Bottom Line/HEALTH:Right, perfect. So what did you want to hear from people after you told them? Sometimes people don’t know what to say or they say the wrong thing, frankly.
Hollye Jacobs, R.N.:People did say a lot of challenging things to me, and I sort of wore hats from both sides of the bed, so when I heard something that didn’t settle well for me, I had the ability to say, “You know what? That’s not working for me.” For example, I had a number of people—shockingly—say, “My neighbor’s sister-in-law’s cousin’s niece had breast cancer, and she died from it, so good luck.”
Bottom Line It’s wild, right?
Jacobs:What I know for sure is when people try to engage, it comes from a loving place. The majority of the time, when people say things that don’t come across very well, they’re doing the best that they can. What I always recommend is that people begin by saying, “I’m really scared about your diagnosis. I don’t know what to say. I really need help from you to let me know what I can say and how I can be a support to you.” Just being honest and saying, “I have no idea what to say, I want to do my very best, and I really don’t want to say something that’s going to come across as either hurtful or dismissive or anything else, so help me help you.” That’s a nice way to start because it’s sort of disarming, and then you follow up by saying, “Can we make a pact that if I say something really stupid, even though it came from a loving place, will you tell me that it came across the wrong way, and that way I’ll know what works and what doesn’t work for you?” So it’s really a matter of being honest.
Bottom Line It is, and simply speaking. So many people are afraid of that simplicity.
Jacobs:Another thing that you could do with a friend or a loved one who’s feeling really overwhelmed and needs help but you don’t know what he or she needs—you could send an e-mail with a list of options, like food preparation, house cleaning, dog walking, grocery shopping, child care, lawn mowing. You could put all of those in an e-mail with a line at the bottom that says “Other,” and you could send that to your friend and say, “OK—check everything off that you need help with. If something is not on this list that should be included, add it in. If you do that, I will make sure everything gets done.” That is a really great way for someone to be present, to offer support in a way that the person on the receiving end of an e-mail says, “This is fabulous. I can just check off what I need.” That’s a really great way to engage someone and offer support.