Bossy-boots. That’s me. In the spirit of sticking my nose in where it’s not needed and freely bestowing my unasked-for advice on all and sundry, I present you with:
K’s Super-Duper Helpful Guide to Being a Good Friend to the Wounded
(this is inspired both by my own experiences and knowing a dear friend (let’s call him Gimli because he’s tough and awesome) who is going through something similar right now (leukemia sucks)) (also: this is written in the present tense for style purposes only. I am perfectly fine at the moment.)
1) It is nice to get visited in the hospital/at my sickbed. It makes me feel like I haven’t been forgotten. But it is also nice for the visit to end before I am prostrate with exhaustion. So don’t stay too long, and try to read the physical cues of the person you are visiting. It’s hard to tell friends to leave, because I don’t want them to, even if I need to rest. It feels impolite.
2) This is not the time to tell me your long complicated story about your strange brother-in-law and his bunion. Short funny stories are fine. Long not-so-funny stories about people one has never met are both tiring and tiresome.
3) This is perhaps the most important one: it is extremely unhelpful and exhausting to try and comfort the people visiting me while I am ill. I know you care, because you came to see me. If you weep all over me and make me spend the visit making you feel better about the situation, GET THE HELL OUT UNTIL YOU GET A GRIP. There is almost nothing that makes me want to punch people in the face faster than someone who makes me expend the pitiful reserves of emotional strength I have left in comforting them about my tragedy.
4) The reverse is also true: I know you want me to feel better about the situation, because it makes it less scary for you. I plan on getting better and being fine. However, it is frustrating to be told in the middle of the horrible experience, “Oh, you’re so lucky it’s not X,” or, “It’s such a blessing that X happened, because they found Y!” Fuck you. It’s not lucky I got hit by a truck. It sucks. A lot. The fact that they found a little bitty bit of cancer (which a ton of people are happily walking around with right now, and it’s not going to kill them), in no way makes it better that I got hit by a truck. It sucked. Period. That is to say: don’t minimize what happened.
5) The best way to follow the advice in both 3 & 4 above is to stick to something like: “I am so sorry. I really hope you feel better soon. We all miss having you around. Is there anything I can do?” And then do whatever it is.
6) Don’t visit if you are sick. I don’t want it. I can’t deal with having your cold right now. Stay home until you are better. I will still be there, and until you can visit there is this handy thing called “email”
That’s all for now! Stay tuned for further bits of unsolicited advice from your favorite neighborhood bossy-boots.