Fifteen nice things to say to someone suffering from persistent pain
- “I can’t think of anything to say, but you must know that I’m here for you”.
You don’t need to take the pain away, because that’s not possible. You don’t have to understand exactly what it’s like to live with chronic pain. All that isn’t necessary. Just be there as my family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker, and lend me your ear to listen, your heart to give me support, and your hands to offer me practical help.
- “What can I do for you to make you feel better? Now, tomorrow or next week? What’s the hardest for you? Which chores are difficult for you?”
”Just call me when you need help,” doesn’t work. Make sure that it’s concrete! “Do you have trouble getting your groceries? Well, I go to the supermarket this afternoon anyway, what can I bring along for you? Do you need help with the laundry, mowing the lawn, etc.” Only when it’s concrete a pain patient may give in and admit that she or he needs help.
- “I miss you, I hate that we cannot do the things together that we used to do. Maybe the two of us can think about something different we can do”.
If you used to go shopping for a whole day for instance, and that is no longer possible, maybe you can go shopping for only a few hours and grab a movie afterwards. If the two of you used to go to the cinema together and your friend can no longer do this, because she can’t sit for so long, maybe you can get a DVD and go over to his or her house where she can lay on the couch while you watch the movie together, just like in the old days.
- “You really look great, but how are you really feeling?”
Don’t get easily fooled by a neat and healthy appearance. Often the patient has put on a mask. Maybe it’s a good moment to have him or her dismiss it. It may cost some effort, but try it sincerely. He or she will probably be grateful for it later.
- “How are you doing? Do you want to talk about it, or would you rather not?”
Some people like to vent about it, while others really don’t enjoy that or want nothing more than to forget about it for a moment. Someone might be interested in talking about it some of the time, but maybe not at other times. Or maybe they like to talk about it to some people, but not to others. If you ask, you can’t go wrong.
If the person you care about tells you that she’s fine, but you suspect that she isn’t at all, explain to her that you’re really interested in hearing about her, but that she doesn’t need to talk about it if she doesn’t feel comfortable doing so. Sometimes she’s so tired of her ailment that talking about it is the last thing she wants.
- “You haven’t lost your sense of humor. I admire you for that”.
Chronic pain goes hand in hand with negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, fear, frustration, and sorrow. When someone can be cheerful, despite his or her pain, that’s really a great achievement and worth a compliment. Encourage that and remind the person with pain that he or she is still the same person to you, and he or she is worth it.
- “I think you’re coping really very well. You’re a real star!”
It is worth a complement for sure, when you see someone coping so well with his pain and all the other problems that come along with it. So do call them a star or a hero once in a while. People who have cancer hear it all the time, but a pain patient hardly ever does, while they’re fighting an equal fight, sometimes even harder and for a longer time.
- “I know it’s like hell sometimes and it really sucks. I wish I could give you a better and nicer life, you deserve it”.
Differentiate yourself as a strong helper by not throwing out clichés such as “You just need to learn to live with it,” “It’ll pass,” or “You have to stay positive,” but admit that it just sucks to have pain every day.
- “I can hardly imagine how it is having to live with pain every day. Can you explain to me what it means to you?”
For someone who has pain all the time, it’s nice when someone is wholeheartedly interested. One can describe how it is for him or her, and can explain about the negative emotions that come with chronic pain inevitably.
- “But you look good. I admire that you’re able to do that despite the pain!”
Probably fueled by nothing but good intentions, but when you only tell them: “But you look great,’ the person suffering from pain hears: “That means there’s no way it’s that bad. I’m sure you’re alright.” It trivializes someone’s pain and symptoms, while the person in pain – despite having almost no energy and suffering perpetually – puts in so much effort to look better than they feel.
- “I’d like to invite you to my party, and I hope you’ll be able to attend, but don’t force yourself. I’ll understand if it’s not possible for you.”
How do these things go? First you tell yourself: “There’s nothing I can do about her pain anyway. I know she can’t, or doesn’t want to come partying, bicycling, dancing, shopping or whatever,” and then, without noticing, you’ll be completely out of touch with her for a long time. Try to avoid letting that happen. Even if she can’t partake in your activity, she might enjoy being invited at least, so that the final decision about whether to come is hers to make.
- “How are you doing? Are you okay, or do you want to take a break or a rest?”
It’s really nice when someone who is doing something together with the pain patient is really involved and pays attention to his or her energy level and limitations. In that way a person with pain can attend a lot more activities, and that will make a great difference in their life.
- “You’ve got so much on your plate, yet you’re still cheerful. How do you do it?”
If your friend is doing a good job of handling her ailment and all that accompanies it, ask what she can teach you. Ask her how she does it, where her priorities lie, and how that makes it possible that she’s able to manage everything with so little energy, or what makes her happy in spite of her gloomy prospects. Chronic patients learn a lot about life’s ups and downs, and love to share that wisdom.
- “If you want to cry, my shoulder is always available. Maybe it’ll be a relief to you.”
Because of the emotions and tensions that come with chronic pain, a patient needs to be able to let it all out sometimes. Instead of being someone who tells them to just bottle it up, tell your friend that you’ll stay with them if they need to cry. It’s a present that only true friends can give.
- “I understand that you’d prefer to do these things yourself, but I really want to help, so I’ll take care of dinner on Thursday. What would you prefer? Chicken or lasagna?”
Especially those pain patients who used to be very independent can barely utter the word ‘help.’ So meet her in the middle by offering concrete help without making her ask for it. Making dinner for them or watching the kids or pets for an evening so that the parents can spend an evening outdoors is a great way of helping.
Read the “Letter to a friend”
Read more about the relationship with someone suffering from pain here
When you are a pain patient yourself, read more about the relationship with your friends, family members, co workers, neighbors and more here.
Read more blogs here
Read about the books by Anna Raymann here