It has been said that you learn who your true friends are when you’re at your darkest moments. It is during those times that people who are just “sometimes friends” scatter away, leaving you at rock-bottom with those who are willing to stand by you until you regain your footing. Friends who walk alongside us through the flames are priceless gems, rare and simply irreplaceable.
If you are someone who has chronic pain, the valleys of life seem to be more numerous than the mountain tops, making it even harder to retain solid friendships. I have seen this in my own life as friendships have blossomed and wilted, changing with seasons. But, as I’ve said before, friendships and support from others are absolutely crucial.
Sometimes I think it’s hard for people without pain to really understand us or know how to be a good friend. I’m sure it’s confusing and frustrating at times when we have to cancel plans or if we talk about having a particularly bad pain day. So, to shed a little insight to you non-pain pals out there…here ya go.
How to Be a Friend to Someone with Chronic Pain
- Just listen. Sometimes that’s all we need. It’s all anyone needs in many situations. Be a listening ear to hear about the ups and downs of life, not judging or trying to fix everything. Just listen.
- Be understanding. If you don’t have chronic pain and you have never had to cancel plans because of a flare, be grateful. It can be really hard when this happens and you feel like you’re letting everyone down. Understand that life happens and things can change, and offer grace when a rain check is requested.
- Check in on us. I know for myself, I don’t like to reach out to others out of fear that I’m being a burden. Receiving random texts or e-mails from friends reminds me that I’m not alone in this journey.
- Don’t try to fix it all. It can become bothersome when someone is always trying to fix everything. Searching for new treatments, offering advice on how they manage their aches and pains…that doesn’t help. Be a friend, not a doctor.
- Keep it positive. Try to be loving and encouraging, while also being real. Focus on the good things and maybe let some negativity go. And hold us accountable to that as well; talking about all the bad parts of life instead of the good doesn’t help anything. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should avoid talking about the hard stuff…just don’t let it always be the main topic.
- Focus on the person, not thepain. There is more to a person than their pain, or their disease, or their scars. Focus on the heart of a person, not just their problems. It’s easier to relate and enjoy time with friends when the focus is away from the obvious, or maybe not-so-obvious, pain.
- Just be a friend. Chronic pain may interfere with some things, but it shouldn’t change the fact that you are friends with someone. Don’t try to be a mother, a doctor, or a therapist…what we need most is a friend. So be that. Someone to do life with–going places, having fun, and making memories. Just be a friend.
Obviously that’s not a comprehensive list, and the bullet points could always change depending on the person. But, for the most part, I think a little grace and a whole lot of laughter can go a long way 🙂
Be a friend to someone today.