First it's good to know the difference between empathy vs. sympathy. Empathy as described in a Grammarly Blog, "is a term we use for the ability to understand other people's feelings as if we were having them ourselves. We Sympathy on the other hand refers to the ability to take part in someone else's feelings, mostly by feeling sorrowful about their misfortune."
In a recent study Chia's Silver Lining conducted in May of 2019, most people going through cancer treatment, felt their close friends and family were aware of their emotional distress but didn't feel they were able to connect with others that understood what they were going through. The result, was a range of feelings that included feeling isolated and lonely.
As a two-time cancer survivor myself, I realize that most people just don't know what to say or how to be helpful. Honestly, as I was going through chemotherapy with two young children as a single mom, what I felt and what I needed could change moment by moment. My underling feelings included, not wanting to worry anyone unnecessarily or be a burden to others.
I have found a few really pertinent suggestions that ring true. The first few items can be found from WebMd.
- It's normal with cancer to experience all kinds of fears, sadness, and worries. Be a good empathetic listener.
- Good intentions can lead to thoughtless words.
For starters, don't ask about what kind of cancer they have or what stage. If they want you to know they will tell you. Did you know that most people today do not die from cancer? If you do have questions about the nitty gritty details of a cancer, go to National Cancer Institute.
While you know your loved one is strong and you hope they will beat their illness, don't say that. While it is a wonderful vote of confidence and well meaning, when your sick and people do die from cancer, it can make them feel worse. I remember saying to myself, " How do you know I will be alright? Are you God? Is your crystal ball working?
Don't suggest alternative treatments or suggest what they are eating or not eating is causing them to be sick or will make them well. I remember someone saying to me that I was sick because my PH was acidic and not alkaline enough. Actually my PH was normal, but I had cancer in my blood. It was a DNA issue. Treatment plans are very personal and are between the Oncologist and the patient.
Alice G Walton wrote in Forbes, Steve Jobs told his biographer that he came to regret the decision he had made years earlier to reject potentially life-saving surgery in favor of alternative treatments like acupuncture, dietary supplements and juices. Though he ultimately embraced the surgery and sought out cutting-edge experimental methods, they were not enough to save Steve Jobs from cancer.
- Avoid saying, "If there's anything I can do, let me know." Instead be specific and help your loved one think about what would be helpful. Chia's Silver Lining was created to make gifting easy for your loved one. All of our products are vetted out for the highest quality and comfort.
- Be of Service. Beyond gifts, your loved one may need help with their kids, getting to and from functions or school. Sometimes at a moments notice because they might be suddenly unwell. Be flexible and give your availability so they know when they can call on you.
- Thoughtful well curated gifts are a wonderful option if you want to show you care. Chia's Silver Lining has products that are curated to soothe the effects of treatment and recovery. Discover and Shop Now.
Truly, any effort you take will most likely be met with appreciation and gratitude, no matter how small or grand.