When my brother died, people would say that a lot to me. It's extremely common in my culture (Mormonism) and I even believe it, but that's something that you need to say to yourself, and not have others say to you. When other people say it to you, it's like someone punched you in the face with what you should believe, and it's not comforting, nor does it feel good in any respect.
However, if you really believe it in your heart of hearts, then shouldn't it be comforting? Similar to 'they're in a better place now' -- it seems like if both people believe it's true, then it should be comforting to talk about.
Maybe I'm a more "thinking" guy than other religious types, but for me, religion is about understanding who I am now, how to deal with life now, how to treat people better now, etc. It's not about some mysterious heaven / hell thing that scares you into being a good person. Religion for me is separated from mythology, though they do play into each other. (IE the nuts and bolts of how a religion comes into being are important, but the teachings and purpose of said religion are much more important.)
Given that perspective, with a catastrophic event, "now" will always suck, without exception. You have to work through now in various ways. The new reality is what you need help with, not perceiving the person in some sort of blissful future state.
That's why things like "I love you", etc., play so much better for me. I need a shoulder to cry on when I dream about my brother as if he's still fine and was hiding. I need people to help support me through hard times, not people to deflect reality and pretend like it's all going to be ok.
Think about this, even as a theist you feel the need to ask yourself, why did your mother/brother/child had to die while others are still living, an irrational question by all means, that begets dumb answers; but it's part of a healthy mourning process and does help you get over it (IMHO).
I also don't think it's about religious people versus the others, as people say dumb things regardless of their beliefs.
I think this is a time in which it pays off to be religious. For instance, I do fall into agnosticism and question my religion quite frequently, but I just can't be an atheist simply because I cannot accept that the people I love (including my child for whom I'm capable to give my life if needed) will one day go into non-existence, sometimes painfully. That's an idea I just can't live with.
Choose your source...some one argue one is more accurate than the other:
The true faith, does not seek reward for good behavior, nor bothers trying to understand the divine will, it simply accepts the Yoke of the heavens. in the case of Job.
He does not ponder the reason, it is all the same to him "...the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away..."
If there is a God, this is a compelling example of the value he places on human life.
If you're a Christian however, you do have a small comfort that death may only be the beginning. And that's really what Christians should hear - that the loved one is in a better place.
And yes I know, that sucks too as how could you really know that she's in a better place? But I experienced this myself and it sticks in the back of your subconscious, eventually giving you comfort.
It'd be a bit like getting a limb amputated. You know that it's going to be for your benefit, but while you're going through it, I doubt the comfort of "oh it's ok, at least your not dead!" doesn't exactly optimize your happiness. I'd wager if you're there for someone, showing your love and support, gossiping, etc., you'd likely do more good.
The correct version would be "God works in mysterious ways".
Also, "everything happens for a reason" is a truism in the sense that every action has a reaction, but otherwise if you replace "reason" with "purpose" it fails the falsifiability test.
I see where you're going (and you're responding directly to the stated pointless platitude), but I'd inject here consideration about using "reason" vs using "cause"; more specifically, "reason" suggests to me something intended, whereas "cause" says that something happened that led to this happened, personal intents aside. </twocents>
Also, you can adjust this saying to "Everything happens for a reason, right?" As to show you are equally as hopeful that there may be something greater at play.
But I agree mostly. Just coming up to someone who is very sick and saying this can be the WRONG thing to say.
The Zen/Tolle approach always sounded better to me, but can anyone really say or do anything that will make the sick one feel better for more than a couple of minutes?
Anyone saying "everything happens for a reason" to me would probably wind up with a black eye. (At the very least, they'd go on my personal do-not-call list.)
Which is to say: you shouldn't say things to immediate relatives that you shouldn't say to the patient, either.
Went right over her head.
In this age of the internet, anyone who has an illness is probably more of an expert on it than most doctors are (save their specialists).
I had to constantly tell them there were numerous studies showing that diet had no effect on the illness. But they ignored that because "it cured they're friend".
"Although dietary modification may reduce the discomfort of a person with the disease, ulcerative colitis is not thought to be caused by dietary factors."
Lets go through the three points listed:
> Lactose intolerance
This is common in people with colitis (I have this).
Not drinking milk makes the lactose intolerance symptoms go away (nasuea/vomitting) that but does not reduce the actual colitis symptoms, just the lactose intolerance symptoms.
