How To Uplift & Embrace
A Sick Friend

December 10th / 2017
Connection, Relationships

If you have a relative or a friend sick with a chronic illness, their bodies can not keep up. While others move with hyperactivity, their symptoms force them into passivity.

And that gap between them and the rest of the world makes them feel even more isolated. I know because I’ve been living with debilitating fibromyalgia since 2000. So the holidays are tender times for those who “live” with illness.

In the favorite holiday movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart’s character George questions his very existence as his life careens out of control. For your relative or friend who is sick, they question the point of their existence ALL. THE. TIME.

We feel we are burdens, expensive and troublesome. Our lives are out of control because our bodies are out of control. It’s not just cash to pay off a debt that’s gone missing. Our whole lives have gone missing!  We miss out on a lot – romantic relationships, having children, the dignity of a job, a run in the park, a trip to the cinema.

And we miss our healthy bodies most of all because we miss enjoying agency over our lives, our schedule, our abilities.

And all those feelings are magnified during the holidays.

If you want to make the holidays easier and a time of meaningful connection and community for a chronically ill friend or relative, here are some concrete suggestions:

1/ Don’t Judge By Appearances

Many who live with illness are not obviously sick. Most chronic illnesses are invisible. Pain is invisible. Insomnia is invisible. Weakness is invisible. I may defiantly apply red lipstick, but inside I am still sick. I have pushed myself to be there and will pay a debilitating cost in the days or weeks to follow, which no one else will see. So don’t disparage and don’t judge. You can still understand and support that which you can not see. Believe them.

2/ Check In Often

I once spent Thanksgiving in a sprawling house with 20 people. I was not well and had to stay in bed. No one came and hung out with me. I could hear all the activity but could not participate or join in. For hours, no one checked on me to see if I needed food. (I did.) Finally two children under the age of 10 wandered into my room, and they asked after me. And they were instrumental in getting me a meal.

3/ But Give Them Space

This admonition appears to contradict the advice to check in regularly, but it doesn’t. Ask your loved one if they need quiet or to rest, and if so ensures that happens. If they actually speak up and set a boundary – because trust me it’s really hard to do so when you feel sick – then respect what they say they need. Sometimes I really have to be alone because I feel so awful that I can not bear the stimulation of noise or the commotion of other people. Trust that this is not what I want but what I need, because seclusion is not usually the first choice.

4/ Be Flexible

There are no guarantees with a chronic illness. Sometimes my mornings are awful. Sometimes they are my most energetic hours. If you have a relative, ask them what time of the day is best for them and try to plan the meal or activities so that they can participate. But understand that symptoms are like a hydra and pop up and ruin plans at anytime.

5/ Honor the Effort

The holidays are stressful for every one. And getting everything done requires focus and exertion. This is exponentially true for those living with illness. Even the basics of living such as getting food, cleaning, sleeping can be challenging. So if your loved one, who is ill, actually managed through herculean effort to assemble and wrap gifts – celebrate that effort. Don’t disregard that. Respect that effort and the physical cost they incurred – because I guarantee you there was a cost – and distribute the gifts.

6/ Offer Help

In past years, the only reason I had a tree was due to the help of a friend. And since I was shut in and home day after day after day during the dark months of winter, the lights and sight of my tree was always a gift that kept on giving and gave me a feeling of warmth and love, which is the spirit of these holidays. Volunteer your time to aid your friend or relative for whatever they need. This is the time of year when the gift of your time or muscle is especially appreciated. You could also offer help analyzing and organizing holiday obligations and kindly suggest ways to streamline because sometimes the brain fog clouds our ability to make good, healthy choices.

7/ Adapt As Possible

My family hiked every Thanksgiving morning. It’s still something I love to do if I’m able as I find “forest baths“ very healing. But the truth is I am usually not able to hike, or if I do, I’m relegated to bed rest for the remainder of the day. At times, when I’ve pushed myself, my so-called companions have barreled ahead of me. As I’d watch their asses disappear in front of me, trailing behind became a metaphor for ALL the ways I am behind in my life and left out. So if you have traditions that involve physical activity, adjust your pace and movement to your relative who is not as able as you. Or better yet, develop some new holiday traditions that they can participate in – maybe a holiday movie or a board game or a puzzle or a knitting circle while listening to a holiday or Christmas book. See below for some of my favorites from audible.com.

