Friday, July 26, 2013

How To Express Love & Support To Those With Chronic Illness (Part 1)

I'm so thankful for the many people who have expressed their love and support to me over the last 9 years! Living with EI or any chronic illness is a huge challenge. Having support from others is vital.

So today's post (and next week's) will be for those who know others with chronic illness, and want to bless and encourage them, but aren't sure how.

(If you live with chronic illness, perhaps you can refer your friends and family to these posts as a helpful resource.) 

From my personal experiences and observations, I thought of some basic "Do's" and "Don'ts." This week is the list of "Don'ts," and next week will be the "Do's." 

Don'ts -

1) Never place blame on the sick person. 
Blame is a form of accusation, and all accusation comes from the enemy. Even if the person might have in part brought on their illness (such as from smoking, alcohol abuse, etc.), blaming them is not loving, it's not God's way. Blame doesn't bring healing, it only makes the problem worse.

2) Generally speaking, don't offer medical advice or suggestions. 
If you find helpful health information that you really think will benefit someone, pray about it for a week before saying anything. Make sure you have peace from God that He wants you to share it. If so, then present the information in a no strings attached, "do whatever you think is best" approach. Provide the information, then leave it up to the person to decide.

Or, if the person has a caregiver, you can share the information with them and they can decide whether to pass it on or not. 

Obviously, I'm very thankful for the people who shared certain health information and doctor recommendations with me. However, there were a lot of other suggestions that didn't work for me or made me worse. Remember that everyone is different and most things don't work for everyone. 

3) Don't involve the person in a stressful conversation, unless absolutely necessary. 
Those with chronic illness have a very low stress tolerance. And something that doesn't seem stressful to you, can be overwhelming to them. 

This also includes avoiding conversations about negative things such as the bad state of politics, terrible results of natural disasters, etc. Try to focus on positive topics instead.

If there is a genuine need to discuss something stressful, give the person a heads-up so they know it's coming. Then set a time limit and don't prolong the conversation. And be sure to affirm them personally throughout the conversation so they are reassured of your love, acceptance, and support. 

4) Don't place expectations on the person.
Living with chronic illness is a continual battle against discouragement. Expectations from others only fuel a negative cycle of frustration and despair. 

Most people with chronic illness don't need "motivation." They need unconditional acceptance. Don't expect them to do what you do, or even to be like they used to be when they were healthy. Accept them where they are and trust God that He is working out a good plan for them even through the illness.

5) Don't make assumptions about the person's thoughts or behaviors. 
For years my life was so crazy that I didn't know what to do with it, let alone how to explain it to others. Many times people easily could have made wrong assumptions about me based on my seemingly inconsistent behavior. I was simply trying to survive the roller-coaster of my life, but from an outside perspective I'm sure it didn't make sense. 

Please don't assume you know the reasons for a person's actions or what they're thinking. Recognize that you don't understand what their life is like. Choose to believe the best instead of assuming the worst. 

6) Don't give up.
For many people chronic illness can drag on for years. It takes a special commitment to continue caring about that person. But it means the world to them to know you haven't given up on them. 

Even if all you do is send an email once a month that says "I'm thinking of you and praying for you" - keep reaching out in some way to let them know you care. Every thought or prayer is your opportunity to bless them. And you will be blessed as you continue to be part of God's work in their life.

I'm so grateful for the people in my life who didn't blame me, place expectations on me, or make assumptions about me. They didn't give up on me, but continued to pray for and encourage me. It's hard enough to endure a chronic illness. Having understanding, supporting people in your life makes such a difference! 

I hope these tips will help you in expressing your support to others more effectively. 

Any questions or comments?

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