What Can I Do? 10 Tips for Helping a Friend Who's Sick

Your friend or someone in her family is seriously ill and you want to help. Lee Woodruff tells you how to do -- and say -- the right thing.
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Don't Be Afraid to Make Contact with Her

My husband, Bob, then coanchor of ABC's World News Tonight, was nearly killed by a roadside bomb while on assignment in Iraq. Thankfully, our family has come out the other side of the crisis, and Bob, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in the attack, is doing well. As the grateful recipient of oodles of love, goodwill, community support, and prayers during Bob's recovery, I've learned a lot about the practicalities of helping someone through a life-changing trauma -- what works and what doesn't -- and I have often been asked to share these lessons. The following tips, while not necessarily novel, seem to have a universal appeal -- because, yes, bad things do happen to good people.

Most people who haven't experienced a tragedy or serious illness at close range have no concrete idea of how to approach the person who is suffering. But it's crucial not to hang back: The bravest and most wonderful thing you can do is to be there for someone else, even if this takes you completely out of your comfort zone.

When something goes wrong in a friend's life, it's essential to acknowledge what is happening. Be sure to reach out. If the idea of calling is too uncomfortable for you, write a heartfelt note instead. Your friend may push you away at first. Take your cue from her, but don't give up -- come back later. We all need comfort and companionship. We just may need it at different times and in different doses during the journey.

Continued on page 2:  Help Her Feel "Normal"


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