If you’re ever wondering what you should say, consider the ring theory. Draw a circle and make that circle the centre ring. In the center ring, put the name of an afflicted person; someone who is terminally ill or a person who just lost a job. Then draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring, put the name of the person who is closest to the afflicted person. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. Now, there is one simple rule: care inward and dump outward…remember that.
People in the center ring can say anything they want to anyone…they can complain and curse the sky, say life isn’t fair…that’s the one payoff for being in the center ring. People in all of the other rings can say the same things too, but they can only say them to someone in a larger ring.
When you are talking to someone who is in a smaller ring than you are, your goal should be to help. Sometimes listening is the best help you can give to someone in a smaller ring. But if you should open your mouth, ask yourself first if what you are going to say is comforting and helpful. If it isn’t, don’t say it. Don’t say “this is what I think you should do” or “this really brings me down”. Say caring things like “this must be so hard on you” or “can I make you some lasagna”. If you want to say how shocked you are or how bad you feel, that’s okay, but tell that to someone in a bigger circle. CARE INWARDS and DUMP OUTWARDS.
Complaining to someone in a smaller ring than yours doesn’t do either of you any good. On the other hand, being supportive to a caregiver may the best thing you can do for a patient.