Life lessons on friendship and compassion: a manual for myself

1. When you first connect with someone you heard is unwell: swallow every platitude, every cliché that comes to mind. Please.
2. Don’t ask for details. No one wants to repeat their pain a hundred times. You aren’t a doctor. What you don’t know makes no real difference.
3. Start by asking how you can help.
4. End with a plan for real action.
5. Don’t give medical advice. This is not the time. You aren’t there in any professional capacity.
6. Do not talk about how you have the best doctor/ the better hospital/ the most efficient caregiver. No one cares. This is not the time.
7. Do not talk about all the times you were sick and how you suffered. All the people you know who were sick and how they suffered. Had the same issues. Similar issues. No one cares. This is not the time.
8. Send things if you aren’t close enough to visit. Fruits. Flowers. Books. Bookmarks. Love. They may never be consumed or appreciated. They show you care. They show you want to be there. Words are not enough. Do something.
9. Visit. Don’t wait to be asked. Don’t wait to be called. Show up. Even if you can’t see the patient. Your intent counts. Your action counts even more.
10. Don’t say you have the person in your thoughts and prayers. Share proof. Your kindness and faith will reassure even non-believers.
11. Don’t talk about your promotion. Your holiday. Your coffee dates. Focus. Care. This isn’t about you.
12. Reach out to the caregiver. Take care of the caregiver like you would care for the patient. Caregivers need breaks. Need love. Need comforting. Mostly need hot food.
13. Don’t call if you don’t have time to complete the conversation. Don’t hang up half way, don’t put the call on hold. If you don’t have a few minutes to give, don’t bother. Break those digital boundaries. Be the kind of friend you want others to be to you.

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16 thoughts on “Life lessons on friendship and compassion: a manual for myself

  1. Yeah, the thing you think might be useful is not. Best to err on the side of saying too little than trying to find the right thing to say.

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    1. As long as one reaches out in the strongest way possible (action or words), given the situation, I think the message of support will be delivered – which is the most important thing. I found personally that platitudes left me depressed at the end of the conversation.

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  2. The ‘show, don’t tell’ phrase applies so much here. And all your tips ring so true. Focus on the patient and their caregivers at all times – that is important and helps so much – not just them, but in time, us as well. So it will do good to remember these points.

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  3. These are good reminders. We all encounter folks who are going through things. I hope YOU aren’t going through something. Be well.

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