I’ve just found out that a very good friend of mine is sick. She has been diagnosed with Cancer and she’s only 33 years old. I feel awful; my heart aches for her and her family and it seems like I can never find quite the right words to express how I feel toward her.
What can I say to her so she’ll understand my devotion to helping her through this hard time? I don't want to pretend that I know what she is feeling but I want to convey my empathy and support. What can I do for her? Is there anything that I shouldn't say or do? Loyal Lourdes
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Dear Loyal Lourdes
I am sure that your friend knows how much you care about her. If you are feeling awkward and nervous don’t be; just relax and be there for her. The last thing that she wants is for people to be feeling uncomfortable.
It’s important to remember to drop in often and not to stay away. Distance will only make her feel alienated. Call whenever you are thinking of her, write a note, send some food or her favorite magazines to make her feel loved. Do specific things for her to help out that she’s unable to do herself, such as: run errands, get her dry cleaning, food shop, babysit, etc.. She’ll get the message; actions speak louder than words.
When the time is right, ask her if she wants to talk about her diagnosis. Let her lead the conversation; she’ll open up to you when/if she’s ready. Forcing her to talk about it may only make her feel depressed and sad. Keep your ears open when she’s speaking. Don’t do a lot of talking, just encourage her to express herself. Show support by being understanding, patient and loving to her.
There is one thing to be aware of when talking with her. Don’t speak openly about your fears. Talking to her about what makes you feel scared isn’t going to help her to feel better. She’s the one who needs comforting now; she’s really not in the position to help you to feel better about her illness. I hope this helps you.