Tuesday May 19, 2015

How to avoid saying the wrong thing to a very sick friend

Artist and cancer survivor Emily McDowell says that when you're very ill "people around you who can normally relate to you, suddenly can't."

Artist and cancer survivor Emily McDowell says that when you're very ill "people around you who can normally relate to you, suddenly can't." (Emily McDowell)

Listen 10:36

Have you ever struggled for words when speaking with a very sick friend? Please put down that "Get Well Soon" card and listen to Emily McDowell.

The artist and cancer survivor, who has endured many awkward moments with well-meaning loved ones, joins Shad to discuss her funny and plain spoken "empathy cards". She offers her hard-earned insight on what not to say to someone with a serious illness. 

McDowell also weighs in on the importance of humour that validates the experience, how good intentions can go so wrong, and why even clumsy but heartfelt expressions may land better than maxims and metaphors.

"[People] don't realize that the person who is ill is the same person they were the day before," she says. 

WEB EXTRA | Browse some examples of McDowell's empathy cards below, or view the full collection at her website

Empathy card 2
Empathy card 4
Empathy card 3
Empathy card 5
Empathy card 1