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7 Things You Should Never Say to Patients or Caregivers

We’ve all been in this situation before: A loved one is struggling with illness or grief, and we completely fumble for the right words to say, or possibly say nothing at all.

It can be disorienting to watch someone you love go through hardship. No one wants to say anything that will make their pain worse, and so we often default to cliché language that isn’t actually all that helpful.

Authors Emily McDowell and Kelsey Crowe of “There is No Good Card for This” cover 7 examples of unhelpful language to avoid when consoling patients or caregivers, and CaringBridge shares what you can say instead.

7 Things You Shouldn’t Say

hands held up signaling to stop

Here’s what not to say to a patient or caregiver who is suffering:

1. “Everything happens for a reason.”

Why is this harmful? Saying that everything happens for a reason minimizes the patient’s or caregiver’s pain. This statement implies to your loved one that there is a good reason for their struggles, and they should just accept the situation the way it is.

What to say instead: “I’m so sorry this is happening to you. You don’t deserve this.”

This statement shows your loved one that you recognize and validate their pain, and that nothing they’ve done has caused them to deserve what they’re going through.

2. “This is God’s plan.”

Why is this harmful? This statement is problematic for a couple of reasons: First, not everyone is religious, or puts their trust in the same faith that you do. Additionally, saying this can make you come off as self-righteous, like you are in control of what is or is not God’s plan. Finally, like ‘everything happens for a reason’, saying these words can minimize a patient’s or caregiver’s pain by implying that their grievances are all part of a plan that they must simply accept.

What to say instead: “I will be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers every day, and sending you good vibes.”

Even if your loved one is not religious, it is still very kind to hear that someone is thinking of them and sending them positive energy every day.

3. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Why is this harmful? Let’s start with the basics: The word “kill” simply doesn’t belong in a conversation with someone going through a health crisis. This saying also implies that this hardship should be viewed as a good thing because it provides strength.

What to say instead: “You are a warrior, but I’m always here to lean on if you need me.”

Your loved one arrives every day fighting a difficult battle – they are already so strong. This lets them know that you recognize their strength, and that you’ll be there to support them on the days when they don’t feel so strong.

4. “At least it’s not cancer.”

Why is this harmful? “At least it’s not” statements are insensitive to your loved one’s pain. We can always find something “worse” out there. It’s important to respect that everyone experiences pain differently. Just because you may think another crisis is more painful doesn’t mean they will.

What to say instead: “I’m proud of you for how you’ve been handling this difficult time.”

Focus on what they’re going through, not someone with another health issue. They will certainly appreciate hearing how proud you are with how they’ve been handling the situation.

5. “Just think positive thoughts.”

Why is this harmful? Telling someone in crisis to think positive thoughts is like telling someone with two broken legs to stand up. When going through difficult situations, happy thoughts are often not as available as they once were. Telling a patient or caregiver to think positively can cause them to feel unnecessary guilt or internal pressure.

What to say instead: “Remember that time when we…”

Instead of telling someone to think positive thoughts, take some of the pressure off and bring the positivity yourself. Reminisce a funny memory. Share something hilarious you saw a stranger do the other day. Show them the latest cat video that made you smile. The positive effects of laughter are immense, causing a rush of endorphins, physical relaxation, and boosting the immune system. Plus, it will help take their mind off of their troubles, even if it’s just for a minute.

6. “At least you have one healthy child.”

Why is this harmful? Similar to “at least it’s not cancer”, this statement comes off more flippant than positive, and it can make a caregiver feel like they shouldn’t be upset as long as they have other healthy people in their lives. Right now, it makes perfect sense that their focus is on the child who is unhealthy.

What to say instead: “How is […] enjoying the new school?”

It’s not that you should never ask about your loved one’s other family members. Inquiring about their friends and family can be a great way to take their mind off things. Just avoid asking how their friends and family are coping, and instead focus on more positive questions like how the soccer team is doing, or how the school play is going.

7. Nothing.

Why is this harmful? Saying something is always better than saying nothing. Silence can make a patient or caregiver feel like you don’t care about them, which is often furthest from the truth.

What to say instead: “You are loved.”

If you can’t think of anything else to say, those three words speak volumes. Hand-holding, hugs, and thoughtful gifts are also ways to show your love when you aren’t quite sure what more to say.

Keep on Caring

kitten and puppy snuggling on grass

We’ve all been guilty of saying some variation of these lines before, so please don’t feel bad. By recognizing these unhelpful words and planning out more positive sentiments, you can be confident that you’re being the best support system possible. Now THAT is a positive thought.