> Patients with abdominal cramping or diarrhea should avoid fresh fruit, etc"
This is recommended during bad spouts to reduce the extremity. Eating these foods does not cause or make a colitis flare ups go away. It makes makes one of the symptoms slightly easier to deal with.
> The Specific Carbohydrate Diet has been promoted as helping with the symptoms of various auto-immune and gastrointestinal problems
"Following the death of Dr Haas in 1964, there have been no controlled studies published of the SCD related to IBD." The last study being in 1928.
I've also spoken to two nutritionists and three doctors who have spent their careers studying IBD and they reiterated that food is not a significant factor in treating colitis.
A friend of mine has hives. He's seen a ton of doctors and none of them have any clue what is causing them. Other than having a few hives almost all the time he's perfectly healthy. So he has had to become his own doctor and at least attempt a process of elimination with foods and other things that he comes into contact with on a regular basis. At a minimum he gets some illusion of control and is working a process that may find something.
My doctor has prescribed medication that has done a good job of treating the illness so I haven't had to seek alternative remedies.
I'm actually starting a new startup centered around patients sharing their experience with various treatments.
That's a great idea! After helping my friend research I think the most challenging part of what you're doing is getting people who are cured to talk about their experiences. It's the old problem that those that are happy without any problems are not the ones who post all day long :)
What I'm saying is the first thing someone is going to do when he wants to learn about ulcerative colitis is visit the Wikipedia article. I'm offering this as a reason for the misconceptions, not as refutation of what you claim to be true.
A basic google search would show is no known "cure" for colitis. Doctors don't even know much about what causes it.
It's fine if they misunderstood a wikipedia article, but that level of research wasn't even done.
I took care of my mother when she was sick and none of my 3 older brothers offered to take over the duty of caring for her. It was like my home was the hospital for 3 months and not even one of them offered to take care of her for one night. I developed this deep bitter feeling towards them during that time.
I understand if they have things to take care of but not even 1 night?! It still pisses me off thinking back. For all I care, all of her children have an equal responsibility to take care of her. It was like I had to put my life on hold so that they can continue living their lives like nothing's happening.
Sorry, I don't mean to be presumptuous; I just think this kind of thing is so rarely discussed until you're in the middle of it.
If people say or do awkward things, appreciate the fact that they made the effort at all. If they're sending you "miracle cure" suggestions, it's probably because they care enough to do so. These times are times in which you see how your life affects others. If there are a lot of people calling, checking in or being a little annoying, take solace in knowing your life has had an effect on all these people, who care enough to be kind/awkward. I'd much rather have that than not have it.
These Do's and Don'ts aren't for everyone, it may be for the writer, but it's presumptuous to think this really applies to all people.
Simply put, "Do" show up. Knowing that you're there when you could be elsewhere says a lot. Be a friend in times of need.
To his list of things NOT to say I would add your sentence "If people say or do awkward things, appreciate the fact that they made the effort at all."
Well, no. I'm sick! Why should I "appreciate" your "efforts" if they do nothing but add to my misery and pain.
Honestly, I wish this would be applied in everyday conversation more often, it would give people practice. I loathe small talk and would rather say nothing than talk about the weather.
I know people who have been through hardship and they actually tell people to hang around, to just talk, say anything. They prefer people say something to not saying anything at all.
2. I SHOULD BE GOING NOW. You’ll never go wrong by uttering these five words while visiting someone who’s sick.
I spent 11 months in hospital after a spinal cord injury and every time, I hated when my mates were about to leave. Having visitors can be the only form of escapism.
Also, "You look great". Maybe you do? I get this a lot. People say it behind my back too, i.e. "Hey I saw him the other day he's looking great", which feels awesome because in my mind I look like shit.
"I'll pray for you" is okay, I guess, but don't expect a thank-you.
I currently live in The Bible Belt and I find that saying "bless you" or something similar when turning down favors is the best way to get rid of someone. IE I try to speak their language, even though when I use the word "god" in regards to my own beliefs, I am just using it as short-hand for "whatever intelligence there is behind the workings of the universe". That happens to be a mouthful and problematic in most social settings, so I often settle for "god" as a means to facilitate communication. In most cases, they aren't going to talk to me enough to ever have any real idea of what I believe so I don't see any reason to get all hung up about it. Still, I continue to wrestle with how to respect someone's beliefs and their good intentions towards me when there is often a vast gulf between our beliefs.
I don't have a good answer, just similar discomfort.
In plainer terms: you could choose not to be an asshole and take a kind word for what it is.
