What should I say when I hear that my friend has cancer? How can I help but not get in the way? How do I let my loved ones know what I need?
The Etiquette of Illness is a wise, encouraging, and essential guide to navigating the complex terrain of illness. This collection of anecdotes and insights will help those who feel awkward and unsure about responding to a friend, colleague, or relative who is suffering. The book is also for people who are ill and want to engage with their loved ones effectively. We read about a range of people who are dealing with chronic illness, doctor-patient communications, and end-of-life issues-and who are striving to find their way with awareness and compassion.
Drawing on her years of counseling people with serious illness, as well as her own experiences with cancer, Susan Halpern presents an insightful book of the utmost relevance for patients, their caregivers, and their family and friends - a group which will, at some point, include all of us.
Halpern, a psychotherapist, social worker and founder of the New York Cancer Help Program, shares here her considerable expertise on how best to comfort a close friend, colleague or relation who is living with a serious physical or mental illness. Practical suggestions are illustrated by compelling stories from her professional life, as well as from her own experiences after being diagnosed with low-grade lymphoma in 1995. Rather than focusing on what precise terminology to use, Halpern believes that what we say depends on the individual, the relationship and one's own self-consciousness. So long as the words come from the heart, it is the expression of true compassionate feeling that will be remembered by the recipient. In calming, well-crafted prose the author addresses a number of particular situations including advising friends on the importance of connecting with a physician who knows how to listen and talk to patients, less conventional ways of communicating with those who are dying and ways to effectively assist the chronically ill. She recounts the example of one helpful woman who drops off cooked food for an ill friend, but only stays to chat if her company is welcome rather than tiring. Of particular interest to parents will be Halpern's insightful chapter on talking to children about serious illness and death, in ways that are both truthful and as reassuring as possible. First serial to O: The Oprah Magazine.