Question: Since my husband's illness and confinement where are my friends and the people that I thought cared?
Dr. Amy: Your friends may be avoiding you and your husband because they do not know how to ‘be’ in your company. Seeing your husband may evoke feelings they would rather not feel, like fear —perhaps this could happen to them. Or awkwardness—where do you look when your friend who used to be so strong and full of life is so changed?
This happened to my father after my mother had a stroke. Mom was paralyzed and unable to speak, and people simply did not know how to be in her company. And so they stopped visiting.
My dad had to make a real effort to help people understand and feel comfortable. He explained that while she could not talk, she understood most of what they said and was very much the same person inside despite her changed appearance.
He reinforced how much joy mom took from seeing her friends and how much the visits meant to her—even if she could not express it.
He encouraged visitors to look at my mother, make eye contact, and behave as they had before the stroke.
He also encouraged people not to feel sorry for mom—or for him. This may sound strange, but in many ways my mother’s stroke was a gift. The last years of their lives together were in some ways happier for them as a couple than the ones before mom’s stroke—more tender, more close.
You may feel hurt by your friends’ behaviour, and angry. That’s understandable. I encourage you to forgive your friends. Reach out to them. Acknowledge their feelings. Tell them how much you value their friendship. Invite them to visit. You may find this very difficult, and if you do, I encourage you to talk to someone about it. Forgiving friends for a serious injury can be very hard. But surely the alternative is much, much harder?
Some people may still stay away. Others, however, will come to you and resume the friendship. And everyone will be rewarded in what is, without question, a challenging time. I wish you strength and peace.
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