I need advice on how to be supportive.
My sister in law (my wife's brother's wife) was recently diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer after knowing something was wrong for months, but lacking the strength of will necessary to bring herself out of the house to get it checked.
She lives with my wife's parents in their home in mainland China, and everyone I mention in this post (besides me) is of mainland Chinese nationality. One characteristic that I have noticed since living here is that depression and its symptoms are not well understood, or even accepted here. It has been clear to me that my SIL has been battling depression ever since I met her - it is difficult for her: she is expected to just suffer through her husband having affairs and never being around because her MIL (my wife's mom) always counters with "I had it worse when I was your age."
That seems to be the stock reply if you ever have the nerve to speak out and ask for help, "suck it up, I had it worse." My wife has even tried to connect my SIL with another friend of hers, a breast cancer survivor, who takes the same attitude. "I pulled myself up, so you should stop sulking."
My wife herself also seems to not quite get it, and doesn't understand that some people can feel this so badly that they literally need someone to walk them through the motions at first until they believe progress is possible/worth it.
However, suffering from depression myself, I know the symptoms, and I know that being embedded in a toxic environment where your pain is constantly being denied is no basis for recovering from ANY difficulty, let alone depression, and let alone cancer.
I want to be supportive, but I don't want to make waves with my wife's family. Also, my SIL and I have rarely ever talked before. I don't want to talk to her about her problems being married to my BIL, since I think that is out of bounds. I just want to make sure she knows that someone knows how she feels. I know I often wish I had a coach to tell me exactly what to do sometimes, and I don't even have a life-threatening illness. Truly, this is what she needs... but maybe I can at least touch base with her and remind her of her daily goals.
On that note, how can I begin to breach this topic? How can I do this without being weird, or falling for the trap of this being about me wanting to help vs. being able to help as transparently as possible?
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