When someone you love falls seriously ill, it can take a major toll on your own mental and emotional health. But you’re not worried about yourself. All your energy is focused on making sure your loved one gets back on the road to recovery.
It’s a process that can be intense, and it’s easy to feel like your own life is falling apart as you focus all your attention towards your loved one’s health. That’s why it’s important to keep yourself on track.
Here are some ideas for supporting your loved one without sacrificing too much of yourself in the process.
Become an advocate
Whether your loved one is struggling with cancer or addiction, you can become their advocate throughout the recovery process. Research all the cutting edge treatments for your loved one’s condition, and discuss it with them. Ultimately, it will be your loved one’s decision, but you can do the legwork and present alternative treatments. Just be sure to research all the pros and cons so that you can give your loved one the full picture.
Being your loved one’s advocate may also involve going to doctor visits and asking questions about treatments and test results. It’s always helpful to have another person at these appointments to hear and remember information.
Listen without judgment
Your loved one is going through the struggle of his or her life, and this may result in some periods of venting. Understand that your loved one does not expect you to solve every problem. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is listen and understand. Instead of trying to come up with solutions, try to put yourself in your loved one’s shoes. They probably just want someone to hear an appreciate all they’re going through.
Although you may wish you could take the struggle away, you can’t. It’s always going to be there, and the pain will take its toll on your loved one. There may be times when they take their frustrations out on you. In these times, it’s important to practice patience. If necessary, walk away from the situation and return when you have a clear head. Whatever you do, try not to react in anger. A negative reaction from you may end up making your loved one feel even worse.
Ask how you can help
When your friend is hurting, all you want to do is help. But if you want your efforts to make a difference, ask your loved one what you can do to help. Let them know that your offer doesn’t have an end, so they always feel comfortable coming to you for help. There are so many things you can do to help your loved one, from helping around the house to attending doctor’s appointments. Not everyone is comfortable asking for favors, regardless of their situation, so you may want to offer your help periodically.
Don’t make it about you
When someone is telling you a story, the best way you can relate is by thinking of a similar situation that you’ve been through. And while this may make great conversation under normal circumstances, it’s probably not appropriate when you’re talking about anything related to your loved one’s illness. The only exception to this rule is if you’ve actually been through the exact illness. If you haven’t been through anything of a similar magnitude, you can really seem insensitive by injecting your own (much milder) anecdotes. Instead, just practice active listening and try to imagine what it would be like if you were going through the same thing.
When an illness strikes, it affects all areas of a person’s life. Someone who was always reliable may start flaking on plans. Or you may need to reschedule things around your loved one’s appointments. This person has a lot going on in his or her life, so it’s up to you to be as flexible as possible.
Watching your loved one suffer may well be the most difficult thing you will ever do, but you can play an active role in their recovery. If they allow it, get involved in their treatment plan and help them manage their symptoms at home. Your support is crucial to their recovery.