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How do you comfort someone whose loved one is very sick?

A very close friend of mine is down in Florida looking after his dad who is in the hospital. His dad has been pretty sick for years now: diabetes, has had a couple of strokes, etc. He had a minor heart attack, I'm not sure if this is his first or not and he's on a respirator. Overall, it's pretty bad, to the point where it's unknown if he will pull through.


I'm all the way up here. I have texted offering any help needed and have sent a couple small things to cheer him up (I think I sent over jeffg's puppy blog) and generally let him know I'm thinking about him.


I'm sure some of you have been in the same position as my friend. What actions have friends taken that really helped things be less awful for you?

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squintygirl

When my husband was very ill, his brothers and cousins, who live in Ottawa, would call me almost every day, just to let me cry. My family always told me to not cry, to be strong, but I couldn't handle it. It was helpful to me to have people who let me do what I needed to do without telling me that I was doing it wrong, or extolling empty platitudes.

Just continue to be his friend, it's something he will always remember about you when he thinks back on this difficult period in his life.

ginetteginette
ginetteginette profile pic Alumni

It's difficult to gauge what you aught to do because everyone deals with grief differently. Some people prefer to go through it quietly and on their own and others feel better from having other people around to talk to.

I think what you've done already is great and all you really need to do is, as you have already done, communicate that you are there for him if he needs to talk. Also talking about things completely separate from the grief he's dealing with is great too, because who knows how many messages he's getting from family and friends already, sometimes there's an overkill of pity that can kind of make a person feel worse. It's good to have conversations where you can get a break from that. ♥

Omair

I've never really known what to say in these situations. But I think it's not so much what you say to try and make things better, but the fact that you're around in their time of need.

I feel like you can't really expect to be able to say some magic words that will just automatically make things okay. They may still be sad even after you talk to them, but that doesn't mean they dont' appreciate it.

Kookaberry
Kookaberry profile pic Alumni

Oh, Omair, I know that there aren't magic words. I'm just wondering, anecdotally, what has helped other people feel better when they are grieving. Is it good to distract them, let them vent, both? Is it good to offer general help or specific help? Is it good to reach out to them or just tell them that they can reach out to you?

I guess I'm wondering what level of proactiveness is wanted and not overwhelming.

I have been so fortunate to never go through something like this, so I don't know.

ginetteginette
ginetteginette profile pic Alumni

I think sometimes the only thing you can do is follow your friend's lead. If you guys are talking and he brings up his father, be open to listening. If he doesn't bring up his dad, maybe he doesn't want to talk about it at that moment.

I think you're doing fine though.

DesignbyProxy
DesignbyProxy profile pic Alumni

^ what Ginette said. A friendly ear is always welcome. There may not need to be advice given at all, just be willing to be a good friend, and listen if they want to talk.

As someone who lost 2 relatives, a very close friend, and a mentor in the past year, the main thing that really helped me, was just being able to talk to someone, in friendly conversation, not necessarily specifically about the people, but I think you know what I mean.

Kookaberry
Kookaberry profile pic Alumni

I'm so sorry to heat that, Rolf.

Kookaberry
Kookaberry profile pic Alumni

His dad is still in the ICU on a breathing machine and has been receiving dialysis. He's still super drugged up too, cause of the breathing tube. My friend just texted me and told me that the docs are giving his dad the weekend to improve and then will meet on Monday to talk about living wills.

Is it annoying to give the same platitudes over and over? All I can really do is say that I am thinking about his family, I'm sorry, stay strong, positive vibes, etc. Does that become annoying?

Additionally, it may be a possibility that his dad stays on a slow decline for the next few weeks/months/etc. I know a lot about alternative end-of-life care like palliative care. When is that appropriate to bring up. Is it appropriate? Hospitals are a crappy place to spend the rest of your days, and most people don't know about alternatives. Is that being too nosey or presumptuous. Could he just get mad at me for thinking of that possibility and bringing it up?

ThePaperCrane
ThePaperCrane profile pic Alumni

I think it is really important for your friends to be there if you need them when times are really bad. Like ginette said everyone responds differently but I guess a good friend will know what is needed. I think the most important thing is to talk about it and be there to listen if they need to talk. I am speaking from experience but one which is the opposite to what I have stressed above. When my little sis died my friends did not really know how to approach it and no one really talked about it. I think people often think you shouldn't bring it up, but I feel the opposite. I lost contact with a lot of friends after. In my view I think blokes are a bit worse at being supportive and making sure you are just ok.

Kookaberry
Kookaberry profile pic Alumni

That's so awful but it's not hard to understand why. Western societies are NOT taught how to grieve. I'm so sorry for your loss, that's literally the worst thing that could ever happen to me (I also have a little sis).

ThePaperCrane
ThePaperCrane profile pic Alumni

Thanks it was 7 years ago now so things are easier but you are right death is a bit of a taboo really. I mean it is all over the news and in most films and TV but we still don't seem able to talk about it openly. They certainly don't teach you about it in school and it is not mentioned much in most homes so you have to just find your own way of dealing with it. Funny really as it is the one thing we are bound to and possibly our greatest fear and great unknown.

littlem

It is not easy to know how to act, even if you've experienced it. I agree with being there for your friend. I also think it's important to let that person know that it is always okay to talk to you.
I always tell people that I may not always have any advice for them, but that I'm willing to listen and offer a shoulder to lean on or to cry upon. Everyone has their own way of dealing with things. He's lucky to have someone like you, who cares about comforting him throughout this difficult process.

Musarter
Musarter profile pic Alumni

^what littlem said is great. I have been in the situation of grief myself so I know from experience. People did not know how to act around me and some people just drifted away. The people that made the biggest difference were there for me; they did not offer advice, or really talk about the situation (unless I went there) but they were an ear to talk to, human that was present, and a pleasant distraction. That is what I needed.

Kookaberry
Kookaberry profile pic Alumni

So...his dad died this afternoon. This really sucks.

littlem

wow. i'm so, so sorry. i hope he and his family will find peace soon. sending positive vibes your way.

WarDrobeInSpareOom

Oh, damn. Poor John.

Dealing with illness is something I've luckily had to deal with very little. You can tell him I'm thinking of him, too. He's been nothing but incredibly nice to me, and I hate that he has to go through this.

Kookaberry
Kookaberry profile pic Alumni

I'll pass the word on DeeAnn, I'm sure he'll greatly appreciate that. I'm not used to dealing with this kind of thing, either. I've been incredibly lucky.

I got to meet his dad in February this year. I immediately adored him. He's this cantankerous, sarcastic old bugger with this wry sense of humor. In other words, we're two peas in a pod and spent the whole trip getting each other's goats. Apparently one of John's favorite moments was when I got into Dad's freezer where he was stashing his mini Snickers he wasn't supposed to have and I slowly ate them while he glared at me from his La-Z Boy. Haha. I love that guy and it sucks that I didn't get to spend more time with him.

ThePaperCrane
ThePaperCrane profile pic Alumni

Sorry to hear the sad news.

taz-pie

oh man. it is so hard to lose your dad (i know from experience). it kinda makes you feel like an orphan, even if you still have your mom.

just be there for your friend, like everyone else said.

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