How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who's Sick

PublicAffairs  2013


Bikkur cholim, visiting the sick, is one of the mitzvot which, according to our tradition, is a way of emulating God. It is by no means an easy mitzvah to fulfill. Visiting or emotionally supporting a seriously ill person opens a world of possibilities in terms of helping the healing process. As Letty Cottin Pogrebin points out, however, it also opens a world of possibilities in terms of doing or saying the wrong thing.

Beginning with her personal experience while battling cancer, the author explored her own friends’ and relatives’ responses (as well as her own) to the illness. From there, she expanded her research, interviewing fellow patients, recalling personal experiences with ill people, and carefully recording what she read and heard in the world around her. The result is a deeply personal reflection on the best way to support people who are facing illness. The recommendations in the book are not always simple. Often the best way to “be a friend to a friend who’s sick” will vary from person to person, and the author recognizes that fact. This book is sure to be (and should be) on reading lists of professionals who deal with ill individuals (rabbis, medical professionals, mental health professionals) as well as with adult discussion and reading groups. Appen­dix, index.

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