Keep Hope Alive: How To Help Someone Who’s Struggling

Friends Hugging

“He who has health has hope and he who has hope has everything.” ~Proverb

I write this today seemingly healthy.

My doctors say I’m healthy. I feel healthy. I look healthy. But over the last six months this was not the case.

In April of this year I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma. I am thirty-five years old. I am a wife and a mother to a four-year-old and six-year-old. I have my own business. I am busy. I did not have time for cancer.

But cancer had time for me.

I’ll never forget the day that I got the call letting me know that not only did I have this “Melanoma,” but it had spread to my lymph nodes as well. More surgery and an immunotherapy called “interferon” would be necessary, and the rate of return even after treatment? Thirty percent.

The first response inside of me was acceptance. I skipped past all the other emotions because, well, quite frankly, I had so long neglected the mole on my neck that I knew when the whole process started that cancer (and an advanced one at that) was likely.

But I’m not here to talk about cancer today. I’m here to talk about hope. A hope that springs eternal in the name of community. A rallying around me of family, friends, and even strangers upon this diagnosis. A support system that boldly lifted me and my mindset through every step of the way.

Dinners, childcare, cards, surprises on my doorstep, texts, calls, long-term visits—this community that I’m so very blessed with rallied in a big way, in a way I never, ever thought possible.

Even in my darkest and sickest of hours there was always something to be hopeful for because the love that came at me was indescribable.

It was made of sterner stuff.

It gave me hope because every time I even remotely started feeling bad, the community would take hold and lift me up in ways that were exactly what I needed right in the moment that I needed it.

My phone would buzz: “Thinking of you today. Hoping you’re okay. Sending love your way.”

My email would ding: “You’re amazing through this. Truly.”

Visitors would stop by: “Let yourself be loved. Let yourself be cared for.”

This whole cancer thing has taught me, once again, in the beauty of humanity. It has shown me that, even in our darkest hours, others can (and will) lift our spirits. When we are faced with our hardest struggles, it is then that we see the beauty in all that surrounds us.

Cancer is a bringer of all emotions. It is an un-hinger of all truths and perceptions. Things that once were important are no longer relevant. There is suddenly more beauty in the everyday.

This I learned not only because I was sick, but because my family, my friends, and perfect strangers showed me how to someday support someone in the same way they supported me.

So I offer you this: a list of ways to show your support when someone is having a hard time or is going through an illness.

Make a meal even when they say they don’t need it.

This was lifesaving for me! Drop it on the doorstep and tell them to freeze it.

Send texts.

Little joy buzzes, I like to now call them, sweet messages offering support, jokes, and updates from the outside world.

Leave a message.

Hearing the voices of my friends and family as I drifted in and out of consciousness (the treatment I had to endure was five days a week for four weeks, and it was tough) was the most uplifting.

Drop off trinkets.

There were times when I was well enough to go outside and sit for a bit in the summer sun. Often, I would find little gifts at my doorstep. I see these now in my office, in my home, in my bedroom, and they make me smile thinking of those who dropped them by.

Don’t give up quickly.

Whatever support you would like to offer, know that there may be some “Oh, we couldn’t possibly” or “That’s okay—we’re okay.” People often say this when they could really use the support, so it helps to offer more than once and be clear that you really want to be there for them.

Help delegate tasks.

Create a rotating schedule for bringing meals, giving rides, and offering help.

Admit that it stinks—empathize and then uplift.

Something from the emotional perspective that I learned during my cancer diagnosis and treatment was that when I told someone about it, they often didn’t know what to say. There was always a silence and then a pause. A loss for words.

We naturally want to make things “better” and keep it upbeat, which can go a long way in lifting someone’s spirit. That being said, the very first thing I loved hearing from family and friends before the upbeat was “Wow. This sucks.”

Those words allowed me to connect emotionally with my supporters. Even if they had never had cancer or had never gone through something like this before, the fact that the words were out there anchored me into a place where I could then build up with hope.

The best response I heard from a friend was this: “This sucks. I don’t like it. It’s going to be hard, but we will get through it and you’re not alone.” So, when in doubt empathize and then offer support.

Stay long-term if you can.

If you are able, try and be with your loved ones during the most difficult times. Stay for two days, a week, whatever works. This reprieve is huge.

Ask yourself: What would I want?

And then do that very thing.

