Your Letters to Our Children in Need
- How to write
It's hard to write to someone with cancer, especially if you are unsure of your emotions yourself. If the recipient is a loved one, you may feel confused, hurt, or afraid. In life, one cannot avoid pain. You can help make it seem less painful through your sincere support.
Choose genuine concern over sympathy.
They need to know that you support and care for them, not that you feel sorry for them. The most important thing to do when writing this letter is to make sure that they understand that you are there for them and care for them. You shouldn't be writing to say how you feel about their diagnosis.
Be sincere, but tactful.
Cancer may be terminal, manageable, or curable. In any case, you should be careful not to approach the patient as if you consider them to be terminally ill. Don't approach them with a 'final goodbye' tone in your letter. There are more and more cancer survivor stories than in the past. You will feel more hopeful and it will reflect in your tone. A cancer patient is looking for the smallest shred of hope, so anything possitive would be welcome. However, do not stress therapy or cancer in your writing. It is okay to mention it briefly, but don't stay on the subject of cancer, talk about the things you normally would too. Remind them that life goes on.
If the patient is a believer and you are too, say that you will pray for them. It's a disease that comes out of nowhere, and nobody knows how it ill end. In other words only God has the answers, and it would be comforting for the person to know that there are people invoking Him. Write in your letter that you intend to have your place of worship dedicate a service to them, or something of the sort, and then follow through. Even if you would have the service be for an anonymous sufferer; to preserve their privacy; they will feel uplifted by the greater amount of prayers that they will receive.
Remember that there is life both during and after cancer. Cancer patients do not always want to think or talk about the illness. Make a point to write about the usual things you would talk or write about. Take care with offering any advice outside your own experience. If you wish to offer positive words, choose them carefully, sharing thoughts and ideas that are uplifting and give strength. Again, it is your personal support that will be most helpful. Read your letter before sending it. Put yourself in the other person's place and make sure that your letter is something you would not mind receiving.
TipsKeep your tone similar to how you might write to a person suffering from a serious but common illness. Cancer may not be the common cold, but it is not unusual!
Keep the overall tone of your letter positive, not negative.
Re-read your words and close on a positive note.
Mention any similar cases you know of which had a positive outcome. This provides a ray of hope.
Speak from your heart. Even if the disease is terminal, you can still speak what's in your heart.
After hospice was brought in, I simply sent a card that said "Hope you are taking things easy, and are surrounded by the warmth of all of us that love you."
WarningsDon't write one letter and disappear. True support comes with continued action, not just a few words.
Do not comment about things that you think they could or should have done differently to prevent the illness. Even if it is true, it is not supportive.
Since the person is likely under much physical and emotional stress, you could get any kind of reaction.
Please do not be disappointed even if the reaction seems unfriendly.
Don't tell the patient that they "must" think positive thoughts in order to get better. Saying this puts an intolerable burden on the patient, and it's not even true.
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