“She has cancer.”
It’s one of the last things we want to hear about someone we know. We want to be good friends. We want to love our friends. But how?
The thing is, there is no one single answer. Everyone is different and in need of different help. I think it’s important to pray and take into account the personality and preference of the individual needing care, as well as our level of friendship with them. And that’s where this amazing resource comes into play.
Podcast: Supporting a Friend with Cancer
This podcast from Don’t Mom Alone (formerly God-Centered Mom) offers a practical way to help us discern how much to do. Heather MacFadyen, host of the podcast, interviews Marissa Henley, who battled cancer herself when she had small children.
While she talks specifically about those with cancer, this works well for anyone experiencing suffering: depression, chronic illness, financial hardship, job loss, and more.
Marissa describes three levels of friendship, and the level of care you might provide as a result.
The Inner Circle usually only contains a few friends who know intimate, personal details about the person who is needing care. If you are an Inner Circle friend, Marissa suggests offering to help with personal needs. Think about things inside the house, such as helping with kids (because they probably already know you and trust you), cleaning the house, and caring for their emotional needs–listening to their hopes and fears and sitting with them in those moments.
In the Middle Circle, you might go to church with the individual or your kids hang out or go to school together. In essence, you know each other but you are not personal friends. If you are a Middle Circle friend, perhaps you can help with things outside the home: yard work, errands, transportation for kids to get to school or practices.
Outer Circle friends know who a person is, but they are not necessarily “friends,” per se. More like acquaintances or social media friends only. These friendships are important, too! Outer Circle friends can help provide meals, communicate support (especially in a way that doesn’t need a response), and pray for the individual and their family.
As you are trying to discern how to best help your friend, ask yourself, “Which circle of friends do I fall into?”
Sometimes when hardships come–whether our own or others–we find ourselves at a loss of Inner Circle or Middle Circle Friendships. What does one do when there is no one to fill those roles?
Heather and Marissa also suggest asking ourselves, “How am I cultivating the friendships in my life?” This way, when hardships come, we are ready and able to help. They also talk about creating margin (white space) in our lives so that we will have time to help when called upon.
Be sure to listen to the full episode to hear Marissa’s story and more feedback and advice, such as:
- what to do when you don’t have many Inner Circle friends,
- how social media impacts our perception of friendships,
- what to do when you don’t know what to say,
- how to avoid burnout,
- how to go the extra mile when making a meal, or
- how to help if you don’t have margin in your life (hint, you can’t!).
You can find the podcast HERE or in the iTunes app under the podcast Don’t Mom Alone (it’s number 235).
Check out Marissa’s book, Loving Your Friend Through Cancer