Community support can provide a lot of hope, and as the quote says: “He who has hope has everything.”

As I ride the wave of newfound health, I know deep down that I have a net of support that. If the cancer returns, I’ll still have a battalion of loved ones behind me and they’ll help me keep hope alive.

Women hugging image via Shutterstock

About Licia Morelli

Licia Morelli is an internationally recognized clairvoyant psychic, intuitive coach, media personality, and writer. Licia sees clients all over the world for coaching and clairvoyant readings and is currently awaiting the release of her first children’s book about mindfulness and meditation due out Spring 2015 (Tilbury House Publishers). See more at Licia’s websiteFacebook and Twitter.

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  • Hi Licia
    What a great post and you offer some great tips here. When we want to help people, it is common to ask them to tell us if there is anything we can do, but that puts more of a burden on the person, who if they are like most people, feel uncomfortable doing that. It is always good to make some concrete suggestions and then just take the reins!

    Admitting something sucks too is very simple yet powerful. Like you said, the natural inclination is to make the person feel better, try to be positive, tell them to be strong and what have you, and while we mean well, it can serve to minimize the person’s negative feelings as if they should not be feeling them, but they need to be felt and acknowledged. We are not consciously doing this of course, but the end result is the same. Doing this also makes the person uncomfortable about sharing their fears, etc..which is something that is important they feel comfortable doing.

    Good luck on your journey and sending lots of healing love!

  • Kelli,
    Thank you for this comment! I really love how you say “tell us what we can do, but that puts more of a burden on the person” – it’s so true and we don’t even mean to do it. Concrete suggestions are where it’s at – take the reigns and don’t take no for an answer.

    Thank you for such a great perspective on the piece – I’m so glad that you enjoyed it!

  • Peace Within

    Bless your heart Licia. Glad you are doing so much better. Thank you for sharing this wisdom. It can be helpful to all of us in different ways. Love your perception. Take care =)

  • Thank you! It’s definitely a universal helpful tool – no matter what we encounter with each other these are ways to help and take the reigns to help! 🙂 xoxo

  • june

    Dear Licia, thank you for this post and I am so happy to know you are doing well. As someone who has also gone through a life-threatening illness for 2 years, I would also like to add “Ask and really listen (don’t impose your ideas of what the other person needs)”. Everyone is different – their food preference, how much time they want to spend with others (if they are introvert already they are not going to turn into extrovert just because they are ill – more likely they will become more introvert), circumstances (single people living alone have very different needs from those with spouses/families). For example, don’t assume everyone appreciates homecooked meal all the time – fresh fruits and vegges are often very difficult to have regularly when someone is ill and when they can’t go out as often, and when you are so ill, all you can manage is a slice of an apple. I also did not appreciate someone checking in often and offering unsolicited advice (which they probably thought was a way of supporting) but no practical help – it was the most difficult thing to deal with, as they meant well but it was so unilateral way of misguided support. What you want could be very different for the other person. Best way to be of real help (rather than imposing what you think the other person should do or want) is to ask and really listen. I can’t agree with you more, though, about the need for simple empathy – the most touching reaction I got from a friend of mine when I told her of my diagnosis was that she started crying. Not being told to be strong, “everything will be fine”, etc., was the best support I got. I hope you stay well, Licia, thank you for the post.

  • June, Thank you for this – and I totally understand what you’re saying about “ask and really listen” and everyone is different for sure. I think for me it was really hard to ask for help all the time and I felt as though I was “putting people out” and so the best thing for me was having people tell me what they could do rather than wait for me to tell them what I needed.

    That being said, I totally get that everyone has different needs so I’m so thankful you added these thoughts here to help broaden the perspective for helping others in need.

    Thank you, June for your great perspective here!


  • Bill Lee

    What a wonderful post, Licia. Your story offers great tips for supporting friends and loved ones going through difficult times. Even smiling at a stranger or performing random acts of kindness can provide healing energy to those suffering in silence. Wishing you and your family peace and serenity. Bill

  • lv2terp

    Beautiful post! Thank you for sharing your experience, and perspective! 🙂

  • Thank you, Bill! And I love that reminder of smiling at a stranger and random acts of kindness in order to keep the healing vibes going – amen to that! xoxo

  • Thank you! I’m so excited to be a part of the Tiny Buddha community this week! xoxo