The Power of Listening – One Thing You Can Do For A Family Who Has A Sick Child Even If You Have No Money, Resources or Extra Time

You may have lived through the gut wrenching experience of observing family or friends who have found themselves caring for a child with a life altering illness. Some say parents who go through the journey of care with their sick child, endure pain that rivals that of absorbing knockout blows from a heavyweight fighter.

First, there is the diagnosis, then overwhelming emotions accompanying the realization of the magnitude of the situation. Many parents develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic anxiety and even depression. All too often the impact is devastating — health, financial and relational impacts are frequently astonishing.

There was a time, not too long ago, when several colleagues and friends were on the journey of care at the same time when we learned of a family member who was diagnosed with a genetic disorder that would require treatments over a prolonged period of time. Then, yet another friend learned that his young adult son needed treatment too.  The feeling of helplessness among many in our circle of friends and family, who watched with great hope of recovery and who longed for a return to how things were pre-diagnosis, was palpable.

The daily battle these parents endured from our vantage point was immense. Whether reporting to work at 8am on a Monday after a weekend of travel and treatments at a region hospital; driving home from a second job at 2am on a Saturday Morning to wake up and resume arguing with an insurance provider over an invoice; watching their young child endure the harshness of chemotherapy treatments; or any of the other hurdles on the gauntlet known as the journey of care; the trials are immensely strenuous in every dimension of life.

Shop on Amazon and Help Families and Friends of CHOP

The parents often serve as a source of inspiration for those around them but we, at times, were left with a feeling of helplessness due to our inability to support them in any meaningful way. Introspection, prayer and research all brought no answers commensurate with the challenge of adequately supporting these folks.  Then a trend emerged seemingly out of nowhere…  In a few instances it was mentioned that we wished we could do more to help and the parents expressed appreciation for how we took time to listen to them.

Yes the simple act of sincerely listening to them, letting them speak about anything they wished and just offering our time and attention made a difference for them. They felt heard as opposed to spoken to by experts. They felt cared for, with no strings attached, instead of directed and consulted. This still perplexes me but I am grateful to have been able to help. I certainly wish we could have done more at the time but am grateful to learn that seemingly all are able to help these people who desperately need to be heard.

They don’t need pity, solutions, suggestions or charity – like many among us they just need to be heard and feel as though they are understood. The simple act of listening, some reported, helped strengthen their resolve to carry on and continue to find ways to live their life and care for their child while on the often treacherous journey of care.

Tom Nieman is a Founder and President of The LIV Foundation and a financial services industry veteran. The best place to reach Tom is on LinkedIn at or email at

If you want to learn more, need help or know someone who needs help check out the following resources:

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Department of Social Work and Spiritual Care:

The LIV Foundation:

What To Say When a Friend’s Child Is Sick

15 Dos and Don’ts for Helping a Friend With a Sick Child in the Hospital

How to Help a Friend Who’s Dealing With a Very Sick Child

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s