Friday, January 28, 2011

The One With The Comforting Presence

A few days ago, my sister in law who took her son for check-up in the hospital, sat next to a woman in the hospital's laboratory waiting lounge. The woman was quite friendly and dropped that she was sick, and mysister in law just didn't know what to say that will sound neither too sympathetic nor too blunt. I thought about it hard and came up with a few things that we should try not to say to a person with cancer. Hopefully, this will help all of us in those awkward moments.

  • "I know what you're feeling". This is probably the biggest mistake we could say. We don't know what they're feeling. So, instead of saying pretentious words that could lead to us hurting the feelings of the patient, just don't say anything. Silence is sometimes more comforting than words. 

  • "It's OK, everything is going to be all right". Now that's another empty promise, and the patient knows it. Instead of offering false promises, just verbalize that you will always be there with the patient to offer your support and strength.

  • "You can make it". While that's raising determination in the patient, that could also encourage hope that may lead to disappointment. Maybe it would be better to ask the patient what he is feeling instead and what you can do to make him feel comfortable.

I believe that we don't always have to have the right words. In fact, we don't always have to say anything. Our presence is enough to let them know that we care and support them, and sometimes we don't have to say anything at all but just be right there beside them.

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