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Four Ways People Can Show They Care When We Need it Most

We combat illness every day with as much grace and dignity as possible.

Our broken souls fight what’s naked to the eye. We’re warriors wrestling with invisible battles. Our adversities strengthen us after winning arduous rounds of sparring with despair and uncertainty.

We dream of living somewhere over the rainbow, to walk in Dorothy’s shoes where black and white turns into color, and the world looks full of promise.

We long for a normal life. These thoughts fill my heart.

Breaking yourself open to tell your truth isn’t easy. You wonder if honesty is a sign of weakness. It’s not. I believe surrendering to adversity and sharing it with others shows great strength and courage.

As the often quoted (by me) Elizabeth Lesser eloquently wrote in her book “Broken Open”:

“Adversity is a natural part of being human. It is the height of arrogance to prescribe a moral code or health regime or spiritual practice as an amulet to keep things from falling apart. Things do fall apart. It is in their nature to do so. When we try to protect ourselves from the inevitability of change, we are not listening to the soul. We are listening to our fear of life and death, our lack of faith, our smaller ego’s will to prevail.

To listen to your soul is to stop fighting with life–to stop fighting when things fall apart; when they don’t go our way, when we get sick, when we are betrayed or mistreated or misunderstood.

To listen to the soul is to slow down, to feel deeply, to see ourselves clearly, to surrender to discomfort and uncertainty and to wait.” ~Elizabeth Lesser

But resting for weeks on end can leave you feeling lonely, isolated and depressed. You watch the world go by without the ability to join in.

Your spirit splinters into tiny pieces.

When that happens to me I have time to think. About aging and MS and what that will mean for me. About the future of healthcare in our country. About finances. About Medicare covering my revolving door of doctors. About whether I’ll ever be able to travel again and enjoy life as I once knew it.

And sometimes I wonder if the people I care about will go the distance with me through the worst, and best, of times.

When you lose pieces of yourself to illness these thoughts cross your mind.

We don’t want to be sick. We don’t want to complain. We don’t want to be different. We just are.

It’s difficult to explain to people how we feel. They need to walk in our shoes a bit. Ask them to try.

We need to use our voices to let others know how we feel. We need to let them know how to help us feel better.

Speak up.

Here are four suggestions of what to tell people about what we need when we’re having a bad day, week, month or year! Copy and paste this and attach it in an email. Print it out, write a card and attach this to it. Sit down with loved ones and show them this list. Add your own suggestions as well:

  • Reach out – A text or private message is nice but it’s not the same as a phone call or old-fashioned snail mail card. Being chronically sick can be lonely. Feeling forgotten can be devastating. If someone’s not feeling up for a phone call send a card to show you care. A friend of mine living in another state felt sad to miss the changing seasons. In the fall I gathered a bunch of beautifully colored leaves and mailed them to her with a card. It made her day.
  • Pay a visit – If someone is up to it giving the gift of time (in person, Skype or FaceTime) shows someone they matter. Schedule a convenient time and ask if you can bring anything. Be a compassionate listener. Let them know you care. A visit to someone in need can be just what the doctor ordered.
  • Offer to help – Ask if you can cook a meal or two, do their laundry, run some errands, drive them to the doctor. A helping hand can take a big weight off someone’s shoulders.
  • Be consistent – Make a point of staying in touch. Follow up. Ask how they’re doing. Stay in their life. Be a friend. Everyone is busy, particularly at holiday time. But the world would be a nicer place if today, right now, this second, you reached out to someone in need. Be that someone who makes the world a brighter place.

NOTE: This post is based on my experience of living with relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis.

I don’t have the corner on illness. Not even close.

I don’t have all the answers. So I write what I know. I hope you let me know what you know. 

Thank you for listening.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • chalknpens
    3 years ago

    Cathy, this is a wonderful, direct post. But sharing it with those who need reminders that we’re still here is difficult. MS is invisible in so many ways. Here’s my ugly rant – I need to let it out and be rid of it.
    When I was diagnosed with RRMS, as a teacher I kept it to myself. All around me were teachers with cancer diagnoses, year after year one after another. And teachers are a truly connected community. We made dinners, sent cards, had kids send cards, I made a quilt … we wanted them to know that they were not forgotten. And each of them usually lasted about two or three years, and then passed away. But there was always another one diagnosed during or just after this time.
    When I began to fail due to cognitive issues, I took time off to meet with doctors, and after a few months I retired. My administrators and co-workers all knew of my diagnoses … only my students and their parents were left uninformed … my choice … I didn’t want to lose their trust and confidence.
    But after the retirement party, there were no cards … no meals … no quilts or calls or visits … I was just another retiree. And it hurt. It hurts still. It’s been five years, and far too late to ask for attention. Far too late to suggest that they show they care. I denied the diagnosis for so long, I’ve come to believe that it’s all just a nightmare and soon enough I will wake up and get ready for a day in the classroom.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    3 years ago

    Dear chalknpens~

    I could say a million platitudes that people say to one another when their heart breaks but I will say only one: You matter. That’s it. You matter. Yes, people break our hearts. I try to remember that when I help someone I can’t expect others to do the same for me – everyone is different. It’s simply the way life is. But ouch!!! It does hurt.

    I’ve been in your shoes. Hey, I’m pretty much there now. I’m so sorry this happened to you. You deserve so much better. And I hope someday, and that it will be soon, that someone you love and care about reaches out for you. For now we are here for you, and perhaps you can go to MS support groups or other means of meeting new people. Right now are moving around a lot, but when we get settled that’s what I plan on doing. Following a passion and meeting new people.

    I don’t have magic words for you. I wish I did. But I do care.

    Please keep reaching out to us. We are here for you. Always and in all ways.


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