Again: you can choose to accept kindness in the spirit in which it was intended, or you can be the Angry Atheist Asshole. The latter seems to be poor form.
Hospital and recovery at home are boring, but long visits are often exhausting.
I came down with chronic fatigue syndrome / chronic mono after a second mono flareup in late 2009. It's not cancer, but it's nasty and it doesn't go away, and I have good days where I seem and feel normal, and bad days where I don't even have the brainpower to watch stupid TV. It blows.
To this list, I'd add: Be willing to be the one doing all the work necessary to keep the relationship alive when the other person is too weak and tired.
So many of my "friends" here in Vienna just disappeared when I got sick, because they weren't willing to put in the effort when I couldn't. There's nothing quite like being too sick to leave the apartment, and ALSO having nobody who cares enough to visit you.
I'm sure if I told them this, they'd be absolutely aghast at their own behavior and try to make amends -- they are not bad people or even bad friends -- but now, knowing what I know, I wonder if it would be worth it for me to say something.
Yet another big reason I'm moving back to the US.
Here is what I think: Friendships are always give+take. When you are sick, you expect them to give a lot.
Did you really do so much for them while you were healthy? Because in my opinion only a sociopath wouldn't offer to help you if you had helped him greatly in the past.
Or do you rather expect them to help you because it's just what they "should" do.
And what exactly do you want them to do anyway? Just mindless visits? So you expect pity? Are you in a habit of forcing your friends through awkardness? Because I'd expect my friends to not expect me to visit them for elusive reasons like "emotional support". I would never expect a friend to visit me when I'm sick, because I know that I'll be another person. They are not friends with a guy who has pains, drools and is in agony. I wouldn't think of demanding friendship like you do.
I really think boiling it down to a simple "give-take" relationship is oversimplifying the dynamics. It goes far beyond that.
A person may visit someone who is sick out of religious convictions, or because being generous makes them feel good, same reason you have many people who volunteer or help push someone's stalled car on the road. Others may be do so to simply pay it forward, maybe to help cultivate a relationship, or with unspoken expectations of the favor being returned had the tables been turned. Yet, others might just be doing it because they have something to gain from the sick/dying person or somehow feel bound/compelled to do so...
I personally would value visiting a friend who it sick and does not have a lot of family/friends to care for them vs one who has a lot of people to care for them, I'd probably leave the latter alone until they recover, or contact a close family member to avail myself should the need arise.
It's the same reason that fewer people are willing to take on more "demanding" friendships. That time spent caring for a sick friend is time that can't be spent hanging out with other friends. Some people will do it anyway, either out of a sense of duty or because that particular friendship meant a lot to them before their friend got sick. But we don't often see these people, because all the energy they invest in their sick friend is energy not being spent hanging out with us.
For sake of getting anywhere in an argument, I try to abstract things down a lot but at the same time keeping them valid for discussion.
I felt that the addition of things like cultural bias would only detract from the message that everything boils down to give+take, (and pertaining to this particular discussing: that friends only go so far until there is nothing to take anymore.)
Why? Because cultural bias, upbringing and personal choice are things that merely move the give+take 'thresholds'. What I mean, is that you'll still get something out of everything you do. In my opinion, people always act in their own interest, even though their interest may largely be in favor of others.
An extreme example to illustrate the point that everything is give+take:
Take for example Warren Buffet donating billions of dollars: You could say that this has hardly any "take" for him. But why do it if there was no take at all for him? I mean no take at all. Not even a passing feeling of pride or accomplishment.
You will see that, yes of course, he will have some kind of reward for donating these immense amounts of money. There is always a take :)
Why? Because they love me and they're good people. I love them, too.
Austrians make terrible friends, in my experience, because they think like you.
They are so terrified of "losing" something by being connected to people -- so absolutely horrified at the idea that they might be "taken advantage of" -- they they shut themselves down and make no serious connections at all, living a life with only fairweather friends and no one they can truly trust to stand by them.
It's really incredibly sad.
Likewise I could claim Americans are terrible friends, because they get upset about the tiniest things, are constantly in your face, wasting time with trivialities and use laughter inflationary as a social tool instead of its actual meaning.
But I don't, because that would be childish. Instead I view them as quirky, lively people who embrace the whole world as their home (in a positively, naive way)
Your implicit claim that Austria is 'worse' than America is merely a kneejerk reaction to a different culture. You are even equating your personal definition of "nice" with being a good person, insinuating Austrians aren't good people.
Grow up, different people are different.
A person doesn't get better from a visit, they get better by being left alone with medicine.
