I had 2 people in the past week ask me how they could help a loved one who has been really sick. What should they say? What should they do?
This is a great question, as well as a very controversial one! If you ask a sick person this question, their response will be very different because they are looking through the lens of the ego (think about the ego as if talking logically to a 2 year-old…logic doesn’t work with a toddler).
I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but I can at least share my personal experience as well as what I’ve learned along the way in working with really sick clients. First I’ll give you some background on what is going on in the mind of a sick person, then I’ll give you some pointers on how to help them, and then I’ll tell my story (what it took for me to finally wake up).
A Course In Miracles states that “All illness is mental illness.” What this means is that our physical body will reflect our thoughts. If we have painful, crappy thoughts our bodies will feel painful and crappy. If we have calm, peaceful & loving thoughts our bodies will be in balance. There is a lot of science to back this up, but if you aren’t open to it you won’t see it.
In scientific terms, if we are in a state of constant emotional stress we will be in a constant state of fight-or-flight. This creates a constant stream of stress chemicals in our bodies. If we really needed to fight or run away we would have the energy and power to do so. But we rarely need to fight or run away. We just think we do. Constantly. This takes a toll on the body. Your body can’t heal until it is in rest mode (feeling calm & peaceful). You can’t even sleep peacefully if you aren’t truly peaceful. This stress becomes a never-ending cycle of self-sabotage.
When you are stressed out (sick), you are actually dumber. You don’t take tests well. You don’t think clearly. You make assumptions that aren’t even close to being true. You twist other people’s words around to fit your argument. You are convinced that others are attacking you (treating you rudely, judging you), so you attack them first. You are angry. Why me? What did I do to deserve this illness? You are afraid. What if I can’t get better? Who will take care of me? How will I pay my bills? What if I really don’t matter? What if no one loves me?
As children, we all try to protect ourselves out of fear. What if my dad is angry and yells at me again? Maybe I should just stay in my room and not say anything. What if my mom had a bad day and doesn’t feel like feeding me? Maybe I really don’t matter. Maybe no one likes me.
These feelings become our beliefs, and these beliefs become our reality. We made assumptions when we were young about our worth and our ability to be loved. But these assumptions weren’t true. We just didn’t know any better at the time. Fast forward to adulthood, and these assumptions from childhood are still haunting us. And we are able to attract a whirlwind of crap into our lives!
And we all do this to a certain extent. It’s just that some are able to take a look at their thoughts easier and faster than others. Anytime we have challenges in our lives, that is our clue that our thoughts need to be looked at. We don’t have to suffer, but some of us know of no other way.
For example, many people who are really sick have an underlying belief that they aren’t aware of concerning their health. As children, they might have noticed that they received more attention if they had a stomach ache or a headache. Maybe they got to stay home with mom. Fast forward to adulthood, and they have been using illness as a way to get attention, to feel loved…all without realizing it. Now I’m not saying that this is always the case, but I am saying that when I’m working with clients, a belief similar to this one gets uncovered when we start taking a look. This is their “aha” moment…the light bulb goes off! They understand that they no longer need to let this belief control their lives. They are free to let go of that belief and form a new belief…that they don’t need to be sick in order to feel loved.
I know, pretty deep stuff…but the key in helping someone is uncovering the silly beliefs that we put in place when we were kids and didn’t know any better.
How to help an adult loved one
So when you have a loved one who has been or is really sick, think of them as being paralyzed by fear. Fear of not being loved. Fear of being alone. Fear of not mattering. With all of this fear closing in on them, they “jumped into a hole” where they could feel a bit safer. But they are really angry about being in this hole. They blame others for putting them there. They feel personally insulted if you won’t come into their hole and experience their fear with them. They feel slighted when they find out that someone else actually healed themselves. They would rather hang out with others who are really sick and focus on how miserable everyone is.
They want to feel loved. They want a hug…but they act like a porcupine…and will most likely hurt you with their words if you try to give them affection. With fear controlling them, they act like a 2 year-old throwing a tantrum. You will hear “I can’t” and “No” quite a bit. They are afraid.
They will ask for your help, but they really want you to jump in the hole with them. They want you to feel their misery and pain. They want you to feel what they are going through.
What they don’t understand is that jumping in the hole with them won’t help anyone, not even them. All you can do is offer help when asked, but help in the form of guidance and love. You can’t do the work for them.
Don’t try to change or fix them! They will have their guard up and will be offended. To them, you are attacking them and judging them if they sense you are trying to change or fix them.
Try to give them unconditional love, yet with firm boundaries. They might not like you for it, but they don’t have the right to treat you poorly just because they don’t feel well.
Don’t engage with them when they are making negative comments, even if the comments are about how bad they feel. Change the subject. Offer encouragement (but stop if they become offended). See if they will watch a funny movie with you, or find funny YouTube videos to watch (anything to help shift their mood).
If they become agitated or belligerent when you won’t engage in their negativity and fear, simply say, “It doesn’t do either one of us any good for me to treat myself unlovingly.” Then just walk away. This alone should get them thinking. They will be really confused by this at first. Their inner 2 year-old hasn’t been considering how their behavior has been affecting other people.
Ask for your own inner guidance when helping someone else. Sometimes you need to say something, and many times you don’t. Just let them know through words or actions that they matter, that they are loved, that they are enough. Try to remain as peaceful and calm as you can when around them.
How I finally woke up from fear
For me, I used to act just like what I described above (yikes). Yeah, I’m embarrassed about it, but I feel it’s important to share. I’ve been there, done that.
My husband, Tom, really helped me look at my thoughts differently. He patiently and lovingly, but firmly, questioned my outbursts. He called me out on my incorrect assumptions in a loving way. After this happened enough times, I really started to question my assumptions. It felt like I was hitting rock bottom – that point where I didn’t know what was real, I was ready to admit I didn’t know anything, I was ready to see things differently, I was ready to get out of my own way. That’s when I started feeling like it was finally safe for me to come out of my own hole. It was very humbling to realize how much I had been hurting myself and others. But it was also beautiful and freeing to come out of my self-imposed prison. That’s when I could feel happy again. That’s when I regained my health. That’s when my relationships became more meaningful and loving. That’s when I got my life back.
So again, this blog is meant to show a deeper side of what is going on within the unconscious mind, the part of the mind we are currently unaware of. It is NOT meant to offend anyone, but instead to wake up those who need a little nudge. I’ve shared my personal experiences in the hopes that it can offer you a fresh perspective.
It really boils down to our ability to love ourselves. Love conquers all. Peace everyone!
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