How to break the (bad) news of a diagnosis

Being told your Loved One has a chronic sickness, either physical or mental, is devastating.
Telling someone else can be even harder.

It is excruciating.

And the problem is, we all have more than one person in our lives. And so we are forced to tell the same sad story again and again.

This is not a post with a lot of answers. I’m not sure there are answers. But sometimes, empathy is enough. I pray that is the case here. For you. For me.

Breaking the news of a diagnosis is complex (we need to acknowledge this)

Every situation is different – and the truth is, we are going to have share in many situations. We all have best friends, distant friends, close family, family that live far away, colleagues, communities, church families, sport teams, school classes…. The list goes on.

Chances are, sharing with each of them will look different.

Continue reading “How to break the (bad) news of a diagnosis”

Watching is a PRIVILEGE

There’s a reason this post is titled ‘Watching is a privilege’ rather than ‘Watching is easy’.

Am I going crazy?

Following on the heels of the previous post, ‘Watching is hard’, the title above seems incongruous. But be assured, what follows will not cancel out what was written previously.

Watching remains hard, very hard. But I’d like to propose that it is also a privilege. It is an opportunity, and a very unique one. You see, the world around us says that a good and normal life is one full of ease and comfort, luxuries and relational happiness.

That’s all very well, and ideally maybe such a life would be good and normal.

But we know it is not.
Continue reading “Watching is a PRIVILEGE”

7 Reasons Watching someone you love suffer is the WORST

Is there anything worse than seeing someone you love suffer? When my little sister was in hospital for three months, I thought many times it would be easier if it were me instead.

Me with a brain tumour.
Me shaking in pain.
Me screaming in agony.

But I wasn’t given the option to exchange lives. And you probably haven’t been either.

So in the name of honesty here are 7 reasons why watching someone you love suffer is the worst: are these reasons the same for you?

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Why you should use cliches when talking about chronic illness

Clichés fly thick and fast around the world of chronic illness.

Keep fighting. You’re so strong.

God has a plan.

It will turn out all right in the end.

He has his ups and downs.

Do these phrases make you wince? Does anger bubble up your throat when you hear them? Do they make you want to go on a hashtag rant on Twitter or write a Facebook essay speckled with ‘angry’ emoji?

I know the feeling.

Why we can’t get rid of clichés when we talk about chronic illness

Clichés are part of life. Some words simply fit better than other ones. And so we reuse them.

And reuse them, and reuse them…
… until they lose their meaning.

Continue reading “Why you should use cliches when talking about chronic illness”

Sickness and the Bible (references, disappointments and questions)

Some things in life are opposites. They can’t coexist because they cancel each other out. Fire & Water. Tiny & Huge.

Sometimes I am tempted to add ‘Sickness & Christianity’ to this list.

Some people will state it blatantly: there can’t be a god, because if there was, there wouldn’t be suffering.

Ie. If God existed, sickness would not.

Others may not state it that way, but they will believe it just the same. The topic makes them uncomfortable, and they don’t want to talk about it.

They’re afraid to look into it too deeply, because they know sickness is a reality, and they want God to be a reality too, to make them feel better about life. They want to keep their crutch.

Christians, of course, believe in Christianity. They stake their lives on it. And yet… they have to believe in sickness as well. They would be fools not to.

We, as Christian Watchers, know only too well that sickness exists – yet we claim God does too.

Continue reading “Sickness and the Bible (references, disappointments and questions)”

Yes, you are a burden to your chronically ill friend…

Have you ever felt like a burden? To those around you? To your friends, your spouse, your community?
I have.

It’s easy to feel doubly burdensome when someone you love is ill or going through a tough time. You don’t want to add to their struggles… and yet somehow you accidentally end up doing so!

Are you a burden?
I am.

Sorry, but you are a burden

A burden is something troublesome. Something hard to get rid of. We can be burdened by duty, worry, conflict or disease.

But more often than not, our real burdens are people.

All relationships are burdensome. All attachments hurt. Friendship is ecstasy and agony.

When we love someone we worry about them. We weep when they weep, we laugh when they love. It is people – family, neighbours, friends, spouses – which hamper our futures and make our decisions doubly difficult.

Continue reading “Yes, you are a burden to your chronically ill friend…”

The one rule to survive a chronic illness diagnosis

How do you respond when a family member or friend is diagnosed with a chronic illness?
How can you possibly support them in their grief?

There are many practical, emotional and spiritual ways you can (and should!) love and care for them – but there’s one thing that I think is most important. It’s a mindset, not a method…

The one rule of a chronic illness diagnosis:

Do not judge.

1. Everyone’s diagnosis is different

A diagnosis might be quick – or drawn out

For some people diagnosis comes quickly, a lightning spring shower swooping out of nowhere, tearing the sky apart. One moment they are healthy and happy – and the next they’re crying in pain and fear.

For others it’s more gradual, like following a paper trail, picking up pieces of the puzzle one at a time until everything makes sense, and the sneaking suspicion is confirmed.

It’s important to remember that however a chronic illness diagnosis begins, it still must be lived through, and this can take a very long time.

Continue reading “The one rule to survive a chronic illness diagnosis”

How this blog came to be

CALLED TO WATCH is the result of 3 convictions:

1. Everything is important.

There is no part of life which does not deserve to be spoken about. There is a purpose to all things, and nothing is wasted.

