Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Freaking Out About Your Friends

I admitted recently that I’m a little paranoid about the health of my friends. Okay, more than a little. Three death notices in a week’s time will do that to you. So when I hear comments like…

“She called the doctor; something’s wrong and she’s not sure what.”
“He’s not eating.”
“She’s been coughing for weeks.”
“They’re running more tests.”

…I can feel my body tense up.

Maybe you have a friend whose health is shaky. Maybe they drink too much, or use drugs. Maybe they’re so busy taking care of their families than they neglect their own needs. Maybe they’re healthy as a horse, but something strange has happened.

No one wants to hear a lecture about their health. “Stubborn, not incompetent” is the way I describe a lot of people I know. And yeah, I could describe myself that way, too.

“Do you have that effect on people? You keep them all jolly?” demands one character in The Big Chill. The friends are gathered for the funeral of one of their group who committed suicide. All of them are dissecting Alex’ last days and years, speculating on how they could’ve stopped him from taking his own life. Guilt? Sure. Ego? Probably. Selfishness? Absolutely. And why not?

Our friends are part of us. They represent the best – and occasionally the worst – in us. They remind us of who we are and where we’ve come from. They are there for us when we need them, even if we think we don’t.

So if a friend is sick, we want to help. If they’re doing things that are bad for them, we want to make them to stop it.

Saying “I’m worried about you” is often met with “Don’t be – I’m fine.” That kind of rejection is hard to hear. But what is said next is important.

Instead of – as I tend to do – getting mad or defensive when they reject your concern, try following it up with this:

“I’ve lost too many friends already. I don’t want to lose you, too. So I’m going to keep worrying because I love you. And I’m here if you need anything, anytime. Because I know you’d do the same for me.”

I think I’ll give this a try. How about you?


Anonymous said...

Having lost 12 friends or family members in the last 4 months, I totally understand the hyper-sensitivity when those comments are heard. After the death of my mother in November, and having had to deal with a huge amount of negativity, I made the decision to live in joy and chose to not allow negativity to be part of living. Therefore, I have chosen to actively pray when worry comes up and turn the worry to active concern. This means that I do what you suggest, Victoria, in letting them know I am concerned, and ask whether they need anything, and for what can I pray, and think positively for them. What is it that they need at the time? Sometimes this question opens a floodgate and allows my being able to be a sounding board and encourager to get them to actively pursuing health care. This has worked with 3 people who are now under doctor's care and actually following the medical advice.

Friend Grief said...

I'm so sorry to hear that you've experienced so much loss, especially in such a short amount of time.

We can only do what we can do: reach out, express our love and concern, and do what is asked of us. Good for you for doing just that.