The following is a writing by Jennifer Acee, a group participant at Cancer Support Community-Redondo Beach (CSC-RB). CSC-RB is a nonprofit organization that offers over 150 FREE monthly programs of Emotional Support, Education and Hope to cancer patients and their loved ones. Jennifer was recently treated for stage II Breast Cancer and is a mother of two.
A Good Friend in Bad Times
On Tuesday evenings, I spend two hours with my friends at Cancer Support Community-Redondo Beach. Other newly-diagnosed women and I sit in a circle of cushy chairs and couches and talk about coping and suffering. We cry a little and we listen a lot.
I didn’t want to join a support group. I wanted to be at home enjoying my family with my limited energy, not going out to listen to other people’s woes when I am already heavy with my own. But thankfully, I was cajoled into trying it out.
The ladies teach me so much about what is to come; I learn from their experiences and advice over the coming year. I do not feel quite so alone.
Tonight we talk about support—the good and the bad that we each receive. From my own experiences and from those of my group, please allow me to share a brief summary of some suggestions for showing support to someone going through a major adversity:
- Be a friend and be present: What would you want your friends to do for you if you were the one in the trying life situation? Don’t be shy, jump in there and do, say, and be a kind giver. Whatever you do, don’t say or do nothing.
- With consistency: Call, stop by, send cards with consistency; prove that your concern is not fleeting, but real and available. And don’t expect much in return amidst their crisis, even if that means unanswered emails or unreturned phone calls. Persist anyway.
- Bring food: Provide healthy meals or snacks; fill their freezer; take them out to lunch; bake them cookies. Basic needs become a major stressor when life is hitting you with hard stuff. Food, help cleaning, running errands, etc - any help maintaining the practical is valuable.
- Listen: You may worry that you don’t know what to say, but actually, you probably are needed more for your ears than your mouth. Let the person vent without feeling like you need to interject your take. Your questions show your concern.
- Uplift: If someone genuinely inspires you, tell them. Your encouragement can be more helpful than you might think. Offer this gesture to those close and distant alike; you don’t have to know the person well to tell them something positive. Some of the most moving gestures come from complete strangers.
There it is, just be considerate and consistent. Oh, and bring food.
Jennifer also blogs at lovelywithaside.blogspot.com.