8/ Involve Them

I love to cook, but standing and cooking is often just not possible. Sometimes I all can do is sit and peel or sit and dice or sit and slice. So ask them what they can do and let them help and be involved. If that activity is too much, perhaps set up a comfortable chair where they can be nearby to feel a part of the preparations.

Sometimes, though, I can not even attend a gathering, especially if travel is required. Traveling during the holidays is really hard for anyone, and it’s much worse if you’re disabled and/or in a wheelchair. So, if your sick family member is stuck out of town, let them know they are thought of because being disregarded and forgotten is the worst. Send photos and videos for connection. Set up a Skype call so that they can be with you in the room virtually.

9/ Recognize Limits

Whatever you do, don’t suggest that being alone sick for the holidays is something they chose. If I am not able to travel or attend, it is because I am not able.  So do not ever say – “As you wish.” My constraints are not a choice. If I could overcome them, I would. I already feel pretty awful I can’t participate and that I am in this jail. My inability is not a choice. My illness is not a choice. Do not imply my absence is as I wish. It is not.

10/ Do Not Force Gratitude and Cheer

And if I am not feeling particularly grateful, do not begrudge me that either. I am not grateful for my health, because I don’t have it. I am not grateful for my life, because my life is not what I want it to be. Sometimes the only three things I am grateful for are my fitted sheet, my flat sheet and my pillow case. So don’t force false positivity and instead allow room to acknowledge the sadness they feel about the terrible, decimating losses in their lives. Be a witness to that loss without demeaning or diminishing their reality. That can be enough.

11/ Invite Them

Do not wait until I say I am feeling great to invite me, as you may be waiting for a long time. You will never make me feel bad by inviting me. And I will not feel obliged, so do not worry about that either. If I can not get out, if I can not join you, then I won’t.  (Again, because it’s not a choice, see above).  If you extend an invite and I can’t, I will tell you.  More than once, loved ones and friends made the decision for me and did not invite me because they were waiting for me to be better. That’s hurtful. Please don’t ever stop inviting me. Every one wants to be invited and included. Everyone wants to participate.


In It’s A Wonderful Life, Clarance, George’s guardian angel, reminded George how he had affected his community by showing what Bedford Falls would have been like without him. In doing so, Clarence saved George from suicide by showing how much he mattered, his influence and his significance. And an outpouring of help showed George how very much they loved and appreciated him.

Embrace the true spirit of the season by showing a generosity of spirit and of time and of attention.

Be an angel and remind your sick relative or friend that even if they are not able to earn a living, even if they can not travel for the holidays, even if they can not be – they way the wish they could be – they still matter. To you.

It’s never too late to step up and be present (pardon the pun) for your sick friend or relative. There’s always room for holiday magic or a Christmas miracle.

Related Stories

Reflection Points ::
What is a gesture you most remember or appreciate?
Tell of a time when a friend or relative really helped you.
What helped in your time of despair?
Are the holidays harder for you? Why?
Share in the comments
Extra Elements of Interest ::
It's A Wonderful Life
It's a Wonderful Life
It's a Wonderful Life

Material provided by Wellspring Stones LLC should not be construed as medical advice, prevention, diagnosis, cure or treatment for any condition. The information we provide is for general educational purposes only. If you are not well, if you may have a medical condition, or if you want to use a new treatment or take any medications or supplements, please first seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider. See our Terms for more.

Comments | 0

Leave a Reply

Hi friends! We love to hear your thoughts and receive your feedback.

Related Stories
Archives
Categories
Type

Embrace the true spirit of the season by showing a generosity of spirit and of time and of attention. 

- Cassandra Marcella Metzger
.