Don't Say "Get Well Soon" to a Dying Patient

There's a little girl (13 yo) across our bed that's aneroxic looking. She has been waiting for a liver transplant for the last three years, and she lives in agony every single day. Her heart rate is a constant 110-120. She has a swollen belly and stick arms and legs. She suffers perpetual diarrhea (sometimes with blood) and she has lost the ability to recognize people, not even her own mother who sits by her side every day.

She's always sitting alone, and rarely receives a visitor. No one talks to this mom, not even the nurse unless it was necessary. And she just went about her day caring for this child of hers. Cleaning her up, watching over her, attending to her pain and needs. And when people do talk to the mom, they ask about her daughter's condition and then you could see they shift their eyes away because they felt pity, and they are at a lost for words.

On my side, my mom was taking a disturbed sleep in her bed. And I thought about the visitors we have received the past few days and the words of concern that flowed in.

It baffled me just how much people don't know what to say to a cancer/dying patient. Most of the time, albeit unintentionally, these words can do more harm than good.

No, we don't need some miracle treatments you read online/heard from a friend or referral of an uncredentialed doctor.

Please don't say 'how are you feeling?'. Same as yesterday, same as the day before and the day before that. There are going to be good days and there are going to be bad days. But they are generally all bad. So if you are expecting to hear good news from asking "how are you" on repeat, don't ask.

And please, for the love of God, don't say "get well soon". No, it's not going to get better. It's always going to get a little worse everyday/week/month. That's how it works. Saying get well soon just shows your indifference and insensitivity. Instead, say I'm here for you. And mean it.

Offer help. Bring food, offer to clean, lend a ride, offer a shoulder or just be there.
If you don't know what to say, say nothing, your presence is good enough. Don't stay away or avoid contact just because you don't know what to say, that's just going to hurt more. Offer a prayer, regardless of religion. Kindness and compassion know no bound.

One evening, as this mom was talking to my brother and friend over the condition of her daughter, I could see she was getting emotional. So I walked up, opened my arms wide and embraced her. I held her for a long time, and whispered "I know" (because I sincerely do) repeatedly. I didn't let go. She cried into my shoulder as I held the back of her tudung as she clung onto me. I don't know how long I held her for, but I hugged her hard and could feel her pain vibrated through every vessel of me. By the time I released her, my eyes were wet and I know none of the pain has been reduced, but it got its release that evening.

I don't know this woman, I have never spoken to her, I don't know her daughter nor the full extend of her condition. But I know her pain. And while words are lost, all she needed/wanted was a hug.


0 kissed Nicole