Share Your Biggest “Caring Words” Pet Peeves in the Comments!

We’d love to know what words really grind your gears! Please share any comments that you find unhelpful, and if possible, what would have been better to hear in that moment.

Comments (503)

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Pam Nov 19, 2018 3:38pm
When someone says “they know” unless they truly have experienced the same circumstances they don’t know.
Celeste Gantz Nov 18, 2018 11:34am
Worst ever is “We’re just glad you’re still with us”. I got that from a clerk in a drugstore when I was checking out with some cold and flu medication. I wasn’t even that sick! But I’ve heard it said to people with serious but not yet life-threatening illnesses.
Susan P. Nov 17, 2018 9:40pm
When I lost my daughter, the phrase I HATED to hear from well meaning friends was "I can't imagine' how you must feel." Since my daughters passing, I've come to realize the two words which say everything to people who are grieving the loss of a loved on is.. "I'm sorry".
Linda Powers Nov 17, 2018 9:42am
What is helpful to say?
Rose Williams Nov 17, 2018 8:56am
When I lost my husband, one phrase that encouraged me was "grieving is a part of loving. " What is your opinion of that phrase as one to share?
Beth Nov 17, 2018 7:59am
I have close friends (she from junior high days almost 60 yrs) and her husband that my husband and I spent many times together especially going to and watching football games. My husband passed away last year from Alzheimer’s disease. During the last year of his life they stopped inviting us to watch games with them because the husband was fearful that my husband might fall in their home. This was very hurtful to me. Don't stop routines just because of what 'might’ happen. Ironically my friend has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I must try to forgive and support them in a way I wish they could have for me.
Betty Nov 16, 2018 5:28am
When dealing with cancer, serious cancer, don’t go over everybody’s cancer stories. when our son was so sick I had to hear everybody’s cancer story and it was very hard.
Julie Brown Nov 16, 2018 5:12am
This is a delicate topic for sure.
Mary L. Galbreath Nov 15, 2018 8:22pm
Talking about only (themselves). Saying it is God’s Plan. Could people TRY to understand.....GOD does not orchestrate these situations. He created us as human beings.....imperfect in an imperfect world. We do....and will.... experience tragedies....and unthinkable challenges....because of the world we live in. We NEED our fellow humans....our family and HELP us accept...these us....when we need Love the most...when all hope is lost. GOD does......grant us behave...and achieve....what will help the most. Pray for God’s Grace.
E Tuyahov Nov 13, 2018 10:17pm
After my mother died a well meaning colleague said : ““Well at least you know she is in a better place “ Since I don’t believe in heaven I didn’t like the comment but I didn’t say anything to her. But silently I thought I would much rather have her here. The moral of the story is don’t assume everyone shares your beliefs in your goal of comforting a grieving person. That was twenty years ago and the impact was great enough that I clearly remember it today.
Deborah Gregson Nov 12, 2018 8:10pm
I am concerned that this site doesn't offer an option to respond to what others have posted. So many people ask questions and ask for help but there is no way to respond to their concerns. I have suggestions, referral options, answers for them but no way to respond to individuals. I'd like for you to offer a way for dialogue with specific individuals so we could help them when they are asking for help. - paul g west: Your family needs a caregiver guide to help you all discuss your options in caring for your father now that the LTC insurance is running out. It isn't fair for your two siblings to decide for you how to spend your money monthly or to put you potentially in financial risk. You may need to consider a skilled nursing facility if he qualifies and then getting him qualified for Medicaid (MediCal) so that none of you have to pay for his care. You need someone to help you with these decisions who can help you and your siblings discuss this in an impartial and rational manner and who understands the legal and financial ramifications of this decision. These decisions are difficult, but you must first take care of your longterm goals and life, then that of your father. - Campbell Anderson: It may be too late but I'd like to suggest that you meet your mother where she is. Your mother has said to you that she is "scared and giving up". Acknowledge that. Tell her it's ok to be scared and that you are too. Tell her you understand that she's ready to give up, that you get that she's tired of fighting and has been through a lot. She's been through a lot and it's unlikely things are going to get better. Ask her if she's ready to stop treatment and just be at home. Ask if she's ready to just have hospice at home with comfort care. You need help too, possibly counseling, to help you deal with losing her. Talk to someone about how losing her is affecting you and your life. Tell your mom how much you will miss her but how much her being a part of your life has made you a strong woman who fights for life. And accept the thought that it's ok to have your moments of sorrow, grief, and weakness where you need people