Life Advice


Health & Spirit

You're never too old to go home again

Carolyn Hax on

How do I tell people to stop giving? I've had a sudden, serious cancer diagnosis. With all the medical, financial, and emotional changes I am constantly tired. Loved ones have been patient with my seeing them less, but instead they send me stuff I don't need (e.g., seven blankets in two months). I am absolutely grateful for my amazing support system! But overwhelmed by all the thank-you notes I must write, and too exhausted to handle all the clutter building up around my sick bed. Please tell me how to ask them to stop without sounding like an ingrate jerk? -- Exhausted With Gratitude

I'm sorry things took a rough turn for you.

If there's anything good about it, though, it's this: You have a Get Out of Ingratitude Free card. Seriously. If I were in the blanket-sending mob, I can promise you I would not be expecting a note.

Being overwhelmed by small tasks amid a big illness is common. It's not only OK for you to delegate, it's also necessary. Don't squander energy on stuff-management that your health-management so desperately needs. Pick your most functional friend or relative and ask him or her to assume the stuff-management role -- be it decluttering, thanking, scheduling, or announcing what you do and don't need and can and can't do.

It is, for most people, a relief to be able to do something useful when the alternative is to look on helplessly while you struggle. Specifying what helps might seem like an imposition but, more often than not, it's a gift. Take care.

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