When a friend or loved one is living with a painful illness it can be difficult to know how best we can help. Painful conditions can vary in intensity from day to day, the symptoms can come and go and are often not visible. Here are 5 ways you can help your friend or loved one.
Don’t stop inviting friends or loved ones to join in with activities.
Pain can be isolating. Living with pain can make it both physically and emotionally difficult to interact and be sociable. Plans might have to be cancelled at short notice or are turned down in the first place. But this shouldn’t stop you inviting your friends for dinner, to go see a film or meet up for a coffee.
When you invite someone living with pain let them know that the invite isn’t mandatory. If they have to drop out at the last minute, that’s ok. A ‘no obligation invite’ is one that someone living with pain may feel more comfortable accepting.
Don't take a "no" personally.
When a friend or loved one is ill, of course we want to see them, make them feel better or just keep them company. However, for someone living with pain the unpredictability of their conditions may make it difficult. They may not want you to come. Please don’t take it personally, keep trying. Saying ‘no’ to your visit or invitation isn’t a reflection on your friend or loved one’s feelings for you but rather on how they are feeling that day.
Don't touch without asking first.
When you do see your friends or loved ones always check first before giving that hug. People with illnesses that cause pain like fibromyalgia can be sensitive to touch so they may be pleased to see you but your hug could cause their condition to flare up.
Be supportive and encouraging but watch the advice!
We all want to help our friends and loved ones but try not to offer advice to people living with pain about what they should or should not be doing. Suggesting treatments or supplements you’ve read about isn’t a good idea unless you know your friend or loved one would welcome that.
Maybe no advice but do offer your help.
Offer to make meals, help with food shopping, pick up the dry cleaning and make time to be patient and listen if your friend or loved one wants to talk or ask for your opinion or help - it might take them time to put their thoughts into words.
If you’re worried that your friend might not feel able to accept your help it might be easier if you present it as something you’re already doing. For example:
- I’m going to the supermarket today. Do you need anything?
- I’m heading into town tomorrow. Is there anything I can pick up for you while I’m there?
- I’m taking the kids to the park on Saturday, if your kids want to go too I can pick them up on the way.
When each day feels like a constant battle one of the best things you can do for a friend or loved one living with pain is the assurance that you’ll be there for them. Being in pain can be lonely.
Explaining Your Pain
Persistent pain (sometimes called chronic or long-term pain) is described as ‘pain that continues for three months or more and may not respond to standard medical treatment.
This article helps to explain what is going on when people have persistent pain, how they feel and what they can do about it.