There is this post I ran across recently called "12 Nice Things You Can Do for Someone in Pain." It is featured here.
Most of them sound pretty cool. Make a meal, give a lift, support their diet, help with the kids, support exercise, help open things. It is fascinating that only one of the things deals with your psychological support to the person. It is called "learn and believe." Yeah this is where people don't deal with your pain until it is visible. Then the lightbulb goes on & they see you aren't faking it, or a hypochondriac, and then they can be more sympathetic.
I'm not sure what my list would be, but I would start out with:
#1: Stop saying stupid stuff. It's pretty simple really. Stop saying you are sorry, saying you wish you could take it all away (unless you are the mother, that is fine), and generally, just stop the platitudes. You don't understand, you won't, you can't, and the less you say the better in that direction. People in pain don't like pity. We are VERY strong and courageous, and pity is infuriating. If we are crying, cry with us. Other than that, exhibit a sympathetic demeanor, ask how they are feeling & listen if they want to talk, & then move immediately into #2.
#2: Ask "what can I do to support you?" And then be ready to support. It may be stuff as simple (but hard) as "Don't talk to me in the morning until one hour after I get up." Yeah. That's really support. Or "Don't look at me every 5 minutes to see the look on my face to see if I'm ok or not." Sometimes support comes in odd ways. But ask. Believe it, and then do it.
#3: Help with solutions. People in pain are experiencing worlds that are closing in on them. Stop with the sympathy (unless you know that the way you give it works for them) and skip straight to the solutions. If they can't play the violin anymore, suggest they try photography. If they can't be on the computer to manipulate their digital photos, how about bringing art shows to them via digital slideshows, so they can take IN the art? If they can't see the digital slideshows, how about finding new compositions for them to listen to and critique. Show your value by increasing the scope of their world & being a solutions provider.
#4: Encourage them to prioritize their bodies. This may mean some of YOUR needs don't get met, as a support person, but suck it up. This is not about you. If prioritizing their bodies and making less pain for themselves means you feed yourself, make your own damn meals. Don't even look at a person in pain when you are hungry with "that" look. Go eat. Or perhaps it is encouraging them to stop cleaning the house. Or take that bath in epsom salts RIGHT now. Or pop that aspirin. Whatever it is, get expert in pushing them toward the solution they need immediately. They will love you for this, because this is the hardest thing of all for people in pain: giving up and stopping when we don't want to.
#5: Get your needs met somewhere else. Yup. Go. Your person in pain is not the source for your sex, meals, and attention. Sorry. They are an optional source, but not THE source. They just can't do it sometimes. Or maybe anytime. Choose how you want to relate to them, but in the meantime, don't put them under pressure. If you are in a committed relationship and aren't supposed to be having sex somewhere else, have that discussion. Don't make your needs stay unmet or guess what? You will leave. So give them the choice. Whatever that is.
So that would be my mini-list. Feel free to add thoughts as they might come up. But sometimes life is much harder than it looks. Supporting a person in pain isn't just bringing them a drink of water or a hot water bottle. It is helping them struggle with the DEEP issues of living, what they are giving up, how they can no longer be there for you, the kids, the dog, themselves, and how they might die alone and in pain.
Be that person.
You will love yourself for it, and so will your person in pain!