It’s a precarious thing to tell people you’re sick in bed with Covid-19.
We’ve read the concerns from every point of view. We’ve seen the sometimes thoughtful but many times passive aggressive or just plain aggressive social media posts.
Some people think you’re a fool to not get the vaccine; some people think you’re a fool when you do. So, when I confess I came down sick with Covid-19 between vaccine doses, maybe I look like a fool to all sides.
Somebody thinks I had it coming to me since I waited as long as I did to get the vaccine, and somebody else thinks I should’ve known better than to let myself be a lab rat for the government.
Either way, I end up feeling not only the fever of sickness, but the blushing heat of shame.
Your friend is surely resilient enough to handle these extra little burdens, but ideally, she won’t have to. When your friend comes down with Covid-19 and is laying in bed for days with every bone and muscle aching, unable to read or even move her eyes without wincing, sleeping most of the day, eating meals without flavor, and not able to spend time with or help her own family, there are some things she won’t have energy to deal with.
Turn your attention toward your friend’s basic physical and relational needs for a few moments.
Misery lessens with acknowledgment.
WHAT NOT TO SAY
Your friend may not have the energy to give a defense of her choices and decisions leading up to this point. She has already had to retrace her steps for contact tracing. That’s plenty.
Rather than using this situation to help you feel more entrenched in your positions on the virus and how it has been handled or mishandled, what your friend most likely wants is to feel loved and cared for, to know that you feel her absence and bemoan her pain. She wants to feel more like a person than a problem.
While your friend is sick, if a judgment or piece of unsolicited advice rises up in your mind, pause before it hits your tongue. Hold back that thought until you’re out of earshot. If your friend has to be stuck in a room away from all other humans for days on end, let it not be with the memory of your treatise echoing off the walls of her mind. Cynicism and contempt are almost as unpleasant as Covid brain fog.
Rather than hinting that your friend might have avoided this by doing what you did, or complaining about how the CDC or school administration doesn’t know what they’re doing, or giving personal positions about how your friend’s household should be handling isolation, turn your attention toward your friend’s basic physical and relational needs for a few moments. Misery lessens with acknowledgment. With a focus like this, you’ll be respecting both her grown-up dignity and her current state of vulnerability.
SHOW COMPASSIONATE CONCERN
Throw a mini pity party if you’re so inclined, like my Mom, sister, and others did.
Say something like….
- “I’m so sorry you’re going through this.”
- “Ugh! Two weeks is a long time for your littles to be home from school.”
- “That’s really hard to be apart from your family for so long!”
- “Sorry, sister! I hope you won’t be too miserable. Hopefully that one shot gives your system support in the fight!”
- “I heard you tested positive. I hope you don’t suffer from it too much. Wow…with the kids it must be a mess.”
- “I’m so sorry to hear this! We will certainly be monitoring others, but for now, I’m less worried about that than I am about you. Hoping that your symptoms are not too cumbersome.”
- “How hard it must be to isolate from the people you love most!”
- “I’ve been worried about you!”
- “Sleeping is probably the best medicine at this point. I’m sure it’s the most productive thing you can do for now.”
- “Hugs and cheers to your husband as he supports you and your family during this sickness.”
What your friend most likely wants is to feel loved and cared for, to know that you feel her absence and bemoan her pain. She wants to feel more like a person than a problem.
OFFER TANGIBLE CARE
If your schedule allows, add some tangible care to your encouraging words, and help your sick friend and her family feel supported while they are struggling. Even a small act can make a big impact. Lives are busy. I don’t take for granted the kind gestures that these people packed into their hectic days to let us know they were thinking of us.
- One neighbor texted, “We are standing by to provide assistance-shopping, meals, whatever will ease your burdens.” We came really close to asking them to deliver some toilet paper to the porch one day.
- A few friends and families from church provided meals while my fully vaccinated husband was trying to keep everyone fed. One family brought over barbecue ribs and potatoes. Another friend made extra steak, potatoes, and salad for an event and gave it to our family. Another night, friends brought over three amazing homemade pizzas packaged in cardboard pizza boxes that said, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” Our thoughts exactly. I couldn’t taste the meals that were brought to us in my quarantine, but the texture, nourishment, and kindness filled me up.
- My friend and writing client brought over gluten-free snacks, a pan of chicken and rice, and a copy of the New York Times to alleviate my boredom when I was able to read again. Via text, she sent some photos from her visit to the art museum to cheer me up.
- My long-time friend who lives an hour away dropped off elderberry tea, finger paintings of ice cream cones from her preschooler to “make my fever go away,” and a book of poetry.
- My in-laws delivered a nourishing meal from a favorite restaurant.
- One most memorable moment came when my middle schooler hit her breaking point with isolation and virtual learning and her friend delivered a plate of warm cookies and a note for my two girls that said, “Can’t wait until we can play again!”
Your friend’s recovery may be slower than anticipated, even if not an emergency-level case. Regular life runs in fast motion while laying in bed feels like slo-mo. If you are able to check in multiple times in the recovery process, your words can help your friend feel connected and envision a better day. You may consider setting an alarm on your phone every few days if you feel drawn to showing an extra measure of care for this friend.
Thoughtful check-ins lifted my spirits while I recovered….
- “Comfort, peace, healing. Rise up soon!”
- “Praying for the virus to pass swiftly from your body.”
- “Hope the symptoms are not too severe and you recover quickly! Perhaps I can come hear you sing with your worship team sometime after you’re feeling better. That will be fun!”
- “Glad to hear these good steps toward recovery. I’ve been praying for you every day. I used Bible verses yesterday for a miraculous healing. Be patient with yourself, your brain, and your body. It may take some time to feel like yourself again. Love you all.”
Society-wide anxiety often makes us more preoccupied than compassionate. We could stand to be reminded of ways to be gracious to those who are sick.
SWEET TO THE SOUL, HEALTHY FOR THE BODY
All of these words of empathy, acts of service, and get-well wishes may seem like obvious choices to us when we read them here, but society-wide anxiety often makes us more preoccupied than compassionate, and we could stand to be reminded of ways to be gracious to the sick.
These thoughts come from my very uncomfortable yet non-emergency experience of Covid-19 in August. While I was in isolation, I followed and prayed over the sad stories of friends’ loved ones who died from the illness. Those who are hospitalized or have loved ones who are hospitalized will, of course, need a whole different level of care and attention than what I’ve shared here. But I hope these examples of gracious words and gestures can at least serve as a springboard to help us all care for friends who are suffering more intensely.
This is a time for discerning our own health decisions, yes, but it’s also a time for tenderness, tangible help, and good bedside manner. “Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body,” even if the one who’s sick can’t taste anything.
[This post is dedicated to my dear friend and writing client, Jacquie Reed, whose earthly days came to an abrupt end in early November 2021. Jacquie has left many crumb trails of kindness for me and her other loved ones to follow. Her care for me when I was in bed with Covid-19 is just one example of the way she interacted with her friends, delighting in them and meeting them in their need, week in and week out. I’ve known God’s goodness in a deeper way because of my years writing and interacting with Jacquie Reed.]
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or on my social media posts. Tell me…. What words and tangible help have been most encouraging to you in times of sickness?
PANDEMIC PRAYERBOOK STILL AVAILABLE
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