2. God is the answer to all things.

Even chronic sickness. Even suffering. Not only is He the answer to the big questions like “Why do bad things happen to good people?” but to the little ones as well, like “What happens when I simply run out of sympathy?” or “When is it alright to be pessimistic?”

The Bible, His Word, must hold the answer to these questions.

3. We were made for community. 

No one is supposed to suffer alone, and we draw immeasurable comfort in sharing our thoughts and knowing that others experience life in similar ways.


What this blog is not:

This is not a blog about a specific illness. It doesn’t focus on chronic fatigue or diabetes or lupus.

This is not a blog giving tips on how to love people who are sick. This blog assumes you already love them; assumes they are your mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, daughter, fiancé, husband, wife, son, grandfather, friend or neighbour.

This is not a blog of devotions, ‘encouragements’ or ‘inspirations’. It’s not a place of anecdotes or images of flowers superimposed with Bible verses.

This is not exactly a personal blog. It’s not meant to represent the story of one person, but rather the journeys of all of us who Watch.

This is not a blog trying to sell an e-course or an ebook. I’m not trying to promote a certain herbal tea or endorse a particular program.

What this blog is:

This blog delves deeply into the question of how chronic illness, whether mental  or physical, impacts the lives of those who don’t have it. It looks at what life is like for those of us who must stand by and Watch people we love suffer.

This is a blog of encouragement. Because perhaps we are called to Watch, but we have not been called to Watch alone. It isn’t a blog with all the answers.

It’s written by a fallible person, grappling with what it means to trust in an infallible God when life is full of tears and agony and repeated disappointments.

Welcome, friends.


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Caring for someone with a chronic illness: What does it mean to “Watch”?

We are those who Watch. We are the family members, the friends, the spouses, the work colleagues of individuals with a chronic illness. That illness may be physical or mental. It may be recognized or undiagnosed. It doesn’t matter. What does is that we have been called to love and Watch someone who is suffering.

And that’s hard.

Why the term ‘Watcher’?

I was searching for a word that was all-encompassing. I wanted to avoid the label ‘carer’ or ‘caregiver‘ – which has connotations of being paid and seems constrained to mere physical care of another.

Physical care is invaluable and many of us may provide this for our Loved Ones. Yet others of us do not. It may not be our place, our role, or it may not even be necessary.

We simply Watch.

Nevertheless, our life is still entwined with our Loved One. We wince as they wince. We struggle with the fact that we can’t heal them. We get frustrated over the fact that sometimes we can’t make the situation better, or even more bearable. In short, we Watch.

What does it feel like to Watch?

To Watch is to be helpless, and this is painful and even embarrassing.

It is even harder because we didn’t choose to Watch.

Perhaps we were born into a family where one of the members was already sick, or perhaps they became so as we grew up with them. Perhaps we fell in love with someone, or began a friendship and then sickness came. Or perhaps we knew about it already, but still there was no choice because there was no sickness-free version of them available.

And so we walk beside them, or in front of them, or behind them. We cannot choose to walk a mile in their shoes, as the common saying goes. Even that is denied us.

There’s nothing we can do except Watch them suffer.

We are the healthy ones. We are the ones with the world at our fingertips and all the blessings a working body and healthy mind brings. We answer the question “How is your Loved One?” not the question “How are you?”

We Watch them and no one watches us.

We Watch them struggle, and attempt to communicate their ups and downs to others around us. We fail often, because there are no words. Meanwhile we suffer too. Vicariously, yes, as we see them go through agony, but in our own right also. Because there’s nothing easy about Watching.

Nothing at all.

Who are these “Watchers”?

It’s not some exclusive club. In a sense everyone is a Watcher, at some point of their lives. And we Watchers know only too well that there’s nothing heroic about suffering. Nothing distinguished about Watching.

This is not because it’s hard, because there are plenty of miseries that are heroic, plenty of hard things that are worth applauding. The reason there’s nothing special about being a Watcher, is that it’s simply part of life.

There are so many illnesses, so many burdens. No person’s load – or pair of shoes, if we are to continue the analogy – is the same as another. And so all people Watch, but all Watchers are always alone.


That’s such a large part of what makes Watching so hard. We all fear being alone, and illness just accentuates this.

We long for someone to stand by our side and grasp our forearm and say with that knowing, quiet voice and full eyes, “I get it. I understand.”

That is what this blog is for. Because there are two answers to loneliness. One is community, the other is God.

May this blog point us to them both.

Why start a blog on Watching?

Being a Watcher brings its own unique problems and its unique joys. It’s a journey that goes on and on – and encouragement is needed for the everyday.

Furthermore, it’s a journey that begins and ends, and we need help for those times too. It’s also a journey that, like every journey, will at some point encounter God. This blog is about that too.

I don’t have all the answers. Often I have none. I can’t guarantee that what I write here will help you.

All I can pray is that these words will help you ponder your life as they have helped me ponder mine – and that your experience will be the richer for it.

All I can hope is that they will provide a feeble sense of community and a less-feebler sense of God.

Like C. S. Lewis, I have only,

“… been emboldened to write of it because I notice that a man seldom mentions what he had supposed to be his most idiosyncratic sensations without receiving from at least one (often more) of those present the reply, ‘What! Have you felt that too? I thought I was the only one.'”

                                     ~ C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

//Do you think it’s right to put a label on what Watchers do? What do you think Watchers need above all else? Don’t be a silent reader – share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

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