having a sick friend is such a drag. They always need something. Sometimes
they're weepy, and they complain all the time. But there are ways to get
rid of this nuisance once and for all. The object is to "dump the whiner."
So, just follow these helpful steps:
- Never, ever call
them. And don't return their calls. Even if they are still occasionally
calling you, they're so sick that they will lose their momentum and
eventually stop. After all, even if they listen to your problems, you
certainly don't want to hear theirs.
- Be harsh with them;
say mean and spiteful things, especially when they seem vulnerable.
Remember, even if they were there for you in the past, the idea is to
get rid of them now. The sick and afraid are particularly sensitive
to cruelty, and the more you use, the better.
- Write them out of
your life - don't tell them about social events, especially parties
you are holding. And if they actually try to have one themselves, don't
show up, and don't RSVP. That way they'll be wondering if you are coming
right up to the very last of the party.
- Never invite them
to join you for lunch, or a concert or a show. That would only make
them think you cared.
- Never call just to
say hi and see how they're doing. And never ask them if they need anything
at the store when you go.
These techniques will
definitely kill them, one way or another. They will definitely kill the
friendship; and even if they don't kill physically, psychological, emotional
or spiritual murder also counts. If they had the nerve to go and get sick,
it's not your problem.
Remember, some sick
people have some hope that anyone cares. These are the toughest, so you
must remember to stick with it. Don't let them wear you down, and whatever
you do, don't break down and care. You'll never get rid of them that way.
Not to Kill a Sick Friend
The previous section, is, of course, not what really happens. Very few
people actually plot out moves to kill sick friends and family. Unfortunately,
the end results of thoughts and actions are the same. It is important
to realize where these thoughts and actions come from, in order to change
the end results.
There are differences
between disabilities that originate at birth and disabilities that happen
later. Both cause tremendous problems with our image of that sick or disabled
There is great grief
when a child is born with physical and/or mental impairment. Even before
a child is born, family and even friends have a predetermined image of
- what the child will
- what life will be
like with the child
- even what they will
like to do, or how they will earn a living.
When the dream child
doesn't arrive, it seems like instead of the person they expected, a stranger
has invaded the house. It is not surprising that the rate of divorce among
families with disabled children is higher than the national average.
When the illness or
accident occurs later, there is not only the grief of family or friends,
but now the particular disabled person has their own grief to sustain
as well. They have lost so much, it hurts just to talk about it, because
it overwhelms them and anyone who will listen.
Grief and loss accompany chronic illness and disability, but unless you're
affected, you may not realize the impact. Let's take a look at what can
be lost in chronic illness and disability:
There are also additions
to life that are not welcome:
- The Social
Security Disability System
- Medical system
- Family doubt,
Any of these alone would
be definitely uncomfortable - combine them and you have a very bleak picture
- without friends to stand by you.
The process of rebuilding
after such a big change is a decades-long task. It is a series of two
steps forward, three back that gradually, over years of time can improve.
But it is easier, faster, and more rewarding when you can share even the
smallest victory with a friend.
"F" Word - Fear
This is the main reason why you will not act on your impulse to remain
a friend. Because of the changes that have occurred, you are confused
and feel helpless in the situation. You don't know what to say, what to
do - so you say or do nothing. It is less work to let a friendship die
than to keep it alive.
But you're a busy person
- you have responsibilities. Where can you find time for someone who seems
to need so much? If there was any time to spend with them before they
were disabled, then you have to decide to make time again - if you are
But hospitals give
you the creeps. That's too bad. Let me tell you who's got a worse case
of the creeps - the patient! If you think they like it there, think again.
Hospitals are not designed for anyone to feel comfortable. Suck it up
and go visit.
word and your response
"I don't want
to hurt their feelings."
This is a common concern, and in some ways it can be hard to avoid. You
can try to walk in someone else's shoes, but in truth unless you could
actually trade bodies for a week, you will never have an idea what that
person's life is like. The trick, I guess, is to learn how to think before
you speak. Most adults have to learn to do this at work, in their families.
If you think it might hurt someone - don't say it. It's hard to do - but
like everything else in life, practice makes perfect.
"What do I
say to someone who is hurting?"
Would you feel less pressure if you didn't have to say anything at all?
