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5 Ways to Comfort Someone With Chronic Pain Without Pitying Them

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When someone you love is in pain, it can be difficult to know what to do to help them. I personally know how the people who love me help me in my journey with chronic pain, but I cannot always be certain how to help a loved one of mine deal with their own pain or struggle if I have not faced them myself. I don’t believe anyone ever wants pity. Ever.

I do not talk about chronic pain, although it is always there — coping mechanisms have done wonders for me as I have trained my brain to not think about pain. However, now that I am writing about my 20-year life with chronic pain, word has gotten out: “Jessica Martin has had chronic pain all these years.” Someone really should have told me about this whole internet thing — talk about word spreading fast! I’m kidding, I want to reach as many people as I can in order to help as many people with chronic pain as I can. But, I truly get such negative energy when a person says to me, “Oh my God. I am so sorry. I feel so bad for you. Tell me about your pain. That is just so terrible.”

Their heart is in the right place, but I do not want anyone to feel sorry for me or look at me differently because I have an invisible illness. Yes, I have had chronic pain for over 20 years; 10 of them have been pretty awesome, though. So what should a loved one of a person with chronic pain say or do to help him or her? These are five things I would have loved to have heard.

1. “I have no idea what you must be going through, but I love you and I will do my best to understand and be there for you.”

2. “I believe you.”

3. “You are such a strong person. I know you can get through this and I will stand by you why you muddle through this.”

4. “If there is anything I can do, please tell me. Even if you just want a shoulder to cry on.”

5. “I am so proud to know you and be a part of your life.”

My dad was the greatest caregiver one could ever meet. He never once doubted me and was at every doctor’s appointment with me and never gave up on me. He never showed pity, fear, or gave up. He showed me love, compassion, and empowered me to make my hardest step in my journey with chronic pain: acceptance and learning how to manage it naturally. He never pushed anything, and if/when he did he backed off. He forgave me for my mistakes when I was in my darkest hours of chronic pain and he had such empathy, as if he had chronic pain himself. He never lost hope and I would not be here today without him.

Sometimes there really is only one thing a person can do to help another who is in pain: Love them and show compassion. I hate to get all 1960s-John-Lennon on everyone, but honestly, sometimes all you need is love. Some things cannot be fixed, and for me that is chronic pain. I am on the other side of my disease now and managing it very well, but I still need love and words of encouragement such as, “I know you do not talk about your pain, but I am so proud of you.” We all need love and encourage from our loved ones at times. Sometimes I want to wear a shirt that says, “I have chronic pain, I am in a great place but I would love some positive reinforcement because some days or moments are quite difficult. PS: I do not want to talk about pain.”

If you remember nothing from this post, remember that people may not want pity for any pain they are enduring. It can make that pain worse. They likely want love and a sense of empathy. We all do.

Follow this journey on No One Gets Flowers for Chronic Pain.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us one thing your loved ones might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. What would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: April 29, 2016
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