5 Ways to Support Your Loved One or Child Through Alopecia
Explaining what alopecia is to family, friends and even partners is difficult. Having to even murmur the words and telling, what seemingly seems like a sentencing, that you have an autoimmune disease in which your hair follicles attack itself and then fall out, seems like something odd, weird, and unconventional on many levels.
If your child is going through this, how do you approach their questions? How do you acknowledge their feelings and their circumstances of increasing hairloss and perhaps having to tell teachers, day care workers, and others in their community that this isn't "contagious" and that your little one is working on getting through this.
Both are difficult situations.
Having various clients of all ages, allows me to emotionally support parents and clients so that they can focus on what's really important and focus their energy on getting better and doing better. As Maya Angelou, wrote, "once you know better, you do better"
Supporting a partner or family member is quite different then supporting a child. Many times with the child, the whole family does my program, is involved and supports the chid in the changes needed, thus, the whole family gets healthier together. The child is supported and the changes that come - happen as a family, so harmony, wellbeing, and acceptance is natural and not forced. As an adult this support structure may shift and change due to your personal situation.
Similarly, we can also support loved ones, even though they don't live in the same household by getting involved, being an ear or shoulder to cry on, checking up on them, on their progress and holding them accountable. Many clients are very driven already, so perhaps being their cheerleader is the another way to support them during this time.
When I was going through alopecia, no one understood me, and no one really supported me except my loving husband, who at the time, we were dating and even got engaged.
There is no manual on how to support people in their time of need, and many times, when you have a headache you know what to do, but with something so foreign as an autoimmune disease, where does someone start?
Here are some tips that can apply to either child or loved one of any age while they go through Alopecia.
1. Be comforting, optimistic and supportive
This sounds obvious, but it's really not. Comfort them with a hug, comfort them with words of encouragement or acts of service. Have you read the book, The 5 Love Languages? I highly recommend it, and would take into account the many ways we humans want and need to be loved. Look first to how the person is, and respond accordingly with their two strongest love languages. Optimism goes far, and ideally you and them are leaning towards the positive side, and if not, work on that to spread positivity into their lives. Don't let them sit in the dumps, let them know that everything has a solution and that theirs is on its way. Be supportive and encouraging- ask them to go on a walk with you, maybe paint something together or send quality time together.
You tend to beat sadness when you are occupied and busy. Get them busy with activities, watch a movie, cook something together and even learn something new together; take a course online, watch a documentary or visit a museum even remotely or virtually as this is now possible.
2. Articles and Research
When I have friends or families that tell me their problems, I like to do some research on the situation and perhaps even give them alternative ideas. Especially when it comes to health, there is lots of info online, but not all of it is useful. Yes you might need to weed out a lot of it, but keep searching, you might learn something new and maybe even find an alternative, ahem, that is helpful, real and provides results. Not only that, but you may also find that the person with alopecia openly accepts this information versus anything you tell them. Don't try to come off as an expert rather, come off as helpful and loving. Extra tender love and care is needed.
3. Offer Help
Many times when we offer help, we don't want it from someone who doesn't "understand" and hasn't gone through what we are going through. Sound familiar? This also applies to friends, parents and partners too. What you can do, is offer your loved one or child to speak with someone who has gone through it and has even overcome it! Personally, I have mentored many people going through similar situations as I have, to include alopecia and overcoming it. Perhaps this is one of my successful ingredients. I understand because I have been there. In speaking to someone to has been there and reversed their alopecia, your loved one can identify with that person and hear their story and know that it doesn't have to end in doom and gloom. There is hope and possibility to get better and to have someone understand all the symptoms that come along with alopecia. So having the opportunity to speak with someone who's experienced this is very nurturing and eases the anxiety and confusion surrounding alopecia and the many questions and concerns.
4. Be Patient
Learn to be extra patient with your loved one going through Alopecia. It's a confusing time with heartache, high emotions and bodily symptoms that go beyond just hairloss as I mentioned in another blog post. This stressful situation does effect everyone in the inner circle to the person who is going through alopecia. Letting them know you are there for them, for a call, for a hug, for just sitting together, for anything is deeply needed. Stay in contact, don't be "too busy" for them as they might be a little more needy, and rightfully so... this is all very new to them and even if they've had it for over 10 years, its still something they have to confront on a daily basis. Anything chronic isn't optimal- nor is it the way we were meant to live, being patient goes a long way!
I love affirmations, I tell them to others and openly compliment other people in daily life but also use affirmations for myself. Use this time to start a practice where you affirm and complement your loved ones, not just your special loved one going through alopecia. Let them know they are amazing at other things versus just focusing on their hair and health. Affirm that they are excellent in certain areas and are creative or helpful, or that they are doing fantastic in their work, school or studies... Affirming builds confidence, takes the focus off what is lacking and focuses on what they are great at and what they are excelling in. Focusing on the positives versus what's going on- can help your loved one shift their ideas about themself.
Imagine a world where we complemented more, helped more and lended more ears, hugs and positivity. This can start at home, in the workplace and beyond... start with you and your loved ones. Support them through this time, whether that is directly or indirectly- it all helps and it all contributes to the support and love they need.