Susan Ortolano, M.A., CMRC, PCC
Intuitive Life & Relationship Coach

If you are here, you have a friend or family member with a chronic or life-changing illness.

It is often painful to watch someone close to you suffer. Whether you are a spouse, a sibling, a parent, son, daughter, distant relative or friend watching the struggles of your loved one, knowing what to do, how to provide support, what to say, and how to take care of yourself in the process can be a challenge.

As I went through my journey, here are some of the issues that came up for the people in my life.

  • What could they do for me? How often?
  • What should they say?
  • What role did they now play in my life?
  • What should they do with their feelings?
  • What should they invite me to socially?
  • What should they say to me if they were angry with me?
  • What kind of life could they still have?
  • How could they balance the relationship they had with me and still get their needs met?
  • What new boundaries were now appropriate?
  • What should they do if they didn't feel they could be in my life anymore?

These are just some of the questions that my friends and family members had.

General Tips for Friends and Family:

Here are some general tips that may be helpful for everyone:

  • Ask your friend or loved one what you can do to support them. Don't assume you know what they need.
  • Be clear what you are available for and what works and doesn't work for you and know its ok to say no even when they make a request.
  • Find out if your friend or loved one has a support list of things they need.
  • If you can't physically reach out, cards, emails, and phone calls really let them know you care.
  • Live your life. Just because someone close to you has chronic illness, doesn't mean you have to deny your life.
  • Know that it is ok to feel angry and frustrated that your friend or loved one is ill and its ok to get angry with them if that comes up. Learn ways to reach out and get support for yourself and learn ways to communicate effectively.
  • If you feel you can't be a part of their life anymore, communicate that and create closure. It's harder if people just disappear.
  • It's ok to balance your desire to give with your need to receive. You can ask your friend or loved one when and how they are available to support you. People with chronic illness still want to give!
  • Educate yourself. Learn about your friend or loved one's condition. It helps to have that information.
  • Be respectful of your friend or loved one and their household. You may think you know what works for them, but the household boundaries may have changed. Ask about visiting and again how you can support them or the family.

Additional Tips for Spouses:


If you are the spouse of someone with chronic illness most likely this is not quite the life you expected. There are so many changes that happen and many adjustments that have to be made. Here are some additional tips that might be helpful.

  • In spite of having to perhaps do more for your spouse, your role has not changed. You are still the spouse and can still create a loving marriage with your partner. It's just going to look different. The relationship can be recreated together so that it is still mutual.
  • It's important to set aside spouse time. Regardless of kids, jobs, medical treatments, together time is really important.
  • You still need to have a life. It's ok to do things for yourself, see friends, take alone time; you can't be all things to all people and not balance it with time for yourself.
  • Learn to communicate more authentically and effectively. Use "I" statements as in I feel, I need.... Be clear about what does and doesn't work for you.
  • When providing support for your spouse, ask what you can do to support them or what do they need in this moment rather than assume.
  • Help your spouse create a Support List to give to friends and family members that want to help. Share your boundaries with your spouse about receiving support from family and friends.
  • You may be experiencing a variety of feelings and may have a lot of emotional energy coming up. You may also get angry at your spouse at times. Its ok to have that happen. Learn healthy ways to be with your feelings and know that it is ok to reach out for support for yourself.


  • Relationship Support Coaching- I offer relationship support coaching and teleclasses for those of you with a family or loved one going through illness. See the invitation below for more information.
  • Support groups- Check online or locally to see what kind of support groups for friends and family are in your area.
  • Therapist- If you feel therapy is the right support for you, check to see if there is one that specializes in chronic illness.
  • Spiritual Support- If you are in a spiritual community, check to see what services are offered for support.
  • Organizations- There are organizations for a variety of medical conditions. Check online to see what is available to learn more about the condition.

An Invitation

If you are a close friend or family member and would like to receive Relationship Support Coaching, contact me for a complimentary consultation to learn what is available and how it can benefit you.

Many Blessings,