A couple of months ago, I wrote a post called 10 Things Not to Say to Someone with Chronic Illness. Afterwards, friends started joking that they didn’t know what to say to me anymore and we had a good chuckle. But as more people joked about it, I realized there was probably truth to it and maybe they were looking for a solution. So here are 10 things you should say. I hope this sheds more light on the chronic illness situation and helps you help those you love!
1. “It’s okay, I understand.”
I love it when people just say “It’s okay, I understand” if I cancel on them due to health issues. A true friend will never make you feel guilty for being unable to do something because of an illness you can’t control. Two of my great friends, Katelyn (check out her blog here)and Alexis (check out her blogs here, here and here), are particularly good at this. Anytime I have to cancel or postpone something we had planned, they instantly reassure me they understand and that rest is probably kind of important. I’m forever grateful for friends like that.
2. “We don’t have to do that today.”
I love it when friends give me an out if I’m not feeling the best. I usually don’t take them up on it, but I appreciate that they allow me the dignity of bowing out without guilting me into staying put. Kelsey (blogless- girl, start a blog!) is great about this. Whenever we make plans, if she knows I’ve had a rough go, she offers rescheduling. I adore hanging out with her, and we’re both so busy it rarely works out, so I usually tough it out. But It means the world that she offers.
3. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
Usually – almost always, actually – the answer is no. But I appreciate it when a friend asks if they can help me out because it means they genuinely care. Caring friends are so important. They give us the drive we need to keep getting out of bed and pushing forward.
4. “You look good!”
I’m just sneaking this in because everybody likes to be complimented every now and again. Whether your friend is chronically ill or not, take the time to remind them of their beautiful/handsome face. Sometimes that gives them the little boost they need to keep walking with a pep in their step. (Side note: If you know where the “pep in your step” saying originated, please tell me.)
5. “You inspire me.”
This may sound so vain, but here it is: when people say my situation inspires them, it makes me so happy that I fight a little harder. When people ask me how I’m still standing, I tell them it’s by the grace of God and that reminds me how graceful God is. When people say “I’m tired, but if you can do it, I can.” I just want to hug them and shout, “Thank God there is good in this battle!” So if the person you know is chronically ill, and if they inspire you, tell them.
6. “Let’s skip the marathon and sit around eating donuts and watching movies instead.”
Okay, this is a bad example. I can’t have donuts (curse that wretched gluten intolerance gene!) and I most certainly don’t even attempt marathons (I don’t believe in exercise). My point, however, is it never hurts to offer an easier way to hang out. Sometimes, I really am too exhausted to hang out. Sometimes, I’m just too exhausted to do what we might have planned (a trip to the zoo, shopping, etc.) So offer me a chance to sit and watch movies instead and I am down.
7. “You are so strong.”
I am, by God’s grace. But sometimes I forget. It never hurts to be reminded that in spite of what I’m facing, I’m still standing, that even though I’m hurting, I’m not undone.
8. “I’m here for you.”
Sometimes I just need someone to listen to me vent. Usually, I bottle up my frustrations with my illness, but occasionally I rant and rave and scream and want to know that somebody hears me. I do what I can not to complain because nobody likes a Negative Nelly, but some days I need to. You saying “I’m here for you” gives me that freedom.
9. “I’m proud of you.”
When someone tells me they’re proud of me, I melt completely and entirely. That kind of reassurance means the world to me, especially when it’s in reference to my illness. When someone says they’re proud of me, that tells me that they see my fight, they believe it’s real, and they know that I am doing everything I can.
10. “I love you.”
This is the most powerful statement a person can make. Those living without illness and those living with illness alike – we all need to hear it. Don’t forget to remind every one you love of that love, because that reminder can be the very thing that drives them forward to conquer their battle. Love heals. Love uplifts. Love inspires. Love never fails.
When all else fails, it’s okay to say nothing and to simply be with your friend. It’s okay to hug them, because sometimes a hug says more than words. It’s even okay to just give a friendly smile and say you’re thinking of them.