What to Say?
We currently have more than one family in our lives with a recently diagnosed blood-sugar-challenged person. While we're hoping this isn't becoming a trend, I'm working on my own initial reaction conversation, and reflecting on some I had 15 or so years ago.
We were fortunate to be hooked up with a local group of diabetes parents shortly after my daughter's diagnosis. When I called for details about their meetings, the group's facilitator - both a CDE and a diabetes mom herself - stayed on the phone for almost an hour, offering support and encouragement, with lots of, "slowly but surely it'll get easier," and "it sounds like you're doing well, considering how little she is and all you've been through," and "I'll bring you some resources when you come to support group." She then asked if she could have a member of the group call me since this member's daughter had been diagnosed at about the same age as mine. The phone rang a few days later.
"Oh... I'm so sorry this is happening to you," the well-meaning mom began, "Having diabetes is terrible. It's the hardest thing we've ever done."
We had other conversations with fellow diabetes families over those first few months, some from that support group and some from other parts of our lives, but I think those two interactions mark the extreme opposite answers to the question, "What should I say to the newly diagnosed?" Should I assume they're in a place of despair, or should I begin with hope?
Talking with the "diabetes is terrible" mom wasn't all bad. Simply chatting with someone with similar experiences was helpful. But I was left wondering why, 3 weeks in, I seemed to have a better level of acceptance of my new normal than she did after a few years.
So in my interactions, even on days when I'm feeling like diabetes is particularly terrible, I've decided to aim for encouragement: offering and answering questions, listening, and providing information or resources if I can. If the conversation flows towards the terrible parts, I'm not opposed to supportive commiserating, but want the end message to be, "but we survived those first months, we're surviving now, and you will to."
I don't think there's anything much more helpful than a real live person saying, "I've been in your shoes. I'm still standing, and even thriving. It's going to be okay, and I'm here to help."