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How To Talk To Sick People (Stop saying "I Hope You Feel Better!" )

As someone with friends/family who are going through some shit, and who struggles with depression, I thought I would pass these thoughts along. This is not for someone who has a 24-hour stomach bug or a cold.

These tips are for people with ongoing illnesses, whether it's schizophrenia or cancer or lyme disease. The shit that's still there tomorrow, you know?

1. Don't say " I Hope You're Feeling Better!!"

Instead ask: How Are You Feeling? or What's Going On Today? What's Doing With You?" Let the sick person tell you how they are.


I'm sure you DO hope that they are feeling better. But what seems to come across is that you sure don't want to hear it/can't handle it if they don't. If they are feeling better they will tell you. They also need the freedom to say if they are not feeling better.

They have shared with you that they don't feel well, that puts them in a vulnerable position. Treat that as the gift that it is.

2. Quit the mind over matter shit. Someone told my friend with horrible arthritis that if she just didn't think about it, she'd feel better.

When you're in pain, you can't NOT think about it. (my mother once said that to me about a migraine - that I should just push the pain away. HAHAHA. no. I vomited all over her car shortly thereafter)


3. Don't ever say to someone with a mental illness - "snap out of it!" or "Just pretend to be happy and you'll be happy." If they could snap out of it, they would. They can (and do) pretend to be happy to make you happy. It does not make them happy.

4. Instead of "Let me know if there's anything you need." That puts the onus on them to ask and they don't want to be a burden. Say " I can do XX YY and ZZ, does any of that work for you?"


Here are a few specific suggestions:

- Laundry -Grocery Shopping - Housecleaning -Babysitting -Company during Chemo -Meal delivery -Gardening -Animal Care -Pick-up/Drop-off


5. Have other things to talk about.

My friend who went through chemo just wanted company through the treatments. Her one request was that we not talk about cancer or chemo unless she brought it up. Funny stories were requested. She said she was just so tired of the "How ARE you" cancer chronicles. She just didn't want to talk about being sick all the time.


6. Ask before you send links/info/quackery. My friend with cancer was endlessly receiving books and emails and crap from people who swore that if she just ate more blueberries, her cancer would go away. She was doing acupuncture and massage and working with her doctor. That was her plan.

Ask. I can look up some clinical trials if you're interested. My friend also had breast cancer and she got a lot of relief from mouth sores from XXX, do you want me to find out more?


If they say no, STOP. Do not continue badgering the patient. They know you have good intentions. Move on.

Other thoughts/suggestions welcome.

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