Your view on society is adorable, but remember that it has no roots in reality.
A possible rephrasing of the sentence above would be that, putting someone suffering from a protracted disease into a solitary confinement with medicine is the path to betterment. I don't think it works that way. There is a reason why even otherwise healthy person are not held in solitary confinement unless as an act of (sometimes disguised) punishment.
You mentioned that emotional health is an elusive concept. It is not, it can be measured, and the measure stands up to a quality that is acceptable to the disciplines of empirical sciences. I think your hesitation to acknowledge it, stems from the fact that it can be defined significantly by the person/patient, while that is true, it does not make it elusive. Many people can voluntarily control waves emitted by the brain. The fact, that brain signals can be so controlled, does not make epilepsy a fictitious condition.
>Depending on others to feel good is not the sign of a mentally healthy person.
EDIT: Responding here to prevent deeply nested threads. By your standards most humans would be unhealthy. The need for social interaction is well documented, and not only among humans. I am an introvert so I get by fine with a level of interaction low enough that it might bother someone else, but that does not mean that those who need it are unhealthy. There is a full spectrum and both extremes are considered deviant.
>I thought it was apparent that social interaction shouldn't be necessary to get better.
EDIT2: I think that's the crux of the argument/disagreement.
Social interaction has been deemed a necessity to well being. Can someone not recover from a disease without interaction, sure some can if it can be cured in a short enough duration, no otherwise. Does everybody need the social interaction to get better (stay well)? No, a percentage can do without it. In fact some spiritual school of thought see that to be the ultimate and difficult to attain target frame of mind.
Editing aswell: I'm sorry, I should have been clearer but it's quite lengthy to always be precise and include the necessary disclaimers:
Of course everything has its limitations. Humans are social beings, so we like social interactions. During the limited time of sickness, I thought it was apparent that social interaction shouldn't be necessary to get better.
Example: I think it's possible to feel good when doing a walk alone in the park. I think it's possible to feel good when being alone sick. Suffering is often a distinct choice: Do I pity myself for standing in the rain or do I love the feel of fresh, wet water?
Can someone not recover from a disease without interaction, sure you can if it can be cured in a short duration, no otherwise
Example: Someone living completely alone at home, getting his meals delivered because he is too fat to leave. I'm not saying his life is awesome, but if he gets sick, there is no reason his recovery should in any way be significantly slower than the one of social people.
It's all a matter of getting used to things, self pity is usually the only culprit of an unhappy life.
(Side note: a friend and I tried this on my sister when we were 8 and she was 7. She was being a nosy tag-along in the way that little sisters often are, and so we just literally pretended that she didn't exist. She was in tears within an hour, and my mom told us to either acknowledge her existence or my friend was going home.)
Just because healthy people can be alone doesn't mean they should. Over long periods of time, it causes marked social atrophy and can become really difficult to rejoin society.
Why on earth would you claim otherwise? What basis do you have?
And that right there is exactly why Americans make such better friends than Austrians.
There is a huge cultural difference and I honestly am not surprised that the depression and suicide statistics are so much higher in Austria -- a rich land where a person's basic needs will always be assured -- than in the US.
An adage I really like is "never attribute to malice what can be equally well explained by stupidity". And then, never attribute to stupidity what can be equally well explained by miscommunication. They probably had no idea that what you needed was for people to put in that effort - they may have thought "well, she hasn't made plans with us, maybe she's bored with us?" They may have just not wanted to bother you.
I don't live in Austria, but I live in Germany, which I suppose has a similar property. Notice how in restaurants, the servers don't bother you unless you get their attention, while in America they're constantly hovering and asking "how is everything? everything fine?" I think Germans in general treat people's personal space as more sacrosanct, while Americans are very... attentive, maybe? The negative way would be to say Germans are aloof and Americans are nosey. Or maybe Germans are askers and Americans are guessers?
Either way, I think you're probably being too harsh on your Austrian friends. They'd probably have been more than happy to be the ones to make the effort - if they knew that's what you needed. And, not being telepathic and with a bit of a culture gap, that one small piece of effort to mention it sort of... ends up being something only you can do.
And for the record, in my experience, Austrians are much less friendly than Germans -- or at least, Austrians who live in Vienna are much less friendly than Germans who live in Berlin. The friends I have in Berlin are quite different.
"And that right there is exactly why Americans make such better friends than Austrians."
I'm very surprised to read such a generalization about "the Austrians" from you, Amy.