When I asked a few friends, "If you found out that you have a tumor growing inside your body, would you feel afraid?"
I was hoping they would get a clue and ask me more questions. But, mostly they didn't.
But I wasn't disappointed when this happened, because I know that I can't always blame others or expect that everyone understands my journey. They haven't walked on my path because they have their own, and I haven't walked on theirs.
If we keep the mindset that people surrounding us will automatically know how to show compassion after they hear the word "tumor"
, we'll just end up disappointed. Instead, we can explain to them both what not to do, as well as what to do.
For example, whenever someone says,"I have cancer."
It's common for someone reply with: "At least
it was found early!"
Just like when someone says, "We broke up."
and the reply is: “At least
you realized he/she is not for you.”
Or, when "I lost my job" is met with" At least
you got rebates from your company."
No matter what the situation, it's never a good idea to say "at least", especially to someone who is hurting. Let’s admit it, we are all guilty of using this phrase and think that we are being helpful. But, dear, we are not. That's sad, I know. I feel guilty as well, but I try to remind myself not to use those two words before I utter any words to comfort others
who are hurting.
By continuing to say this phrase, we disconnect ourselves
from our friends, colleagues and loved ones. For someone who is hurting, feeling alone, or suffering from a deadly disease, instead of saying "at least", try to do the following:
You’ve just heard devastating news from a friend. You don’t know what to say. Save your friendship, don’t utter words quickly just because you think you are helping. Listen because you respect them and their feelings. Validate them instead of blocking them. Listening simply means withholding judgment. When they start to feel relaxed, give them a simple affirmation. Let them know that you appreciate them sharing their feelings with you.
2. Show up for them
Put yourself in their place, become unselfish for them. Yeah, it isn't easy. Whatever dilemma someone shares with you, whether it be emotional, physical or financial, you may not be able to help them. But you can always show up for them. Love them when they need it, even if you think they don't deserve it- do it anyway. When the time comes and you're the one hurting, you’ll want someone to show up for you.
3. Be intuitive
This is the most difficult part. It's hard to sense the true feelings of someone, almost as hard as reading someone's mind! Don't listen to only their words; instead, listen to the way they say the words - the tone, body movements, their eyes, facial expressions. Try to decipher the silence as well. Look at them sincerely, listen and be still. In the midst of silence and the gap between uttered words, hear everything that they don't say. The silence makes noise.
It’s not too late to build relationships. But it starts with you
. Be the kind of person you would like to be with. Some people come and go in our lives and some stay.
Our purpose in this world is to never make the people we are surrounded with feel alone. Whether you're near them or far. That’s why I keep writing, to connect to you. Wherever you are in this humongous planet, I want to make you feel you're not alone. We got this!
Do you have any other suggestions to help communicate more empathetically towards people affected by cancer? Share in the comments below.
Image courtesy of Sam Manns