Saturday, April 27, 2013

Talking to a Sick Friend

We have been there. You have been the sick friend or you are the caregiver and you witness these conversations. A friend knows that you have cancer and what do they say now? They want to say something helpful, comforting or maybe distracting? But instead what comes out is painful, awkward or downright senseless.

And yes, it’s true even though we have been on the receiving end doesn’t mean we have not delivered our own misplaced advice, perspective or strange comments. In fact those of us in Cancer Land might be at greater risk of saying something untoward because we have some information or some advice.

But be mindful of this axiom: “A closed mouth gathers no feet.”

And then get this new book: “How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick.” Its brand new and by Letty Cottin Pogrebin. Yes, you recognize that name. She was co-founder, with Gloria Steinem, of Ms. Magazine. So yes, this is a smart book and it’s not just etiquette—it’s also social perspective.

While warning off clich├ęs and self-referential comments (My cancer, my wife’s cancer…) Pogrebin also explains how not to infantilize the patient, and how to talk with someone who has a terminal diagnosis. (Yes, of course you are visiting them—this is your good friend.)

“How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick” is getting great reviews so you can find it easily at your local independent bookstore or at the library.

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