Perhaps you feel out of your depth when it comes to helping someone you know who has cancer. What do you do? What should you say? What if you get it wrong? Here is some helpful advice from Lori Hope, based on her marvellous book called Help Me Live.
Hope – Keep it positive; no horror stories; highly suggestible.
Empathy – Imagine what your friend is going through; don’t pity, which implies rank.
Listen – Your friend may need to talk; but don’t try to force them.
Permission – Ask before giving advice, sharing info, visiting.
Make it about them – It’s not about you, what you think they should do or feel.
Escape – Help them escape through humor, light media.
Love – Say I love you if you do; what people with cancer said they most wanted to hear from family and friends.
Initiate contact – Check in, leave messages saying you don’t need to call me back; send cards (#1 form of social support women said they wanted); visit (after asking permission).
Validate their feelings – Say things like, “That must be difficult”; don’t minimize feelings by saying they just have to think positively; don’t deny their feelings by saying they shouldn’t feel sad/angry, etc.
Educate yourself – Who is the person with cancer? Educate yourself about the disease; about what your friend enjoys and needs and wants, including their interests.