A Friend’s Help at a Difficult Time
At a recent talk, I was asked what to say to a friend whose elderly parent is near death. Depending on the situation, it’s probably disingenuous to speak in optimistic tones about recovery. Yet the pain of the impending loss is great, and talk of the loved one in the past tense may be insensitive. So, what to say?
First, offer to help – in big ways and small ones. Is there a need for transportation of children? Other family members? Will others in the family be coming in from out of town? Do they need logistical support? Can you help with meal preparation? Are there any obligations that you can help with? Errands of various sorts?
Though you may not see the need to say it, be sure the friend knows that the parent’s illness is not your friend’s fault. They did not cause this. Nature can sometimes be cruel, and people are not necessarily to blame for illness. Certainly, a family member is generally not responsible. This may seem an obvious point, but you would be surprised to learn how often others feel a measure of guilt when a loved one becomes sick, and especially when they die.
Your friend should be told how much they meant to their parent and how much better their parent’s life was because of your friend. Again, this may seem obvious, but the point here is to remind your friend that they were a positive factor and a source of joy to their parent. Tell your friend how very proud their parent was of them.
If no words seem appropriate, that’s OK. The important thing is to just be there for your friend. A comforting presence is more valuable that an empty and endless stream of words. So if words seem hollow, just a hug will do.
If you have a comment or question about this blog entry, email Dr. Roffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Joel Roffman has spoken to many church, synagogue and support groups. His book, Coping with Adversity: Judaism’s response to illness and other life struggles is enjoyable, uplifting and informative. It is meant for people of all faiths and can be viewed at www.copingwithadversity.com. It is available at Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Amazon.com.