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Someone I care about is seriously ill. What can I do or say to help?

How do you express kindness when a friend or family member is seriously ill or dying?  Perhaps the greatest gift you can give, according to grief specialist and author Alan Wolfelt, is the gift of your presence.  Along with that, here are some suggestions for easing the way:

  • Call before you visit
  • Reach out with a loving touch
  • Listen well
  • Be comfortable with silence
  • Smile and laugh
  • Focus on the present
  • Be yourself
  • Share news
  • Speak truthfully
  • Provide encouragement
  • Keep confidences
  • Express your love or friendship
  • Don't push away tears
  • Send mail
  • Learn about your friend's illness
  • Give practical assistance in meetin day-to-day needs
  • Help the family
  • Explore other avenues of support
  • Allow yourself to grieve
  • Respect your limits
  • Encourage important decisions
  • Honor the person's spirituality
  • Trust your intuition

Reference: Expressing Kindness in Times of Illness and Death, Extension publication SP-165
Related Information:
Expressing Kindness in Times of Illness and Death
A 4 page publication (PDF file) expanding on the above suggestions for assisting someone who is seriously ill, perhaps facing death.
Responding to Death - Tips for Friends
An easy to read 4 page publication offering effective ways one can be of assistance when a death occurs.

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Date last updated: 07/22/2002
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