Learning that your child is gravely ill is one of the most frightening experiences a mom can go through, says Karol S. She remembers feeling anxious and overwhelmed when her daughter was diagnosed with a chronic and life-threatening kidney disease.
Like many Circle of Moms members whose children have been diagnosed with a serious illness, what Karol needed the most, she says, was “friends who I could lean on and [who] could relate to what I [was] going through.”
Knowing how to support a friend whose child is very ill isn't easy. To help, Circle of Moms members whose children have battled serious illnesses share the five tips below on what to say and do.
1. Be Her "Someone to Talk To"
Alissa, whose daughter has been diagnosed with a terminal lung disease, says she cries in the shower and takes drives into the mountains "to scream at God all the anger I feel for my child having to face this.” What she's needed the most is “family and friends who were there and who I could share honestly what I feel," because “It helps if you have someone to talk to.”
Heather H. agrees that providing a shoulder to cry on is very important. "I think the biggest mistake we moms make is thinking we have to always be the rock,” she says. “Moms have emotions, too and it is not healthy for a mom to have to keep it all inside. A friend, family member, counselor, clergy, or someone to talk to is what moms really need.”
2. Give Her a Break
Taking care of a seriously ill child is stressful for the whole family, but especally for the primary caregiver, who is often the mom. Offer to help by giving your friend a needed break, recommends Maureen C. When her son was very ill, friends connected her with the opportunity to do a Make-A-Wish Foundation trip so that the whole family could get a break. “It made everyone feel special and we have so many great memories,” she says.
3. Steer Her to a Support Group
Nursing a child through a significant illness can be very isolating, says Cyndi P., so discovering that you are not alone is a true gift. Cyndi P. suggests helping your friend find a local support group in her area, adding that "some of them even come to you," and Lisa M. is grateful that she was offered exactly this kind of help when her seven-month-old was diagnosed with cancer. "It’s so important to connect with other moms that are going through the same emotional experience," she explains.
Member Roseann, whose daughter has cancer, recommends CaringBridge.com as a place to connect with families who are facing similar challenges. "I have a whole support system of cancer families I keep in touch with there,” she says.
(Circle of Moms also has many support communities organized around specific medical conditions and illnesses.)
4. Start a Fundraiser
The medical bills from doctor’s appointments, hospitalizations and medications quickly add to the stress of caring for a significantly ill child. Moms appreciate financial relief, says Angelia P., a single mom of two whose seven-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer.
“I had to quit my job because I had to stay home with Dylan," she explains. She was incredibly grateful when friends and neighbors rallied to hold fundraisers to pay for his treatments. "I still find myself tearing up when I think about this year or look at my son."
5. Don’t Give Advice
Listen, don’t preach, advises Ivy W. Now is the time to to “provide compassion and empathy and not judgment," this Circle of Moms member explains. “Be someone your friend can talk to and be able to be emotional about what is happening. Be someone who will be able to give her compassion and empathy."
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.