How to Help When Someone Is Experiencing Illness

by Lisa Pahl, LCSW March 01, 2019

How To Help When Someone is Experiencing Illness.

It’s so hard to know what to do and say when someone is experiencing illness.

I’ve experienced some health issues which resulted in two surgeries within a month. The recovery from these surgeries was slow. During this process, people were very supportive and loving. Here’s a list of ten things that helped to lift my spirits, made me feel less alone, and/or helped my family.

Many of these apply to those experiencing grief as well.

Of course, every person is different. …

Living with the risk of Covid-19 transmission and hearing about the hundreds of thousands of Americans that have died due to Covid-19, our children are more exposed to death and illness than in the past. Some families have been forced to have many conversations with their children due to multiple family members dying during this pandemic. Others who have not experienced death during this time may be trying to reassure kids by dismissing their concerns or just avoiding the topic.

How can we begin to speak to children about death?

The most important thing that adults can do is to…

After being off work for a period of time, I returned to find that one of my long term patients had died. I had spent a lot of hours with this patient, her spouse, children and hired caregivers over the course of her time on hospice. I reached out to the family to arrange a bereavement visit for support.

Upon arrival to the home, the patient’s husband, let’s call him “Jim”, was sleeping in a chair. He, like his wife, has advanced dementia. I asked the daughter how Jim had adjusted to his wife’s death. She replied, ‘He just doesn’t…

Often times in my work as a hospice social worker, and now when playing The Death Deck, I spend a lot of time talking to people about their end of life wishes. In doing so, I regularly encounter the mindset, “Let my family decide, I don’t care.” At first glance, and to many people, this seems like a nice gesture. The assumption is that the individual is so easy going that they are willing to let others decide how to handle their end of life experience and what is done with their body.

Unfortunately, this type of thinking often leads…

Besides basketball and St. Patrick’s Day, March is also Social Work Month! It’s a time to share information about the career of a social worker and what social workers bring to the world.

I’ve worked with a lot of different populations through my career as a social worker, but I found my true passion when I became a hospice social worker over twelve years ago. What do I do as a hospice social worker? Let’s start with a short introduction into hospice.

Hospice is specialized end of life care, provided by an interdisciplinary team. The focus is on providing comfort…

The anniversary of my friend’s death is approaching. I began thinking about her and the process of watching her die. Here’s the poem that seemed to burst out of me, once I gave myself permission to feel everything.

In the End

i tried to help you


this cancer is ruthless.

i tried to help you


i could feel

the end was coming.

i tried to believe

alongside you

the treatments

would give us more


i tried to keep


i tried to



i tried to convince you

of hospice.

i tried to make the…

by Lisa Pahl, LCSW October 06, 2018

by Lisa Pahl, LCSW October 06, 2018

Our cat T-Bone is teaching our nine-year-old son about aging and dying.

I asked our son his answer to our Death Deck question:

by Lisa Pahl, LCSW October 16, 2018

Everything happens for a reason.

I despise this phrase.

I don’t believe that when a child dies or thousands of people are killed by a tsunami that there’s some magical reason for it.

I do believe that significant growth can come out of difficult situations.

I was eighteen years old and a freshman in college when my father was diagnosed with Hairy Cell Leukemia, a rare cancer of the blood. My father developed symptoms of fatigue and low-level depression. …

by Lisa Pahl, LCSW November 11, 2018

While working hospice last week, I was so strongly reminded of a former patient from years ago that I came home and looked at my journal (password protected, no names) to revisit my entries about this remarkable woman.

“Tracy” was one of the most direct people I ever met. As she said from day one with hospice, she tolerated no bullshit. Tracy did not want a nurse who was going to be sweet and soft-spoken. She wanted her entire hospice team (nurse, social worker, chaplain, bath aids) to “tell it like it is.”

by Lisa Pahl, LCSW December 13, 2018

The 4th Anniversary of my Grandma’s death just passed. I have been finding myself thinking about her a lot lately, especially as we get ready to head home to Michigan for the holidays. I recognize how incredibly lucky I am to have had my grandma in my life until I was almost forty.

When I found out that my grandma died, I was at my home in Los Angeles. I felt far away from family and wasn’t sure what to do with myself. So, I sat down and wrote.

My Grandma Pahl died…

Lisa Pahl

Lisa Pahl is the Co-Creator of The Death Deck, a lively party game with a focus on lightening up conversations around death.

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