When a Friend is Ill

What You Should Know When a Friend is Ill

  • It is important to know that when someone is ill, they may not look ill. There are many types of illness and even the same diagnosis can manifest itself differently in each individual. Even serious illness can be invisible.
  • Recognize that you do not need to know every single detail of the illness and the treatment. The person who is ill might not fully understand it all himself or herself, which can be very scary. It is up to the person and their family to decide how much information they want to share about the illness.
  • A person who is ill can have a wide range of emotions. The fear of the unknown and the reality of learning you are ill can be a major blow. Expect your friend’s mood and feelings to fluctuate. Try to be understanding and compassionate with your friend through the ups and downs.
  • Expect your friend, at times, to continue laughing, having fun and doing the things they did before the illness. The person continues to be the same self and wants to keep living life as normally as possible.

What Your Friend Might be Feeling

  • I feel angry. Why is this happening to me?
  • I’m sick of people asking me questions.
  • I feel something but don’t know how to describe it.
  • I’m sick of everyone bugging me.
  • I just want everything to be like it was.
  • Everyone always wants me to talk, but I don’t always feel like talking.
  • I just want to be normal.
  • I want to be doing what my friends are doing.
  • I don’t understand why this has to happen to me.
  • There are some questions I want to answer and some that I don’t. There are questions I don’t even know how to answer!

Trying to understand what your friend is going through can help you be more compassionate and kind. Think about how you might want to be treated if you were in a similar position.

Ways to Offer Support

  • Talk to the person who is ill. Let them know that you are here for him or her, even if you don’t know the exact words to say.
  • Don’t worry so much about saying the wrong thing. There are no magic words to make your friend feel better, but knowing that friends care will mean a lot.
  • Tell your friend you are there to help, and follow through if/when the person does ask for help.
  • Just be with them.
  • Listen. Listen. Listen.
  • Include your friend in the same things you always have.
  • Invite them to spend time with you and other friends.
  • Respect that your friend may want to have alone time now and then.
  • Watch for behavior that is out of the ordinary. You may need to enlist the help of an adult.