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This is a hard subject because illness doesn’t just affect the person who is sick. It can take a toll on everyone near and dear to them.

Illness changes people. Being in pain changes people. Many who have experienced chronic pain or illness will readily remark that they often feel like they are losing themselves. Make no mistake, that person you love is still there. But they are being weighed down by the weight of the world at the moment and when your body doesn’t feel well, your mind follows. It can dampen your spirit and wear you down.

We often speak the phrase “How can I help?”

The answer to this is often thought of with action-based steps – bringing them something, doing something for them – completing a task or errand. While these things are often needed and can be very helpful especially if the person is currently physically limited, how you can really help is to make a point to share yourself with them. To be “In It”.

What does “in it” mean?

The concept of being “In it” with someone may seem confusing if you have never gone through anything with anyone. It just literally means be there. Let that person vent, let them talk things through out loud, don’t run if they cry – hug them. and if you happen to have a good sense of humor even better, even the worst things do have humorous aspects. Finding that is really helpful. Feeling alone “In it”, whatever IT may be makes it so much harder.

You need time-outs too

As a friend, confidant, or caregiver, you also need to set aside time to take care of yourself. You are important too. Be kind to yourself and if the person who is sick happens to be your spouse or partner it is important to realize that you can love and be in love with that person and still need and take time to do things you want to do and enjoy even if they can’t at the moment. The person who is sick needs to allow you the space and respect to do that. It is not their fault they are sick, so never aim the frustration and anger at them. Believe me, they feel it tenfold already. Voice your hurt, anger, and frustration with, not at. It will help both of you. They feel it too and it often goes unsaid.

Communication is key to dealing with illness and pain. It is also key to helping it heal. The more open everyone can be the better. Hopefully, time will pass, they will heal and get better, and life can move on for all of you. Should the situation be a terminal one, it can be a test of love and of the capacity you have to allow yourself to truly feel all that it means to be human including the purposeful allowing of your heart to shatter in the eventual saying goodbye. That means keeping your heart open and staying “in it” with your loved one or friend. Talk to them about what death and dying mean to them, even if it’s a child. Kids understand far more than we often give them credit for. It’s such a taboo subject that often all people will get is “oh you will be ok, chin up” when both parties know it’s a lie.

Acknowledgment and appreciation of the time left are so empowering. It’s a gift not many are strong enough to give and to those who get to receive it, it is a massive marker of the power of unconditional love.

Originally posted: How to “Be There” For Someone You Love Through Illness | Facebook

Author: Sarah Barendse