An All-Too-Common Challenge: How Can We Love and Support to Someone Who Is Far Away?

heart drawn on notebook

In episode 302 of the Happier podcast, a listener asked for suggestions for ways to show love and support for her mother, who lives across the country and is dealing with radiation and chemotherapy. We turned the question to listeners, and received so many wonderful responses that I wanted to collect them here.

One particular challenge is that because of the pandemic, we’re unable to do many of the things that we’d usually be doing, like visiting, dropping off food, traveling from out of town, etc. It’s easy to feel helpless and anxious.

Listener ideas for showing love and support to someone far away:

  • have a “book club” where a friend reads a book aloud, and they discuss it
  • organize a cleaning service, such as Cleaning for a Reason, which provides cleaning for cancer patients
  • send flowers and cards, and arrange simple meals
  • make a playlist of music the person would love, or recommend specific episodes of a podcast (for happy music, check out the Happier 911 playlist on Spotify, with songs suggested by listeners)
  • remember that you can’t take away the burden of being sick; also, there’s great happiness in giving, so could the sick person help in some way? by helping children with homework, documenting old family photographs, or being a good listener.
  • don’t forget the person’s caregiver. I mention the terrific podcast Everything Happens with Kate Bowler.
  • contact friends and family to encourage them to send handmade or handwritten cards in the mail
  • read a book to your loved one over the phone or Zoom
  • make a paper chain with links that correspond to the days of chemo or radiation, and ask friends and family to write supportive messages on each chain, so that for each day of treatment, the person can take off a link and read it.
  • use TouchNote (also an app) to send postcards or cards your own photos or their art from your phone
  • send regular emails updating the person about the little things going on in your life—Elizabeth and I talk about our family tradition of the “update” email in episode 2
  • ask family and friends to send videos that the person can watch in tough times, such as getting chemo
  • send a succulent from Lula’s Garden — the container can be personalized, and they don’t need much care
  • send a Skylight frame so you can email photos directly to the picture frame

What ideas do you have for showing love and support to people from far away? This is such a pressing issue these days.



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