Supporting Someone with Chronic Pain

If someone you care about has been diagnosed with a chronic pain condition, you may find yourself wondering how to provide support.  Here are some ideas to consider.

Are You Listening?

The box of words above contains statements, phrases and expressions that are commonly directed at people with chronic conditions, especially those “invisible illnesses” characterized primarily by pain and fatigue.  What do you think it would be like to listen to this? Are you feeling judged? Dismissed? Trivialized? Disbelieved?  Alone?

Folks with invisible illnesses may have many similar feelings in response to comments made by others (who are often well intentioned).

Good Intentions Are Not Enough

If you truly mean to be supportive, here’s what you need to do:

  • Learn some basic facts about their condition.
  • Drop your expectations of the person who has it.  It may not appear so, but they are doing their best every moment of every day.
  • Listen to them.
  • Ask “What would be helpful?”, “How much are you up for?”, or “How are you doing?”  Offer practical assistance when possible.
  • Understand that chronic illnesses come with lots of ups and downs – emotionally and physically.  People grieve the loss of their old lives, their old selves, not just when they are first diagnosed, but every time they experience a setback.
  • Continue to extend invitations and include them in your plans, knowing that they may need to back out at the last minute.

They Need Compassion

The thing your loved one needs most from you is compassion.  If you keep that in mind and speak from the heart, your support will do them a world of good.