While Thanking A Veteran, Let's Think What Words Comfort Us From Loved Ones
Today is Veteran’s Day, and as I drove my car to my physical therapy appointment, I listened to the commentator interview several veterans on what people have said to them to thank them for their service for our country.
They discussed what thank you means to them, how it makes them feel and what they prefer to hear.
It made me think of all of us with MS.
Lately, I’ve noticed several people posting on the Facebook thread of MultipleSclerosis.net on what to say to a parent/friend/child who has MS, such as:
- What should I say to them about being diagnosed with MS?
- How can I let my mother know I’m there for her no matter what happens?
- Why won’t my son listen when I tell him heat is no good for his MS?
- How can I help my wife deal with her anger and frustration at her disease?
Unfortunately, there are no stock answers to these questions. MS affects all of differently, and each person handles it in his or her own way. Like the soldiers listening to the words of a grateful nation, patients with MS have their own listening preferences as well.
I know a girl who was diagnosed several years ago. She received her diagnosis and had no choice but to begin several medications, including steroids, to alleviate her symptoms. Once she became stabilized, she resumed her life as it was before her diagnosis.
She also denied she ever received a diagnosis of MS.
Her employer reached out to me to speak with her. We set up a meeting, and I listened to her tell me her doctors were wrong in their evaluation of her disease. She insisted she did not have MS.
I told her to give one more doctor a try in finding out the cause of her recent physical complaints (numbness, visual, dizziness). I told her to reach out for emotional support via support groups or her church group, and to research and learn all she could about MS in case her complaints did turn out to be MS. I added that I would be more than happy to help her in her journey.
She smiled, thanked me, and left. My advice fell on deaf ears.
Over the past 26 years of living with MS, I’ve learned a lot about what people prefer when asked for help, and what I like to hear from loved ones. So here is a list of what I’ve learned. Perhaps it will give you an idea on how to help someone when you are struggling to find the right words to say:
- I heard you have MS (it’s not a good idea to say, “I’m sorry you have MS”) and I’m here to help in any way I can.
- I will always love you, and I will always care about you for the person that you are. That will never change.
- Do you want me to go with you to your doctor/therapist/infusion (etc) appointment?
- I’d love to come over and spend some time with you. I can bring some dinner so we’ll have more quality time together.
- Are you feeling tired today? Can I get you some groceries/drive your child to a soccer match/walk your dog/help you in any way?
- I’m sorry you have to cancel our plans tonight. Let’s make it for another night. Do you want to schedule something now or later? I hope you feel better soon.
- Do you want to talk about what is troubling you? I am a good ear and you can trust me. I am here to listen.
Educate yourself about Multiple Sclerosis. MultipleSclerosis.net has valuable information for anyone interested in learning more about MS. Be compassionate, available and patient at all times. Above all, try to understand that MS changes the physical part of a person, but not the essential part of who he or she is.
Everyone is simply struggling to find his or her new place in the world with MS. The more you know, the better you can help your loved ones.
What words do you like to hear from loved ones?
Does listening to music help lower the severity of your stress or MS symptoms?