Turning to Allah and being a compliant, educated patient, which we discussed in detail in Part 1 and Part 2, are mostly concerned with the individual’s inner state and attitude toward their disease. However, human beings remain social creatures who need other people in their life to share their joys and sorrows with. As our role model, Prophet Muhammad was accompanied by his best friend Abu-Bakr on the hijrah (migration from Makkah to Madinah), while the Mother of the Believers Sayyida Khadijah comforted her husband when he returned home in shock after his first encounter with Archangel Jibril (Gabriel) .
Likewise, a sick person in particular needs a support system to cope better with their situation and receive both moral and physical support. This support system consists of family, friends, the medical team, and sometimes even strangers who have had a similar experience. All of the aforementioned categories of people have helped me greatly throughout the years in many different ways—from hugs, personal assistance, and hospital visits, to lengthy conversations and invaluable words of advice and encouragement. In the third and final part of this series, I will focus on some tools related to social interactions.
1. Appreciate how your loved ones react to your sickness.
For a long time, I had a hard time getting along with (in my opinion) overprotective, over-reactive parents. We argued frequently about issues that directly or indirectly related to my health that they greatly feared for—going out to certain places, spending too much time outdoors, skipping medication, and so on and so forth. I resented certain behaviors, like when my mum would cry to her brother on the phone or when my dad encouraged the doctors to keep me in hospital for as long as they wanted. I even gave a speech about this issue for my Public Speaking university class! Why didn’t they take things casually like I did? Why did they have to make my life difficult? It was out of their hands—they were parents who had unconditional love for their daughters! It took me a while until I learned to appreciate their feelings and tried not to be critical of their seemingly overrated actions. This minimized our skirmishes and made them comfortable expressing their fears and worries without being judged, which they had every right to.
“And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, “My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small” [Quran chapter 17, verse 24].
May Allah forgive us for our shortcomings.
2. Don’t turn down help if you need it.
If you’re used to doing things yourself, it may be hard to ask for help. Knowing this, your family will probably offer it. At times, you’ll be able to serve yourself well. However, if you really need help, humble yourself and accept to be accompanied to the bathroom or get assistance with changing your clothes. It’s only temporary, insha’Allah. Otherwise, it will be difficult to cope.
3. Join a support forum.
Sometimes, real-life experiences teach you lessons that no medical research can tell you. That is why I joined a support forum prior to my kidney transplant in order to find out what it was like for others, and get some helpful tips. Connecting with others in the same situation also helps you feel part of a community, instead of panicking at the thought of going through this alone.
4. Enjoy the pampering you receive while it lasts!
A wise Arabic proverb quotes a man who was asked which of his children he loved the most, to which he answered: “The young until he grows up, the sick until he recovers, and the absent until he returns.” So, expect to receive super-nice treatment from everyone, not to mention the duas, calls, messages, flowers, gifts, and a universal willingness to make you happy! At the same time, when a family member is sick it is normal to see the entire family stick together and spend more time in each other’s company. During Ramadan, my family ate iftar in my hospital room every single day. Learn to capture those precious moments and create a fun atmosphere instead of adding to the worries they try their best to conceal.
As this series comes to a close, I sincerely hope you found some benefit in all 12 tips! Please do share them with anyone you know who is dealing with illness. I ask Allah the Omnipotent to cure sick persons everywhere, alleviate their pain, and grant them patience that elevates their ranks and erases their sins. Ameen.