Then relax, because sometimes the less you say the better. It is more
often your actions that will speak for you. And the action of listening
instead of persisting in idle chatter can mean so much more to someone
that still needs that shoulder of yours, even if it's getting a little
soggy. What does it cost to give a hug? What is the price of holding someone's
hand for a few minutes? What is the financial expenditure of a mild neck
rub, or an arm to lean on as they walk? Once you find that the human cost
of not doing these things is much more expensive, you will be ready to
be a friend.
This question has many answers, and many have come from disabled people
I know. These may not be hard and fast rules, and may need to be adjusted
for the situation, but they end up being universal.
"You look great!
Or, You're looking much better!"
This implies that you expect them to feel great, when that may not be
the case. Many illnesses and disabilities are invisible, and belie the
underlying pain and suffering accompanying them. Instead ASK how they
feel, and really listen. Take your cue for further comments about their
appearance from their answers.
"At least you're
not in a wheelchair."
What you don't hear is the rest of that statement. In response to that
comment, the disabled person may think "not yet, anyway - and then
I can count on you to say something else hurtful to me."
"At least you
can still (hear, see, walk)." Or, the classic: "You should count
If you have not experienced the loss, don't assume it's easy to discount
one. If you have, you are still too bitter to help anyone yet.
have tried to work two jobs."
Is it really your call to blame a sick person for their illness? No. Blame
is the most worthless concept on the planet. It accomplishes nothing,
except to hurt the target. This applies in all areas of life - there is
no reason for blame except to hurt someone. Try to remember who hurts
most when you blame yourself for anything. And how the situation remains
amazingly the same.
"You just haven't
found the right doctor."
And you can't understand what chronic illness/disability means. Some illnesses
make a person sick for many years without killing them. Pain, trouble
walking and working accompany this person every single day of their lives,
and there is no end in sight. If anything, there have been too many doctors
with too many conflicting answers. The probability of a cure is not an
issue - the necessity of living with illness is the only acceptable option.
Your acceptance of their reality impinges on the disabled person's acceptance
of life with illness/disability.
Even when you try,
things don't always work out ....
What if they say
no, they can't do whatever?
Let's say you asked them to lunch, or for coffee. The person says they
are not up to it now. Think about making a contact possible - on their
terms. What if you brought over some treat, stayed for a short time, and
gave a rain check for an outing for a week later? Maybe they are not able
to "entertain" and they feel pressure to entertain people that
come over. Can you think of a way to visit and be the entertainment so
they don't need to? Can you stop by with some food that can be warmed
up later for their dinner, not stay long, and then call them later in
What if they say
yes and cancel at the last minute?
This is common with chronic illnesses that ebb and flow, like Multiple
Sclerosis, Lupus, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, for example. The person
really wanted to go, gets psyched up for it, and when the day comes there
is physically no way they can go. They feel bad for disappointing you,
and they are disappointed in themselves. They can't control their bodies,
and that is frightening.
Can you save the
Are you flexible enough to translate their unpredictable health into your
talent for spontaneity? Rent a movie and bring it to them. Order a pizza,
or pick up sandwiches, and make it a small mini-party. After all, who
is going to miss you more - the Eagles or your friend?
They have a phone,
too - why don't they call me?
There is a difference in the dynamic when you call from when they call.
When you call, you always have something to offer, if only your companionship,
a kind word, an errand. When a sick person calls, it is an imposition
on your time, and no one wants to impose. They don't want to be a bother,
and if they have already had friends disappear into the woodwork, they'll
stop calling anyone just in case they feel they pushed others away with
"being needy." You need to make the call, and keep making the
What can I do for
Next time you head out to the grocery, try calling your pal and asking
if they need a few things, then get them. When you bring them by, no big
deal, no dramatics. You may slowly becoming an angel on earth, but you
don't have to tell anyone that.
Make the call
Don't give up
Don't give up
Don't give up
About the Author...
Sue Klaus, M.A.
I am a trained audiologist who worked with the hearing impaired for
11 years, while slowly being affected with the chronic illness called
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. More than 15 years after the illness started,
I would like to help people keep friendships alive even after life-changing
events. I have been on both sides of this dynamic, and have some insights
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