How to Support a Friend After Surgery

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Consider how close you are to this friend.,
Allow your friend to feel what they are feeling.,
Try active listening.,
Ask the right questions.,
Understand the nature of surgery anxiety.,
Know how to cope with surgery and hospital anxiety.

The level of emotional intimacy makes a huge difference when it comes to what you should and should not say to someone after surgery. If you’re close, it’s easier to ask questions without hesitation and be more open expressing how you feel. If it’s a more formal friendship, or just a new one, be natural and warm but do not let the seriousness of a surgery push you to say something that might make you both uncomfortable. Stick to small talk, like “How are you feeling?” and “Do you need any help with anything today?”, There’s a good chance your friend is not feeling their best in the wake of an operation. Oftentimes, we feel people need a pep talk or positive reassurance. While this is well-intentioned, it can be frustrating to a friend who simply wants to express their thoughts. Let your friend talk, and accept their feelings with patience and empathy.

Avoid phrases like “I understand” or “I know how you feel.” It’s hard to truly understand a situation you are only experiencing secondhand. Instead, say something like “I can understand how you would feel that way. Tell me more.”Do not say things like “You shouldn’t feel that way” or “Cheer up.” Such phrases come off as judgmental if someone is feeling discouraged. Instead, say, “I’m sorry you feel that way, can you tell me why?” and other words that let your friend know you’re listening., Active listening is when you make a conscious effort to hear what another person is saying and to understand the message being sent. If you’re helping a friend after surgery, they are the priority and you need to make this clear. Your friend might need to vent, so try to be a patient and active listener post-surgery.

Pay attention. Give your friend your full attention by looking at them directly, putting aside distracting thoughts, engaging with their body language, and avoiding being distracted by the environment.
Show that you’re listening. Nod occasionally, smile and use other facial expressions, make sure your posture is open and inviting, and encourage the speaker to continue with verbal comments like “yes” and “I see.”
Provide feedback. Your role is to understand what is being said, so you may need to reflect on what your friend’s expressing and ask questions to fully understand. Try things like, “So, what you’re saying is…” and “What I’m hearing is…” Ask questions for clarification, like “What do you mean when you say…” and “Is this what you mean?”
Defer judgment. Do not interrupt your friend. Wait until he or she is done talking before asking questions, and do not be argumentative or question their responses.
Respond appropriately. Be candid, open, and honest about your responses and assert your opinions respectfully, without dismissing your friends concerns or issues., While your friend might be interested in hearing about you and your life, only talk about yourself when prompted. Talking to a friend post-surgery is about them and how they are feeling, so make sure you know what questions are appropriate to ask.

Do not ask about their health or test results unless they bring it up. Oftentimes, people recovering from surgery grow tired of medical talk and might not want to go into specifics about their doctor visits.
Do ask how they’re feeling. A more vague question is appropriate. This gives your friend control. He or she now has the option to open up about their medical issues or to keep things light.
Ask them if they need anything. People are often wary to ask favors, so make sure to offer as your friend might need assistance with day-to-day chores.
Ask them about family members and other loved ones. Show your friend you care by showing genuine investment in the things and people they care about.

, The key to being a supportive, loving friend is empathy. Seeking to understand any fears associated with surgery can help you empathize and be a more effective listener.

Control, or rather loss of control, is one of the biggest fears when it comes to surgery and its aftermath. People fear handing their well-being over to someone else, and the loss of control over one’s body and movements that comes in the wake of surgery is frustrating. Understand your friend is feeling a lack of control, and remind them this is a normal feeling.What’s at stake when it comes to surgery is a better life. People undergo surgeries to treat prolonged illnesses or injuries, and if improvement is gradual or if the recovery period is prolonged disappointment can set in fast. Remember this when dealing with your friend, and remind them progress takes time.Going to hospitals and undergoing anesthesia bring up fear of our own mortality. This is perhaps the biggest fear associated with surgery, so be aware your friend might want to discuss dark subjects when you visit them. Be emotionally prepared for this., Most people, even the calmest among us, experience some kind of fear and anxiety when in a hospital setting. Know ways to cope with this anxiety that you can share with your friend.

Self-trust is important. Anxiety is rooted in mistrust. Most often this mistrust is projected onto others, but is often a reflection of mistrust for oneself. Remind your friend to trust their body and trust that they are capable of doing whatever is required for recovery.
Taking action can help curb anxiety. Tell your friend to engage in activities that help with anxiety while promoting good physical well-being as well. Eat right, exercise, meditate, spend time outside, spend time with friends and family, engage in hobbies, etc.Planning is also key to staying calm. If your friend is healing, tell them to focus their energy on healing and not anxiety. Help them make a post-surgery plan to get through the days they’ll be laid up. Make lists of all the materials needed – such as groceries, reading materials, and toiletries. Is there any work your friend could catch up on that they’re able to do after surgery?If so, help them figure out what it is and make a plan to do it.

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