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Elaine Carey

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How to Talk to Sick People
by Elaine Carey   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Friday, March 12, 2004
Posted: Friday, December 12, 2003

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Do you know someone with a chronic illness? Want to cheer them up? Here are some things to say and do--and a few phrases to avoid at all cost!

     I have a chronic illness. It's permanent.  It might go underground (remission), but it will never go away.  I have friends who cheer me up, and friends who grind me down like vinegar poured on chalk.  Here are some things that really help me:

Pray for your friend--out loud, with her, if possible and practical

Talk to your friend about other interests in her life, not just her illness

Tell jokes

Ask questions about how the person feels--then listen to the response. 

Continue the friendship

Support other family members struggling with the illness of their loved one.


Then there are people who don't understand why I have an illness at my age (45) or why a person in my position (minister's wife) would be sick. 
Job of Bible fame told his friends, "You are miserable comforters."  We should practice positive comforting techniques. 


Don't: Tell the person that God doesn't want them to be sick, that more faith would erase the condition, etc. 

     Why not?  Chances are, the sick person is already having some mighty serious discussions with God, and won't appreciate you denigrating her faith. 

      Doesn't God want all sick people to be well?  He chose not to fix Paul's illness.  He allowed Satan to test Job.  Jesus healed people when they  needed to see that He could forgive sins.  But no place in the Bible says that all God's children will be wealthy and healthy--or how would we ever die and make the journey to heaven?  

Don't: Offer health advice unless it's solicited. 

Don't act as though their experience is just like your Aunt Flo's. 

Don't cite all the dire things that may happen. 

     I visit a lot of folks in the hospital with my husband.  When we see people who are terminally ill, they are usually working through the grief process.  They may be angry, feeling like doctors haven't done enough to help them.  They may deny the seiousness of their condition.  They may have worked through the anger and grief, and be accepting that death is imminent.  Wherever they are, they need a listening ear, a word of scripture, and a caring touch.  So do their families.  They need to know that God and the Christian community still care. 

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Reviewed by Darlene Caban
I'm on dialysis, and have heard the "God is punishing you!" line from a lot of people-- but I realized that these people were idiots long before I ever got sick! :) It almost seems that, on top of our illness, we have the additional cross of insensitive people to bear with. I'm considering making a t-shirt that says, "I May Be On Dialysis, But I Can STILL Kick Your Ass!" Humor is the way I'm dealing with my illness-- it really does help. Thanks for your article!
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
as a "Sick person" living with chronic illness and physical disability as a result of this illness, i know when people mean well, but end up being condescending towards me. It drives me CRAZY! If I need help, I'll tell 'em, but I DON'T want them helping me, even if I fall! If I fall, I can just get my crutches and pop myself back up onto my feet (and laugh my fool head off in the process!)! Great write with great advice; thanks for sharing, Bess! (((HUGS))) and much love, your friend, Karen Lynn (who knows what it is like to be "sick").
Reviewed by Bonita Quesinberry
Well said, Bess. You might want to read my article, Healing Not Guaranteed. As someone with MS, Lupus and a host of other disorders since age 12 (now almost 60), I've experienced both the good and bad conversations seemingly well-meaning people have with us of "so little faith." That gets me on my soapbox: because it angers God, too.
Love in Christ~~ Bonnie Q
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