to hug and hold you. It's ok to need others to help you through this difficult time because you are losing your mom who has been your foundation, and soon you will become the mom of the family who will be the strength of others. That's a big role to take on, but you have a great example to follow and she'll be in the universe guiding you. May you both have peace as she transitions to her next life. - Polk, Raemon Polk: There are early-stage Alzheimer's groups to help those with early stage Alzheimer's. The Alzheimer's Association has some support groups available in some areas and you can find those by going to their website and looking. It's not easy to navigate but if you call their 800 number and ask they will direct you to one if it's in your local area. There are ones on the internet that are available and work well if you are able to use the internet (and it seems you are). One good site is Molly's Movement on Facebook. It's a public group of people who are both caregivers and people with dementia that was started by a man whose mom had dementia. I have found it to be the most supportive and informative group on the internet for people with dementia and for caregivers. The people there can direct you to other websites that are legitimate for people with early stage dementia. - Judy McDougal: If your husband hasn't been diagnosed with dementia he should be seen by a neurologist who specializes in dementia. He may have Lewey Body Dementia, Frontal Temporal Dementia or Parkinson's Disease, or maybe Alzheimer's, but he needs a good diagnosis. Then you need to talk to the doctor about the symptoms you are noticing and how they affect him and you so the doctor can do a good job of adjusting his medications, which may take several months. If he has longterm care insurance or is a Veteran who can get VA Benefits or you have the financial means you could look into having help at night so you can get some sleep. Finding a caregiving guide may help. Contact your local county senior resources center and ask if they have a free service to help you determine the local resources that are free to determine the services you qualify for and other services that may help you. At some point, you need rest so you can care for him so you may even need to consider having him in a facility where you can know he's cared for and you can visit him in health and enjoy your time with him in a loving way. Deborah, caregiving guide Guilford County NC
paul g west Oct 14, 2018 10:40pm
Looking for some insight here: My father has been at an assisted living facility for over 4 years. He is 84 has COPD, Diabetes, Heat Condition, Congestive Heart Failure and a few other things. He is 85. His long term care insurance is about to expire and we are looking for a new option for him. I have 4 sibs, 2 that want to keep him in his current facitlity and 1 that is abroad and not involved. To keep him there, it would be roughly $2,500 per month each for a total of $10. I don't know how to fiannce that, but my other 2 sibs are moving forward and expecting me to provide that support. Are there any options, what are we to do?
Mffisher Oct 13, 2018 7:38am
As a caregiver, “she is lucky to have you. “To me this implies the speaker has no intention of helping out, and is greatful they will not be called upon because you are doing the heavy lifting
CJ Crow Sep 26, 2018 8:37am
I am the caregiver and wife of a husband who had a stroke 2 years ago. I struggle with so many thoughts and feelings. i've learned that 90% of people ask but REALLY don't want to hear your struggles and the other 10% are glad your having struggles. When someone asks me ...and HOW ARE YOU DOING? I simply answer with , I'm fine because there is no way they could ever understand what I go through. Asking is just a formality of being social in conversation.
CJ Crow Sep 26, 2018 8:09am
I can't stand it when I share difficulties and they say " I Know" . Then immediately start telling you about someone else they know who has overcome a similar difficulty.
Susan Thau Sep 23, 2018 5:10pm
the thing that often gets to me are the ever-so-cheerful social media sayings like, "If you don't like your life, change it, " "At any point you have the power to say this is not how the story will end," and "Don't forget to live." Hard to read when you are into the sixth year as a sole caretaker and seeing your own life dwindling away.
Joann Policastro Sep 23, 2018 2:20am
My beautiful sister died almost Thirteen years ago. I miss her everyday. While she was going through the Hell of Cancer her best friend would envite her and her husband over to eat and play cards, with zero talk about her Cancer. She loved this time of normalcy. ♥️
Vicmaris Castillo Sep 19, 2018 11:43am
I have read some of your comments here and they all make sense, I just want you all to know that sometimes it can be very hard for someone to say correct things to people suffering from a serious illness. I had a friend diagnosed with a brain tumor and when I saw her I didn't know what to say or how to say it and I got so nervous because I was speechless. She just said "just be my friend and just be there when I need you and just be normal". That put me at ease and we were able to spend time together in good times and bad times. I was also able to inform myself of the illness and treatments she was receiving. She gave me a pamphlet of the medication she was taking for her cancer. That really helped to know what she was going through and all the side effects. She lost her battle 4 years ago and I miss her so much but I learned a good lesson.
