gmhTODAY 25 gmhTODAY April May 2019 - Page 93

Karen La Corte manners MATTER Karen La Corte is an etiquette and manners expert trained and certified by the Emily Post Institute in Vermont. Karen is happy to answer your questions — email her at How to be There for Someone Who's Sick A bout a year ago a good friend told me that I should write an article about what folks should do when a good friend or family member falls ill. I’ve been putting it off because folks tend to like more cheer- ful articles. But this question keeps coming up for me so here I go. First, if someone is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, there’s an acceptance process that must take place for the person diagnosed and for their family. Everyone handles this differently and the thing to keep in mind is that acceptance is totally driven by the person who has the ill- ness. They may want to remain quiet with no or little communication for a while. It’s a lot to absorb. There are adjustments to be made in everyday life. Sometimes there’s a sense of deni- al. And that can be followed by feel- ings of anger, frustration or anxiety. With acceptance, a course of treat- ment can be determined. This may take a while also. Types of treatments can be discussed, second opinions may be sought after, and then reality really sets in with the start of the treatment. It is during this time that a good friend may wonder what to do. Do I visit, or not? Do I send flowers, or not? Do I bring food, or have it delivered? If you ask your sick friend, he or she may say, “I just don’t feel up to seeing anybody right now.” He or she may not return your phone calls or texts. This is where the good friend in you respects his or her wishes to be alone to deal with this life-changing situ- ation. This is a “it’s not about you” moment. Your feelings should not be hurt. Their feelings are what is important here. If it’s been a while since your dear friend said “No thanks” to your offer of company, go anyway. Go, but don’t stay for a long visit. Bring books, magazines, their favorite dish or cookies. Make a blanket or a playlist of their favorite music. You can leave positive messages on their phone, but don’t worry about that person calling you back. Text positive emoji’s or text an encouraging or inspiring quote. But don’t expect a text back. I know someone who was angered because their friend with heart disease had not responded to their numerous phone calls. This person quit calling his friend and decided they weren’t good friends after all. I eventually put my two cents in and said, “Hey, this isn’t about you. You don’t know what your friend is going through. Try not to be judgmental. Don’t let this ruin your relationship. Just back off for a while.” Some folks withdraw and go into “quiet mode” for a time. I’m guilty of being quiet when something is wrong with me, of not telling anyone except my immediate family (if they are lucky) what is wrong with me. Recently I had orthoscopic surgery but didn’t speak of it until it was over. I’m one of those people who needs time to fully process things in my mind before I can share them with others. I want to have the results in hand before I share the details with others. I’m lucky. My close friends know this about me. About fifteen years ago, one of my GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN april/may 2019 dear friends was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer. Her treatment lasted for a couple of years. During that time, she did not want to see me or anyone else. She lived in another city, so every month or so I drove there and left something on her doorstep. A book, baked goods, stationery, a plant—little reminders that I was thinking of her but respected her privacy. Sometimes I just left a note and some leopard wrap- ping paper. Leopard just happens to be my signature brand in case you didn’t know. In all seriousness, the leopard touch made her smile every time. She ended up beating the cancer and has been in remission for over ten years. To this day she is very appreciative of the fact that I didn’t expect more from her than she was able to give. I knew that I’d get an email or a call from her when she was ready. On another note, when someone is in the hospital, it is important to respect people’s privacy. Some folks like you to visit. Others don’t. If you do visit a sick friend in the hospital, stay just a few minutes. You can bring or send flowers, fruit, balloons or stuffed animals as appropriate. But, be mindful that the whole reason they are in there is because they are ill, have had surgery, or have been in an accident. The only joyous hospital stay is when someone has had a baby! And then gifts for the mother and the baby are gladly welcomed. To my point, just be there for your sick friend. Don’t be hard on them. Don’t be hard on yourself. Prayers, love and the sincerity of it all is what really matters. 93