I find myself at odds with our October theme, because I find myself facing situations I can only dream of finishing.
My 21-year-old son has been diagnosed with a second chronic condition, and I am in the middle of learning as much as I can as fast as I can to help him make some very important decisions. At the same time I’m having to navigate a whole new set of dietary requirements sometimes at odds with those of other members of the household.
I believe in a God who cares, I believe in a God who is good. Yet my son faces a situation which, barring a miracle, affects the rest of his life. We’ve read, we’ve prayed, we’ve believed.
Still we face the same situation.
We are also discovering that a lot of people, including Christians find it particularly difficult to know how to respond to people facing conditions that are not going to change. Depending on the type of church you attend, the responses you get vary, but rarely do people respond in a way that those facing these conditions wish they did.
So, if someone close to you or just someone you work with or who is in your church is living with a chronic condition, or invisible illness, what can you do?
- Don’t let them feel invisible. It’s OK to say to them, “I don’t know what to say but I’m here and I care.”
- Include them in the things you are doing. Continue to invite them to events even if they hardly ever make it due to complications of their condition. They appreciate the invitation even if they can’t make it.
- Equally, don’t be offended if they are at an event and just need some alone time for a while or need to leave early.
- Ask them what life is like for them? Get them to explain a day in their life. Let them educate you if they feel up to it.
- Don’t assume just because they manage activity x they should also be able to manage activity y.
- Don’t assume just because they can manage activity x on a Monday they should also be able to manage it on a Tuesday.
- If you KNOW that their condition is long term and unlikely to get better be careful with the phrase “Get well soon” or any equivalent phrases such as “are you feeling better today?“ Instead you might like to try something like ”be AWAP,” which is “Be as well as possible”.
- Don’t tell them about this miracle herbal supplement you’ve been taking that you are sure will solve their problem, no matter how much you believe in it. Just don’t.
- If you’re going to the store, ask them if there’s anything you can pick up for them. Offer to have their kids over for an afternoon to play with your kids, with no agenda or expectation of a return favor. Other practical suggestions work well too, but don’t be offended if they say “no, thanks.”
- If it’s a member of your church and you are in any kind of position of leadership, ask them if there is anything your church can do to make getting to or being at church easier for them.
- Don’t expect them to be thankful FOR their condition or suggest God gave it to them even if you add “for a reason.”
- Ask them how you can pray for them. Ask what their most pressing current need is and then actually follow through and pray for them.
And in our case this one — if that person is a guy, particularly if they are in their teens or a young adult, be really aware there is so little out there on the internet for them.
Most of the chronic illness websites and message boards tend to be run by women and populated mainly by women. Most of the articles, memes, pins and videos on “self-care” are also aimed at women.
Seriously, I hadn’t realized how female-centric that section of the internet was until I went looking. It’s all “hug a fluffy puppy, buy yourself some flowers, and do your nails” etc. So if your friend is a guy, you might need to be a bit more inventive in your support of them, but that doesn’t mean they need it any less.
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