Campbell Anderson Sep 15, 2018 7:55pm
My mother is severely suffering from asophigial cancer that has matastisized to her intestine. It causes her continuous pain in her stomach and creates a build up of fluid that she requires paracentesis every 2-3 days. She has gone through a systemic block to help mitigate the receptors of pain caused by the cancer but she's not eating, breathing properly or enjoying everyday living. She states daily that she is scared and giving up. I don't know what to say or do and just wish I could take it from her and take all that pain and put it inside me. I know I could handle it and it's not fair that she has to endure more in this life than she already has. She has been through so much and she was in such good shape and was eating healthy and exercising every single day and even myself as a physical trainer at times had trouble keeping up with her has to face fighting this terrible disease. I want to be strong but I have faced diabetes for 20 years and at my weakest she never allowed me to falter or fail. She stood by me and helped me overcome and now I need to find motivation for her not to give up, not to surrender. I want to scream and cry and be angry that she would even suggest she doesn't want to continue but having gone through serious pain before I understanding feeling lost and wanting to give up is a lot to bare the thought of. She has always been more than my mother, she has been my friend and someone I could always share anything with. I could not stand the thought but still know that she will leave us as some point. She's not gone yet and I'm already so devastated. It's so hard to be strong for her and myself and the family everyday being a rock.
Polk,Raemon Polk Sep 07, 2018 4:33pm
Is anyone training early stage Alzheimers patients for how different the world will seem later and how to cope?
Sherry Bogdon Aug 30, 2018 11:10am
My 49 year old husband has stage 4 lung cancer. I realize folks don't know what to say however, every time we go for another painful treatment or a disappointing scan, the hospital staff always say "Hi, how ya doing today". This makes me crazy! It is only a thoughtless greeting! I want to say to them, he is dying of cancer how do you think he doing". You would think they, of all people, could come up with something more like, "Hi, happy to see you today". Are these folks not trained to sensitivity?
Judy McDougal Aug 25, 2018 8:26pm
I need help. . husband wakes me at night whispering "they are in the LR" - I say no one here, just us. I'm tired. He is getting worse. Not eating. He stumbles - he mumbles - he whispers. Please help
Chuck Triggs Stephens Minister and Leader Aug 12, 2018 4:50pm
# 8, I know how you feel. NOBODY knows how you feel even if you both had similar things happen #9. You will get over it, It just takes time. When you loose someone, you will NEVER get over it. #10 It's God's way of testing your faith There are more and as a Stephen Minister Care Giver we learn to listen 98% and Speak 2 % or less We are the caregivers and GOD is the curegiver. When we mix them up terrible things usually happen.
Sophie Jul 31, 2018 6:10pm
I find humor helps. To: "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger", my response is: "What doesn't kill you, gives you a set of unhealthy coping mechanisms and a very dark sense of humor." Gallows humor, if you will. In my experience, I have found that one of the surest fire ways of escalating what is overwhelming, as you are trying to gain control, as things are beginning to spiral out of control, is for someone to say, "just calm down". Or having someone give you the silent treatment. Especially if they know it will trigger a person. All it serves to do is to belittle a person's feelings and discredit what should be validated. When overwhelmed, you need someone to guide you back into the moment. To focus you. Without judgement. To say that you understand how a person feels, when they are grieving from the deepest recesses of their heart, or overwhelmed as a caregiver, has some level of comfort because at least they have some grasp of what it feels like to be in that "bad place". And you know when a person is being genuine. They really do get it. At least someone gets it. When I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer, someone very wise, who lost two loved ones to cancer, said to me, when asked I him if he ever got over it, would things ever be ok again, and because of his experience in the Military, I explicitly trusted him, he said to me, "You never get over a loss, you just get better at getting over it." He understood on a level that no one else did. No regrets. You do what you have to do. What I remember the most, something that I had read, is that what someone says, or does, will not be forgotten. When a loved one is fighting cancer, actions, and words, have an impact. Some wounds never heal. Now as a caregiver for my father who has stage 4 colon cancer, there is nothing anyone can say to me. t is a whole different ballpark this time. You just get better at getting over it. But you never get over a loss. Those words have even more meaning to me now. In ways that they didn't before. "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans."
