When You’re “the Sick One”: Gracefully Dealing With Attention

I was recently at the funeral of my husband’s first cousin once removed (chart). Intellectually and physically disabled, he still lived a long, spiritually full life. His mother, frail and in her late 80s, sat in front of the casket and stood to hug everyone who came to pay their respects.

When I moved to hug her, she told me how much she appreciated my coming to the funeral and that she often thought about how difficult it is for me to deal with so much pain and a body that is determined to fail me. The last thing I wanted her to do that day was worry about me. I told her that I’m fine, and I gave her a big hug.

A few minutes later, another family member asked me how I was doing. She’d heard I was really sick over the summer, and she’d been so worried about me. It took me a few minutes to figure out she was talking about my gallbladder surgery, and I assured her I had recovered well.

As my mother-in-law and I sat waiting for the service to start, a great-aunt stopped to say hello. My mother-in-law said, “Do you remember Kerry, my son’s wife?”

“Oh, yes. You’re the sick one.”

It’s not always easy to deal with the attention you receive when you’re chronically ill. Here are some things to keep in mind to help you gracefully handle the questions and comments.

People Usually Mean Well

For the most part, the people talking to you mean well. They aren’t trying to make you feel bad. The ladies I mentioned above are all sweet, kind, and concerned. Even when I’m super sensitive about the topic of my health, I keep in mind that these women are praying for me and hoping for the best.

People Are Genuinely Concerned About You

If you’ve been sick for a little while, you learn to tell the difference between those who are genuinely concerned about how you’re doing and those who either are being polite or morbidly curious. Those who are genuinely concerned are your biggest supporters and advocates. Even if it’s the sixteenth time someone has reminded you that you’re sick, regard their concern with respect.

Distant Family and Friends Will Take an Opportunity to Check on You

Having so many people ask after my health can make me feel uncomfortable, but the situation made it worse. We were at a funeral, and the man’s mother, who is going through pain I can’t even imagine, is worried about me. People mourning her son were, too. When you are at a gathering with family and friends that don’t see you very often, they are going to take the opportunity to check on you and let you know they’ve been thinking about you. This may be a Christmas dinner, a wedding, or a funeral. It feels weird, I know, but accept it as the concern and love it is.

Face It: You Probably Are the Sick One

Thankfully, most people may never know someone else as sick as you. In their world, you are the sick one, the one who goes through more illness and pain than they can comprehend. It’s not their fault. And, really, would you wish illness on more people in their social circle so you can be less conspicuous? No, of course not. Instead, be glad that the people they love are doing well.

When you’re chronically ill, you may not always feel like being a topic of concern and conversation. Still, it’s important to approach times like this gracefully. You may find a new well of support and love you didn’t know existed.

How do you deal with the questions and comments that always accompany a family gathering?

If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded. - Maya Angelou

Diagnosed with Crohn's disease over 20 years ago, Kerry has been through all the ups and downs of chronic illness. She lives in the South with her awesome hubby and her escape-artist puppy. She adores the Avett Brothers, coloring, and cooking competition shows. Currently, her favorite word is sanguine.

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About Me

Learning to find peace in the midst of chronic illness after 20+ years with Crohn's disease. Always on the hunt for more spoons.

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