Switching point of views for a second.
I have spoken at length about my experience of cancer as a patient, because that is what feels the most true, the most raw. That is what I need and want to get off my chest, that is where I feel my experience could help others.
But there are two, seven, twenty sides to every story.
Over the last few months, several of my friends and family have had to witness a loved one going through diagnosis and treatment. Have had to be a rock for their family to rely on, despite their own grief and pain. The shoulder for someone else to cry on after the loss of a close relative.
In a strange turn of events, I have become somewhat of a confidante.
‘I don’t know if I’m doing enough.’
‘I feel like I’m not helping.’
‘I don’t know how to act around them.’
‘He said he was fine. I don’t think he’s fine.’
‘I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing.’
‘I said something funny to lighten the mood and she just bit my head off!’
‘I asked what was wrong. That was a mistake.’
‘I don’t know what to do.’
‘I’m afraid I’m going to lose it in front of them.’
‘What can I say?’
‘I’m afraid of stepping on his toes.’
‘Maybe he doesn’t want my help.’
‘I’m afraid I’m going to make it worse.’
‘It’s like they don’t want me there.’
‘I feel like everything I’m doing is wrong.’
‘I’m doing my best but it seems so little.’
Having been on both sides, I can honestly say: whatever you are doing, it is the right thing.
Short of refusing to listen to someone, and ghosting them after you have heard the news, there is no wrong thing to do.
Yes, we will bite your head off from time to time.
Yes, we will be a bit short with you.
Everything is so raw.
But weeks, months, and years later, we won’t remember the moment you decided to make a joke and it fell flat.
We won’t remember you only being able to text your support because you were in another country.
We won’t remember that you were overbearing in your desire to help.
We won’t remember that you used some really clumsy words which you instantaneously regretted.
We won’t remember the terrible dinner you cooked for us.
We won’t remember that you had tears in your eyes every time you said it was going to be OK.
We will remember you said it, and you wanted to believe it.
We will remember you cooked for us when we didn’t have the strength to do it.
We will remember that you said something, and that was enough.
We will remember you tried to help even when we thought we didn’t need help.
We will remember you were there, in whatever form you could manage.
We will remember that you were making sure life was going on.
There is no need to be afraid. There is no right way to support someone going through a life-threatening illness, or the loss of a loved one, or a traumatic event.
You are doing the right thing, and we are grateful.