Harriet Ottaviano Jul 31, 2018 4:15pm
The most touching comment I received after losing my older brother in a plane crash was from a friend who said, "I'll miss him". It comforted me to know that others beside family would miss my brother. Sometimes you think everyone but you will forget.
Kay Q. Jul 23, 2018 10:27am
Two days after losing my husband in a car accident (with two very young daughters to raise), a friend called and said "are you sad?" I was left speechless - it has been a couple of decades later and I still remember her comments. Thoughtless!
Justin Jul 07, 2018 7:12am
It's the new normal.
Kimberly .... welcome to this crazy rollercoaster ride given to us. I am still new at working with my computer but can't wait to share with you. Jul 06, 2018 1:45pm
We thought you were healthy because you don't look sick.(I have stage four lung cancer).
Deidre Bohan Jun 24, 2018 3:00am
God has given you this challenge (my child died of SIDS) to prepare you for your later life ...
Roberta Dusek Jun 23, 2018 9:11pm
You can always adopt.
Lois Dershem Jun 21, 2018 10:23pm
My husband had a stroke and is now being cared for in an adult foster care facility and I became an instant caregiver and ‘stroke victim, too’. We are blessed with a loving support group of friends and family. And, like I had always done in the past, most of them said if there’s anything I can do just let me know. And they would. But, I wasn’t sure what to do myself so I was clueless what to ask for. I tell this story because one of my friends just said, “is it OK if I come over and walk Murphy during the week”? Who would ever have thought to ask for that but what better gift than to take care of my precious pet who was, by necessity, being left alone much too often. A great gift for Murphy but just as great a gift for me . . . and my husband who also worried about our four-legged best buddy.
Niki Flow Jun 20, 2018 7:14am
"Oh, stage one. That's not so bad. You'll be FINE!" or "It's like you never had cancer really, right?" or "I mean it's just a hysterectomy and those are done every day." or "Oh my mom had that and she's so happy now because she got stronger!" Ugh. Okay -- you do get stronger, but that's a personal journey. You cannot predict another person's journey based on someone else's map. For me, the most comforting presences were the quiet listeners. It comes down to being there (online or off -- just a witness, present), and listening. That helped more than anything. You want a great way to really listen to people? Check our Celeste Headlee's amazing Ted Talk out. I realized I basically suck at listening after hearing this talk So I went back and took notes. 1. Be present. Seriously totally present. No distractions. 2. Don’t pontificate. “If you want to state your opinion, write a blog.” ^_^ “Pundits are really boring and totally predictable…Enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn…”True listening requires setting aside oneself.” (M. Scott Peck).” That means your views and opinions, too. 3. Ask open-ended questions. “Who, what, when, where, why and how.” Let them describe it. “What was that like? How did that feel?” 4. Go with the flow. Thoughts will come in — let them go back out — evven if the thought is as cool as a memory of meeting Hugh Jackman in a coffee shop. (Yeah that would totally sidetrack me for a while too.) 5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know. (I used to tell my kids: “I’d rather people be more sure of you’re guesses than other people’s facts.’) Don’t guess. Don’t pretend to know. It’s annoying. 6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs. Just listen. “All experiences are individual and, more importantly, it’s not about you.” 7. Try not to repeat yourself. It’s condescending and really boring. Rephrasing it is repeating it. 8. Stay out of the weeds. People don’t care about the years, names, dates — they don’t care. They care about you, what you’re like, what you have in common. Forget the details. 9. Listen. “It’s the #1 most important skill you can learn….‘If your mouth, is open, you’re not learning.’ (Buddha) …‘No man ever listened his way out of a job.” (Calvin Coolidge). Why do we want to talk? We’re in control. But also, we get distracted when we listen. We can talk up to 275 words a minute. We can listen to up to 500 words a minute, so when we listen, we fill in the blanks if we don’t pay attention. It takes effort and energy to pay attention to someone...’Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand. We listen with the intent to reply.'” (Stephen Covey). 10. Be brief. Basically: “A good conversation is like a mini-skirt, short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject.” (Celeste’s sister.) =)
Anne Schreifels Jun 16, 2018 7:34pm
"You can always have another child" my doctor said "It is a blessing. You never know what problems he may have had" when I told him the baby he delivered from me at 3 1/2 months premature and had survived that long, having died in a "therapeutic accident" (machinery malfunctioned during a shunt revision) during the surgery. I thought "None could be as bad as yours!"
Lisa Jun 14, 2018 11:12pm
As awkward as it may feel, when someone dies at least acknowledge the surviving friends and family members by saying "I'm sorry for your loss." In the past, I've avoided giving my condolences because it was uncomfortable but now I know it feels far worse to think that people don't care.
