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"Hi. So… My friend’s grandpa is sick and he’s in the hospital and stuff and I never ever know what to say when she brings it up. I usually sit quietly/awkwardly and do my best to be supportive but it always seems so lame. What are you supposed to say when someone mentions that someone they love is sick with an inoperable tumour? Help. I’m really tired of not being supportive enough."

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

Ugh, this is so fucking hard and I am both sorry for your friend and for your struggle with being there for your friend.

I went through a similar situation with my BestFriendForForever, and I went the route of trying to be the constant in her life. I was the idiot who made jokes and sang Miley Cyrus and danced with the WII game (oops i’m not hip) and would sit in her living room watching Veronica Mars and eating Thai food. I noticed a lot of people were saying they were sorry and looking at her like the world was crumbling. And they were right, her world was crumbling and we all felt that overwhelming sorry feeling. BUT I didn’t know how to do that, so I did what I knew how to do.

I think you can ask your friend what she needs. I asked mine. I was like “am I doing the wrong thing?” and she said I wasn’t. She told me she appreciated me staying true to being an idiot because that was pretty much the only time she was giggling, even if it was a forced giggle.

Maybe your friend doesn’t know what they want, maybe sorry is enough. Maybe just knowing you’re around and you’re there and you’re listening is enough. You are already such a wonderful friend, and I know they are so grateful to have you.

Kristin Says:

Yes, all of that… and I’d like to tell you that you probably aren’t ever going to feel like you’ve done just the right thing, because there really isn’t a “right” thing when it comes to facing an illness or losing someone we love.

To the best of your ability, you have to keep being you — just like Dannielle said. That means doing the things you did before, and it also means speaking about the way you are feeling. You can say to your friend, “I know you are hurting and I never know quite what to say… but I just want you to know I am here for you in any way that you need.”

It might feel weird saying the words, and it might feel weird after you say them, but your friend will hear you, and that is what counts. When people we love are sick, we hear things in a way that is not possible in any other situation.

When I was 21, I almost lost my mom. She went in for a routine procedure, something went wrong, and she spent over a month in ICU. We very much thought she was not going to make it through. During that time family came in from all over the country, and my friends called and texted and came to my house and did their absolute best to be supportive. Apart from the fear and sadness during that time, do you know what I remember? I remember laughing and drinking wine on the deck with my aunts, I remember joking about the most ridiculous things and laughing and sharing string cheese with my friends, and I remember knowing that if I needed any of them, I could reach out in a moment.

That is all you need to do for your friend to help them – just let them know you are there, and keep sharing your Pringles with them (or your organic carrots, I don’t know what you all LIKE).

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