I ran across this theory early on in my experience with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer and it really resonated with me. The longer I’ve lived with the disease, the more it resonates with me. While I’m horrible at asking for help and often overestimate what I can handle, the kindness of some family and friends has driven home how important this idea really is. Actually it’s probably more the actions of some family and friends who have not shown kindness that has really driven home how important this concept is to those of us who are dealing with a health crisis.
I’ve included a link below to the full explanation of the theory, but here’s a quick paraphrase:
Here are the basic tenets, paraphrased from Silk and Goodman:
Draw a circle. In this circle, write the name of the person at the center of the Health crisis.
Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In this ring, put the name of the person next closest to the crisis.
In each larger ring, put the next closest people. As Silk and Goodman state, “Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. . . When you are done, you have a Kvetching Order.
A pictorial representation may help;
The basic idea is that the person in the middle does not receive the venting/kvetching from outer circles, especially when said venting is about the person in need of help. For example, if you are a family member of a terminally ill patient who spends the night in the hospital with your dying family member, you don’t then get to complain to that dying family member about how that night away from your family was stressful for you or how others in the family did or didn’t communicate nicely when arranging for someone to spend the night.
This theory takes into consideration that the person who is dying is carrying a much heavier psychological load than anyone else and that close family is affected more than distant relatives or acquaintances. In essence, this theory is how to demonstrate love in a clear and understandable way. Violating this idea creates more and more angst and damage to the person who is already carrying more than a healthy person ever could understand.
Why would someone who loves a dying person want to cause further damage?
Here’s an article that lays out the ring theory in much more detail for anyone who is interested in learning more. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/promoting-hope-preventing-suicide/201705/ring-theory-helps-us-bring-comfort-in