The term “touched by” is for both the caregiver (friend, family member, co-worker, healthcare worker, doctor, etc.) and the loved one living with the illness, pain or disability.
In order to “encourage” we need to be educated which works best by listening to and asking questions of the person living with a health challenge or disability. We can tend to prejudge when with our eyes we do not see the illness or pain or when we have heard from others about their symptoms and try to broad brush all with the same results.
Education breaks down misconceptions and brings about understanding and community. Community is what people who are isolated on a regular basis need. They tend to be invisible (out of sight, out of mind). They need connection with others who care about them and for them so their times of loneliness will be few and far in between. They need to know they are loved first and then through genuine relationship, they can share about their struggles and difficulties. They need encouragement, not to take on the world or run a marathon or scale Mount Everest, but to just make it through the day, or survive the 50th doctor’s visit for the year or write a Facebook post full of vulnerability about their own life.
People touched by illness, pain and disability need each other. We all go through this life full of difficulties, some appearing harder than others yet all impacting relationships the most. Let’s believe first, develop relationship, reach out with open arms to help lift each other to our feet and hug like there is no tomorrow which for some is true.
Finally, if we don’t understand the craziness and apparent contradictions of an illness, we need to ask the person first before coming to a conclusion. Even though they know most people are well meaning with their advice and suggestions, sometimes the misunderstanding hurts more than the illness or pain itself. They want and need relationships! Let’s all learn to care about each other.