The Mighty Logo

5 Things To Say to Your Chronically Ill Friend Instead Of 'Get Well Soon'

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

One of the most consistently awkward moments in the world of chronic illness is the “get well” message. Well-meaning friends often end up using phrases that better apply to the flu, and accidentally irritate the sick person. While I’m not dying tomorrow, I won’t be better by Sunday either. Most “Get Well” cards assume that whatever illness you’ve got is curable and temporary, not the start of a long-term relationship with multiple doctors. So what can a friend say that communicates caring and acknowledges the seriousness of the situation?

1. “That sounds really challenging. Where should I go to learn more about your condition?”

I like this one because it acknowledges what I’m up against and also makes me feel like they want to understand. Having to explain a complicated medical condition to people, while fatigued, over and over is so frustrating. This way, friends can educate themselves then move on to other topics.

2. “You may not feel it right now, but you’re strong. If you need a little break from that, I’ll still be here with you.”

For me, being strong and sick means putting on the brave face of unshaken normalcy. Eventually, that just takes too much energy and causes a lot of physical and mental pain. There’s fear that friends won’t stick around for the unvarnished moments. I always appreciate it when people let me know they’re still going to be there, makeup or not.

3. “I’m sorry this is happening to you– you don’t deserve it. You’re doing your best with a really awful situation, and no can do better than that.”

OK, let me say this: no one deserves to be sick. Yeah, that applies to mental and physical health. Pain is pain. So let’s not assume that anyone is not trying just because we lack understanding. Maybe we should be the ones trying harder to be decent friends or caregivers – just sayin’. Be the person who says, “You’ve got this.”

4. “What sounds fun right now? We can still hang out, just clue me in.”

Old activities might be too strenuous, but there are a lot of chill ways to hang out. Make a dent in your Netflix queue, listen to music, surf YouTube, do a little holiday decorating or even go for a drive to chat on a park bench. Just do something, because connecting with friends is so much more important than an of-the-moment, cool activity. Having supportive friends that know you, illness and all, is awesome.

5. “This sucks, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise.”

Yep, just that. Much of the time, I simply need to be real about it. There are still things I can do, and my life has value, but the inherent limitations are frustrating. I find that letting myself feel mad about it for a moment frees me up to be joyful later. No fake feelings! Hey, it can suck for the friends, too. Your partner-in-crime doesn’t have the same zippy energy; you’re allowed to feel frustrated, too. We don’t need to feel everything in isolation, so talk about it and process together.

I hope this helps you, whether you’re sick or trying to be there for someone else. Being positive and optimistic doesn’t mean you don’t understand reality, and you can still take a moment to be angry. Just let it be a moment, not a month. Friends are great for that, because they bring a fresh energy to the room. We don’t need perfect words; I believe we just need God, each other and another “Gilmore Girls” revival.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: January 12, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home