Friendships change when a person becomes sick! Why? Because that individual usually changes.
The person you knew is lost and in their place is a moody, weary, disinterested, forgetful, incapacitated friend! If they’ve made plans with you, they’ll probably cancel a couple hours before. Repeatedly. They may come to gatherings but leave early and are most likely very disengaged. Perhaps they embarrass you with curt answers or a sullen attitudes.
That funny person isn’t there anymore. The one who used to listen, doesn’t. They used to let you dominate the conversation now they dominate and talk about things you have no interest in. You can’t invite them out for coffee, dessert or ice cream because they don’t drink or eat “junk” anymore.
And you wonder what happened. Why can’t you connect? You wonder if you’ve offended them. You wonder why your friend has turned into such a moody mess, or just disappeared from the picture. Where did the connection go? You feel hurt.
Let’s take a quick peek into the struggles a sick person has in regard to relationships!
——Questions & Answers——
Q 1: Friendships is a two-way street. How did your sickness affect your friendships?
A 1: In every way. Really and truly, most fell by the wayside. It was a lonely time and yet one where I needed solitude and rest. Talking exhausted me, as did busy environments and lots of noise. As my body broke down every 2-3 hours, it made outings or visiting very difficult. I couldn’t remember. My friends would share with me, but quite honestly, I wasn’t interested. I was just weary, brain-dead and exhausted, was floundering for something firm to put my feet on. I know I hurt lots of people; they wondered why I stopped interacting with them. But my brain couldn’t process their lives as well as my own. I couldn’t enter into their worlds. I didn’t know who I was anymore and yet there was pressure to be that “good ole’ friend.”
Q 2: How did lack of friendship affect your life?
A 2: it was lonely. Very lonely. I struggled with lots if “guilt” as I watched people back away, hurt or confused by my deadness toward them. I saw their care for me drop by the wayside as my lack of enthusiasm turned them off. I was feeling so vulnerable, facing so much loss that to hear of their “normal” lives reminded me of just how broken I was, that (essentially) I had no purpose, was no good to anyone. I was broken with an unknown future. They had their jobs, their friends, recreational activities, life was moving somewhere. Their lives revolved around what I loved and had lost. At that point, I didn’t want reminders. I wanted someone to help me accept my reality…whatever that was. I didn’t exactly know.
Q 3: Did you ever share your struggled with them?
A 3: I did with some friends, but most of them couldn’t relate. When I tried to share it quickly became evident that they didn’t get it and instead of being a comfort, it actually made me feel lonelier and intensified the inward battle.
Q 4: Were there people who stood with you?
A 4: Yes! Strangely enough, my social circle was changing. Those I could relate to were those dealing with health issues. I also had two faithful friends at the time: my roommate and a friend just down the road. They stood by me, not understanding of course, but they were there. These girls were my social life during that time. They kept trying, even if turned down repeatedly. Or would make things cozy on the couch and watch a movie. They tried to connect. And I’m still deeply grateful to them today! My boyfriend’s family was also a huge support to me in that time. Not only did they teach me about a healthy diet, but they welcomed me into their home, accepted and walked beside me. I found connection there as (my now father-in-law) was battling lymphoma.
Q 5: what advice would you give to the healthy in regard to befriending a sick person?
A 5: be gentle. Be willing to stoop to the lowest of lows. While doing a friend’s laundry or cleaning their house may seem like a simple thing, it can be huge to someone who is struggling to find energy to complete even simple tasks. Ask ’em what they need. Or what they are discovering about themselves or health. Be willing to accept the change in this person and stick by their side. Try to do things with them in full knowledge that if they have a bad night, plans will be cancelled.
And keep a social life outside of that individual or you will burn out. And be willing to put up boundaries if needed (eg. “no, you cannot call me repeatedly at 3am as I need my sleep”). Pray with and for them. Be gentle.