I have heard from several people recently asking me for my thoughts on how they can support a loved one who has COVID. I have several ideas from my own experience and from experiences that others have shared with me. I will start with one important idea related to communication
In sum, your intentions are good, but check yourself.
The coronavirus is impacting all of us. 80% of news headlines are about it. Our memes are about it. It’s a conversation at work constantly. You get the idea. However, if you haven’t contracted it yourself, you are experiencing it in a different way than someone who has contracted COVID-19.
Do your best not to put your own anxiety and fear on that person. Your loved one is trying to get through this and I can almost guarantee they do not have the energy to help you deal with your anxiety, too.
If you’re feeling super anxious, find a friend you can talk to, maybe journal, go for a walk, etc. Do your best to not contact your loved one at that moment. They are living with the fear of what COVID-19 is doing to their body every moment and likely working hard at holding back the panic. Don’t open that door for them. Just give yourself a moment to calm down.
If you live with them, walk around the block. If you’re messaging them, consider something like:
“No need to respond. I just wanted you to know that I’m thinking about you and can’t wait to see you again. I'm here anytime if you're up for chatting.”
This type of message lets the sick person know they don’t need to respond but that you're thinking about them and there is no pressure from you; you don't need anything from them.
While still thoughtful, it is less helpful to receive messages like:
How are you?”
The sick person has likely been asked this dozens of times already. They likely don’t know how to respond or don’t want to go there emotionally. They may not respond but then feel guilty about it. They may want to respond with something like, “I feel like the world is ending and I’m terrified.” but that’s dark and they want to protect your feelings.
Your intentions are good and it makes sense to ask this because it is a common daily question. For now, consider a statement rather than such an open-ended question.
Do you have a fever? Are you eating? How are you breathing? Are you on oxygen? etc.
Bombarding someone with questions like this is often a symptom of your own fear. It’s understandable. However, it is exhausting for the sick person to go through the litany of symptoms they are experiencing again and again. They may also not know or remember at that moment.
A compromise might be, “Has anything significant changed with your symptoms today?” If they say no, just leave it there and talk about something else. It’s okay for you to talk about something other than the coronavirus, like the walk you took that day or the show you’re binge-watching. Try to let them bring up their symptoms with you if that’s what they want to do.
Have you seen this?!
..with an attachment to an article about how thousands of people just died from COVID-19 or a story about ventilator shortages. You get the idea.
Just because someone you know has COVID-19, it doesn’t mean you it’s a good idea to share all the COVID-19 news stories with them. It will only make the sick person more scared. They know those articles are out there. They probably already read them, or they are avoiding them intentionally. If you’re going to send anything, consider sending a positive story or one that isn’t COVID-related at all.
This is a big one but I will share another post soon with additional ideas. If you have or had COVID and have suggestions about what makes you feel supported, I invite them in the comment section. You can also drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll incorporate it into another post.