You never ask your friend about the son who is not doing well. The child who suffers from addiction. You are afraid it won’t be good news. It never is. That child is either in rehab. Or using drugs. In some recovery house. Or in the hospital. You don’t want to remind your friend. You are worried you may say the wrong thing and then what? So you ask about other children. Other things.
Good God there hasn’t been good news about this child in five years. You are sure this friend wouldn’t want you to ask. It would be awkward, right? Wouldn’t want you to remind this friend of the son who has caused nothing but heartache to his family. How do the parents live with all this?
I was in that place once–the place where no one asked about Charles. I was dying to talk about him and it was heartbreaking. It was like he was dead already. Like he didn’t count because he suffered from drug abuse and eventually addiction. I was falling apart and I wanted people to ask about him.
I thought maybe people didn’t ask about Charles because they didn’t care. But it was something else. We just don’t ask about things we can’t fix, leaving people feeling alone and isolated. The truth is, I didn’t need anyone to fix it or say anything. I just needed someone to listen.
I did look for help and support and I did find it. But there were still so many who never asked about Charles. And that hurt.
So that friend of yours who has a son or daughter who suffers from mental illness or addiction, they want you to ask about that child, too. That son or daughter suffers from an illness and that parent has struggled. Often that struggle has been in isolation with little support outside of a support group.
Just start by asking empathetically, “Tell me how so and so is doing?”
They may choose to open up. They may not. They may pause and try to judge whether they can trust you or not because of the stigma and the shame.
It costs you nothing to be there for another human being. Chances are they want to be asked. Chances are, they will appreciate it and just by asking, you have brightened someone’s day.