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The Etiquette of Illness: What to Say When You Can't Find the Words
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The Etiquette of Illness: What to Say When You Can't Find the Words

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  418 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
What should I say when I hear that my friend has cancer? How can I help but not get in the way? How do I let my loved ones know what I need?
The Etiquette of Illness is a wise, encouraging, and essential guide to navigating the complex terrain of illness. This collection of anecdotes and insights will help those who feel awkward and unsure about responding to a friend, col
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 17th 2004 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 2004)
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Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing


This is not a book about Cancer!
This is not a book about treatments!
This book is useful in be speaking appropriately to a person who is sick.
This book is for a person who 'is' sick to support 'asking' for what they need from others.
This book has great little examples of things not to say -not to do -
what do do -when to do -
This book has several stories for readers to connect with -think about -and relate to.

I give this book as a gift 'with' a couple of other books (as a package) when loo
Jul 12, 2013 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Because I have worked as a registered nurse and worked with lots of very ill people , I didn't feel like this book provided me with too much new information although I 'm sure many people will find it very helpful. It has many stories with great examples of how to best deal with different people and the circumstances of their different needs during illness. Because I have a chronic illness I found the chapter pertaining to it most interesting , having experienced in my case that most ...more
Feb 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a nice book. Each chapter addresses a unique issue within the topic of illness. It is written not only for those who are well and are wondering how to approach someone with illness but also for those who are ill and not sure how to deal with others around them. There are no grand revelations or rules given in this book. She uses story after story of people in these circumstances to nudge the reader into seeing how life looks through the lens of illness (and that it is different for every ...more
Mar 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
A wonderful read for caregivers, hospice workers, and people with chronic/terminal illness. As a caregiver, I found all of the chapters worthwhile. However, I would recommend specific chapters - talking to children, death and dying, what to say, etc for specific people. Some clients will want/need to read the whole book, others would be helped with specific chapters. Still others may want to read the book over a period of months or years.

Having read this book over the weekend, I found myself usi
Jun 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommended to Cagne by: Amazon reviews
Somebody told me books like this are possibly a waste of time, but there is no end to how awkward I can feel. Overall it's a collection of single episodes, experiences, arranged by themes, to give you a bit of an idea of human interaction when one of the people is sick. Starting from the idea of prepping myself, I was surprised upon reading the parts from the point of view of the person with an illness, but they are equally useful.

Things I found interesting/useful:
-the warnings against trying
Krista Stevens
Mar 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, adult
This edition was published in 2004, there is a more current one and I am curious how it has been updated. With today's social media, I think the book would be very different. Email is barely mentioned.

Because I am already been well-acquainted with both dying and death, this book did not offer me any fresh perspectives. However, for those who are uncomfortable with their own and other's illnesses and pending deaths, this might be a great book. Lots of short anecdotes, though a little too sacchari
Jeannette M. Hartman
This is a helpful, handy book for those times when someone you care about is facing a serious diagnosis, a difficult chronic condition or a terminal condition. Author Susan P. Halpern, a psychotherapist who has led or founded a number of cancer support groups and has herself been treated for lymphoma, is clear that there's no rote prescription that can cover all circumstanced. Her many anecdotes demonstrate a variety of approaches, some that worked and some that didn't. Ultimately, this book sho ...more
Sep 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read about this book in The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. There is a tremendous need for a book that addresses how to best support people with serious illnesses. In addition to providing valuable phrases (the "what to say when you can't find the words" of the title), Susan Halpern provides the stories of many caregivers and people dealing with a variety of illnesses. These stories may provide comfort and confidence to those seeking the words to ask for what they need.

Halpern doe
Shirley Freeman
A friend lent me this book after it was recommended in "The End of Your Life Book Club" by Will Schwalbe. I plan to get a copy as a reference. The author has survived lymphoma and has interviewed many patients, former patients and family and caregivers to find out best practices for responding to people who are ill - chronically, terminally or temporarily. There are some specific suggestions for things to say and do and things Not to say and do but most of the advice is more situational. Some pe ...more
Annette Reynolds
May 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a well-written, easy-to-read book on what to do to help yourself and people you know/love in the face of severe illness or imminent death.

Written in the first person using the author's own experiences with her cancer diagnosis, she also adds many other stories from other people who have gone through it all and what made them feel better, what helped, what didn't help when it came to friends wanting to do the right thing.

