People living with chronic pain and/or illness face a daily battle and really benefit from receiving support from their community. However if you aren’t a medical provider and you haven’t experienced chronic illness yourself, it can be challenging to know how to offer support. Unfortunately, many of our automatic responses to another person’s suffering are not helpful to that person and in fact, can feel invalidating and hurtful.
While people are just trying to help someone feel better by saying things like “look on the bright side”, “have you tried meditation?”, or “don’t worry so much, it can’t be that serious”, these statements often make the person in pain feel unheard and misunderstood. Chronic illness can be extremely isolating and negative interactions like these further reinforce the feeling that no one can understand what they are going through.
To this end, I have put together a resource with some suggestions of what not to say or do when offering support. Have you experienced an empathic miss?