When Illness Strikes – How To Be A Good Friend

In Life Experience, Tarot Spreadsby David Harvey5 Comments

When Illness Strikes – How to Be a Good Friend

When illness strikes it can be a minefield knowing what to do or say to best support those affected.  This is a post that is very dear to my heart and one that I feel needs to be heard.

A very close friend of mine was recently diagnosed with cancer.  It’s very early days and all the signs are looking good that he will be completely cured.  This was still a huge shock to everybody and I started to think about how I could be the best friend and support during this very challenging time.

I’m very close to his wife and see her on a regular basis and when I first heard the news I was terrified of saying the wrong thing.  Whilst I was processing all of this a memory stirred of an article that I had read many years ago which was about this very same topic.  With a bit of help from  Mr. Google I unearthed the article – which you can read here.

When I caught up with his wife she was in very good spirits and extremely positive and practical about what needed to be done.  The one thing that she was really struggling with was people unloading on her with their own experiences of dealing with cancer.  As soon as she told anybody about what was happening she would be hit with a barrage of stories about somebody’s uncle who died of cancer or some friend of a friend who recently went through something similar.  Now, these people are only trying to empathise and show support but it just wasn’t what she needed at the time.  My friend really just wanted people to listen so she felt like she had somebody to lean on when needed.

Ring Theory of Kvetching

When I revisited the article I thought it was absolutely brilliant.  The theory is called the Ring Theory of Kvetching.  The idea is that the person who is affected by the illness or trauma is at the centre of the circle.  The next ring is immediately family and partner,  next would be close friends and extruded family and so on.

It works on the basis of  ‘comfort in and dump out’.  The person in the middle of the circle can say or do whatever they want to anybody else in any of the circles.  What can’t happen is dumping in.

How It Works

I’ve been deeply upset and saddened by this news but I know that I can’t expect to get comfort from my friend, as I am the one comforting her.  It’s up to my partner, who would be on the next ring to me, to comfort me.  My friend really doesn’t need me breaking down and telling her that I can’t cope or that I’m so scared about what is going to happen.  She just needs me to be there whenever she requires.

There are some excellent examples in the article.  One is about a young woman who developed breast cancer.  When she got the diagnosis she had a colleague say that she must see her straight away as she was so upset about the news.  The problem with that is the person with the breast cancer didn’t want to see anybody at that time.

There is definitely some human nature reaction that we want to connect and empathise but we must try to differentiate between what we need or would do from what the people in the inner ring need or will do.

How can tarot help?

I incorporate tarot in my daily life so naturally wanted to look at the cards for some guidance on how to be the best friend and support that I could be.

The spread I developed was based on the kvetching circle and the way I did it was to ask the cards…..

1. What do I need?
2.How can I best support the person one ring in?

Here is a live example of what came up when I drew the spread.

10 of Cups (What the affected person needs/wants)

Imagine that the 10 of Cups is the person who affected.  This is the centre of the circle.  The 10 of cups represents what my friend needs.  This would say to me that he wants to stay in a really positive and happy place.  He is probably thinking about how lucky he is to have such a loving relationship and wants things to stay positive.  He is a very happy and positive person so this doesn’t surprise me at all.

King of Swords (How the partner/close family can best support)

We then get to how the next tier can best support him and we get the King of Swords.  This is saying to me that it’s best to have a straight-forward, logical and practical approach.  It’s best to deal in facts and not get over emotional or let things run away before we know everything that is going on.

Knight of Pentacles (What the partner needs from those who are close to them)

This is saying to me that my friend (wife of affected) wants to take it day by day and has a very grounded approach. Again there is no need for hysteria or high drama.  She wants to gather the facts and move things along at the speed they need to move.  She is having a very practical approach but you will see that she is wearing a big suit of armour so there is a chance she needs to do it this way to protect herself.

Wheel of Fortune (how I can best support my friend)

I’m seeing that I need to ride the waves.  There could be ups and downs and it’s important for me to be there during every phase.  I often see the wheel as delivering good news so it could be that I am required to cheer her up or maybe even book some activities to help take her mind off things for a short time.

Ace of Cups (what I need from my partner)

This represents love and emotion.  Sometimes when you look at this card the emotions are bubbling over.  It could involve tears but what’s important for me to remember is that I need to take my tears to my partner and not to my friend – remember we dump out and comfort in.  This could also possibly show that the whole situation has given me a renewed appreciation for my partner.

The Hermit (how my partner can support me)

I see The Hermit as a great teacher. It could be that I could learn some lessons from my partner during this process.  It could also tell him that maybe I will need some time alone to process everything that is going on.  Perhaps he is searching for answers to help support me.

So there you have it.  This is how you can use tarot to learn how to best support those close to you whilst avoiding saying or doing the wrong thing.

I have found this method really helpful and the original article was excellent. I hope it resonates and can help others who are in need as we navigate the winding paths of life.



  1. Hi David,
    In your spread, from the Kvetching Circle, I was terribly confused as to the partner and the friend and which one was being supported. Was it the friend that was sick that you were supporting or the partner/friend of the sick person?
    Ex. How can I best support my friend? Is this the sick person or the partner of the sick person?
    What I need from my partner? Is this a question for the sick person or a friend?
    Thanks if you have time to make this clearer to me.
    Best Regards,

    1. Author

      Hi Cathy. Sorry for the confusion and thanks for the feedback. You always support the person immediately inside the circle from you i.e. In the next ring. When it comes to the number 1s in the spread that is about what type of support that person needs from the person immediately outside in the next ring, however you should bear that in mind if you are also dealing with the sick person.

      Leave it with me and I’ll put together an instructional video to make this clearer.

      1. Thanks David. I look forward to the instructional video on this spread when you have. the time. I appreciate you getting back to me.
        Best Regards,

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