The book is a good guide for anyone - sick or not - because the au
Dee Renee  Chesnut
Nov 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Etiquette of Illness was recommended to me when I read The End of Your Life Book Club. It also had the recommendation of Dawn, a reviewer who recommends it to all readers of a certain age.
I knew I needed to read this book because I tend to give too much advice that begins with the phrase, "What you ought to do..." or I avoid people with illness or people who are grieving. I have been taught avoidance by the best, and it is high time I learned better ways. I still found mys
Aug 13, 2016 rated it liked it
I have intended to read this book as it came into my consciousness over the years. I finally got it out from the library. If you are now, or ever think you might be, dealing with loss or death in your life or in a friends' lif, or a family members' life, this is a wonderful resource teaching how to be in such times. What questions to ask. How to hold open the ambiguity. Letting the person who is ill or dying decide what particular conversation makes sense. Whether it's a deep and soulful account ...more
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Cyndie by: Will Schwalbe
What do you say to someone you care about who is dealing with illness, disfigurement, or the possibility of death? I'm sure I'm not alone in not knowing what to say or how to handle the situation in a way that is compassionate and caring. What do you say? Is it more polite to say something or not say something? This book gets at the heart of these challenges and gives specific tips but also general advice about how to continue to show needed love and caring while being respectful of the other pe ...more
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book does exactly what it sets out to do. I couldn't ask for more. I think that it is necessary for a book of this sort that is built on such personal experience to be flawed in its presentation because people are flawed. I was happy to read of the many errors and triumphs the real people become involved on. I recommend this book to anyone who is dealing with illness and feels even a little befuddled by the whole process.
Laura Siegel
Mar 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medical, health
I read this book over about a six-month period-not because it is slow but because it is one to savor. It is divided into short sections and I enjoyed reading a bit each day. The book deals with people who are ill, have disabilities or are caregivers. It covers how to communicate, ask for what you want and don't want, how to respect each persons individual needs. The author herself has dealt with lymphoma. I found it very helpful in navigating all kinds of personal situations.
Dec 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
I thought this book sounded wonderful but I was disappointed after reading it. It's an anthology of many many stories told to the writer by cancer patients while she was in cancer treatment herself. While it's somewhat interesting to read all of these personal stories, I was actually hoping for some general guidance about talking with cancer patients. What I took away, after 200 pages, is to ask them if they want to talk about it. I was hoping for better, stronger guidance.
Cara Hinton
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good reminder, this book. The bottom line, is that nothing is really out of line when you are ill or you're caring for someone who is ill. Use your gut and be kind....shouldn't we do that every day anyway? If you're close to someone ill, or a caregiver, or both, this book can be a gentle reminder of how to help without intruding.....and remember everyone is different, even you.
Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, medicine

This book makes you think about how to react to people with illnesses. It is not a how to. It has real examples of people. Each person wants something different. Basically it teaches you to be think before we speak.
Lynne Griffin
Oct 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: life-changers
For those who have ever wondered what to say to someone braving a life-threatening or chronic illness.
May 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
There were a number of errors that should have been caught by a proofreader. In spite of those I found this book extremely insightful and definitely worth the read.
May 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It was just what I needed. Lots of short examples from the real lives of patients, their caregivers, and their loved ones.
Ellie C
While I am not dying, I do struggle with chronic conditions and over the years I have found that talking about my health feels taboo with most of the people in my life. Reading this helped me re enter my compassion for others as they struggle to find the words and the ways to be present, as I also struggle to find the ways and words to share. I desperately wish everyone had the chance to read this book.
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Thought provoking and helpful. Very anecdotal.
Mary Lou
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
In a nutshell, do something (rather than stop coming around because you're uncomfortable), and listen!
Becky Roper
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
I read about this book in "The End Of Your Life Book Club", so maybe my expectations were too high. It was mostly common sense, as far as I'm concerned, but then I have been a hospital nurse for 40 years so maybe that has skewed my view. Luckily it was a quick read.
Alan Livingston
I’m not quite sure what I was looking for or expecting when selecting this book. Perhaps comparing how one allegedly qualified author would have people react to those dealing with severe medical issues? Perhaps direction on how to deal with death, including our own forthcoming demise? Perhaps a comparison of one cancer patient’s experiences with another, my own? Perhaps guidance on today’s version of how to share bad news with children? I think I really was looking for a book on the subject whic ...more
Deb Richards
Mar 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
There was so much about this book that I liked. To sum it up though, I liked all of the good sense recommendations for dealing with illness, aging and death.

What drew me originally to the book was Halpern's suggestion to ask an ill person if they want to talk about how they are feeling as opposed to just asking point blank how they feel. Having been diagnosed 20 years ago with Multiple Sclerosis, I mostly find the latter question intrusive, especially when there is an undertone that I must not
Jan 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Etiquette of Illness is a thoughtful, approachable book that poses personal stories as thought-provoking examples of how to be supportive of a person experiencing illness. The author, Susan Halpern, is a trained therapist and experience cancer herself. Her professional and personal experience provide the basis of the content. Because the book is somewhat anecdotal and loosely organized into chapters, you can easily skip to content that seems most relevant to you at the moment. This book help ...more
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Through a series of various real life stories, Susan Halpern shares with the reader ways to communicate with those who are dying or suffering from a chronic illness. Not only does she offer advice for ways the well person can communicate with the sick but also how the sick person can effectively and meaningfully convey their needs and wishes with the well person. This book was mentioned in the "End of your life book club" by Will Schwalbe.
ex of what someone who is aching likes to hear p32- " I
Mar 29, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are all sorts of wonderful books out there on how to deal with/sort out/talk to and about illness and impending death with family and friends. This is a good one and has many helpful suggestions and anecdotes. It doesn't have the writing depth that others do (Kitchen Table Wisdom is a classic) or the clarity and focus of Final Gifts (which focuses on palliative care) but it's worth a read.

It would have benefited from better organization, I think, to make the information more accessible. W
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Susan Halpern has been a social worker and psychotherapist for more than thirty years. Her first book, The Etiquette of Illness: What to Say When You Cant Find the Words, continues to be an important go-to manual for difficult times. Now in Finding the Words, Halpern offers principles and practical suggestions for those moments in relationships when one want to be kind but also must discuss a sens ...more
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