chronic Illness

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    Be sensitive to your friend's limitations. Educate yourself about their condition and treatment plan so that you are prepared for side effects, changes to their personality, or limits on their energy or stamina.
    • Ask your friend about their condition, if they want to share, or take time to read about it online.
    • Watch your friend's body language to understand how she is feeling and how her illness affects her ability to participate in activities, stay alert, and remain emotionally predictable. Be gentle and understanding if she does not act like her old self, and remember that she is carrying many heavy burdens.
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    Keep in mind effects on your friend's moods. Dealing with debilitating, chronic, or terminal illnesses very frequently results in depression and other problems, and sometimes the medications to treat illnesses also have side effects that can affect the mood.[13]
    • If your friend struggles with depressive thoughts, remind her that this illness is not her fault and that you will be there to support her no matter what happens.[14]
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    Show empathy. Try to place yourself in that person's situation. One day you might have a similar illness and you'll want people to be kind and sympathetic to you. Remember the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have others to do unto you.
    • If you were ill with a similar condition, what types of daily activities would be a struggle? How might you feel emotionally? What type of support would you hope you friends would offer?
    • Imagining yourself in their place can help you best determine how to help them.


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