How to Support Your Loved One When Illness Strikes

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Some people believe that suffering from a life-threatening illness is the worst fate you could suffer. But for others, the worst fate is watching someone they love suffer. 

When you truly love someone, you want nothing more than to solve their problems, especially when those problems involve pain and suffering. But unfortunately, you can’t always fix someone else’s problems. You can research alternative medical treatments, but you can’t force someone to take them. In many cases, the best you can do is play a supporting role in their journey. 

Here are a few ways you can support your loved one when illness strikes.

Avoid judgment 

One of the worst things about your current position is that you have a strong desire to fix things, but you have very little control. Your loved one may make decisions that you don’t necessarily agree with. And in some cases, you may even believe your loved one put his or herself in this position. This isn’t the case with all illnesses, but people are more likely to blame the person struggling with addiction, depression, and sometimes even diabetes or heart disease. But it’s important to resist the urge to judge. No one really chooses any illness, so try to show compassion in all cases.

Don’t make it about you

As you go through this journey together, remember that this isn’t about you. That may seem obvious, but it’s worth the reminder. You are going through your struggles, for sure. But now is not the time to burden your loved one with the weight of how the illness is affecting you. 

With that said, you will need support. It’s okay to talk about your struggles and the emotional drain of the process. Actually, it’s quite healthy. Just be sure to find the right person to talk to. If you don’t have someone you trust, consider reaching out to a professional counselor. 

Take care of yourself

When you board an airplane, a flight attendant will give a speech about how you should put on your oxygen mask before helping anyone else. If you were ever in that situation with a child, you can imagine that would be a difficult thing to do because you want so badly to protect him or her above all else. But it’s important because you can’t help someone else breathe unless you are breathing yourself. You may think you can help them first, and get to yourself later, but what if you can’t? What if you run out of oxygen while putting on your loved one’s mask? The mask is only the beginning. Now, they face the rest of their journey towards safety without you. 

Helping someone with an illness is a similar situation. You can’t successfully help someone else if you aren’t in a good position to help yourself. 

To solve this problem, make sure you’re not spreading yourself too thin. If you’re having trouble identifying when you need a break, try taking a scheduled day (or even an hour) each week for yourself. During this time, do something that relaxes you and nourishes your soul. Avoid crutches like alcohol, and opt for positive outlets instead. You may consider doing something like exercise, dance or taking a break to laugh with a good friend. 

When someone you love is suffering, they aren’t suffering alone. Everyone who loves that person feels the pain and wants to help. But it’s important to remember that you’re in a supporting role and not leading this charge. Do your best to be an advocate for this person, but avoid trying to take over or focus too heavily on your involvement. Your loved one needs your support right now, and you’re the best person to give it.