Carol A Goldstein Jun 14, 2018 3:50pm
Following my husband's death: " He's in a better place." Are you kidding????
D L Harvey Jun 13, 2018 5:26pm
"take care of yourself"..... What in the world is one to do to "take care of themselves" when all they want to do is crawl in a hole and pull in the dirt behind them. But seriously, do you go get a mani-pedi, or a massage, oh wait there is no money for that, as it was all spent on the tell me one more time....what does taking care of oneself look like when you are totally devastated and everyone else just goes on with their lives???
Leighton Johnsrud Jun 13, 2018 9:22am
I was an orphan at age 11. People would be at the funeral and say whatever I can do to help. Only to go on and treat you like you have an infectious disease. Many times a hug says more than words.
Joe Leonard Jun 12, 2018 7:02am
Having been on both sides of the fence, I understand the awkwardness of giving verbal support and trying to find the right words . We're all human and the fact is everyone wants to be acknowledged and recognized, and generally people want to acknowledge others even in their time of greatest challenges. As a cancer surveyor I needed to accept the realities of my situation and the possibilities that the situation could go south. I never got upset or offended when someone offered or tried to offer kind words , I was just grateful as I went through hell, that others cared. Stop being offended and accept the gift others are trying to offer you.
Jenny Johnson Jun 11, 2018 8:55pm
I resist articles that dare to dictate to other folks as if the authors, however well meaning, know without question that they speak truth. They speak truth as they know it. May not fit everyone. And some of the statements not to say....are actually true statements, even though they may not fit every situation. One must speak from the heart and from a caring sensitivity to each individual situation, and not from prescribed lists of what to say or not to say. God gives wisdom if we ask for it....He promised.
Annette Dunne Jun 11, 2018 12:51pm
what the caregiver is facing is not helped by platitudes. It is insulting. To help, validate the situation as it is, and acknowledge the feelings of the caregiver. You can't fix things; you can offer compassion by just listening. If you want to help, ask for a specific task you could do. Offering general help is no help at all.
Judy languish Jun 11, 2018 8:39am
She's in a better place. At least he's not in pain anymore. God wanted her more.
Valerie Jun 10, 2018 11:58pm
My child was struggling with suicidal ideation and someone said, "I hope he makes it." I was incredulous. It was so painful. It had never occurred to me that he wouldn't make it. I think I looked aghast and she said again with much intensity, "No, I mean I really hope he makes it." My situation reminded her of another with a bad ending. I had to leave the party we were at. In my situation all I want is hope - I can't stand it when people say, "Oh I know so and so and their kid started out like yours and went to hell in a hand basket" type thing. Not helpful. I need people to tell me positive stories - not stories that leave me afraid. I want to hear about kids that got healthy and now lead to positive and productive lives. Another comment that didn't work well for me - "I'm not surprised." Some things that were comforting were, "I am holding you," "I love you," "I am here for you," "I am thinking of you," "Call me anytime," "Would you like for me to visit and sit with you," "I'm coming over now so I can give you a hug," and "I am giving you a hug over the phone." All that said I am in full agreement that the words are less important than the intention. The intention is what I try to hold. I like it when people reach out and just say they are thinking of us. For me I want friends to reach out with a text fairly often with an offer to talk when I have the energy.
Constance Knott Jun 10, 2018 1:14pm
A couple more that I would add: "Just give me a call if there is anything I can do" (People are NOT going to do that) Do not share stories of other people's situations/difficulties unless you are completely confident they will be helpful. Do not ask questions that can be perceived as snoopy.
Marilynne K. Jun 10, 2018 12:49am
During the time a person does share his/her story of loss, close the computer/iPhone etc , do not sit at a distance but in a respectful space nearby and focus on the person’s story. I had the experience of talking to a computer about the loss of my daughter Mary.
Wanda Jun 09, 2018 5:32pm
I know how you feel. Especially, if they have not been through the same thing. Just say, "i'm so sorry" and "I love you" if that is appropriate
Dr. Hurley Jun 09, 2018 3:11pm
I loved my mother very much. She always believed she knew what God wanted. When I was little and hundreds died in Mexico because of an earthquake, she told me that it was because they had all done something terribly wrong. I told her I did not believe her. I was in high school when the first men walked on the moon. She had always said that if God had wanted men on the moon, he would have put them there. We were watching TV the night we landed on the moon. She became so hysterical that I thought we were going to have to call 911. She appeared to be having a heart attack. Later in life my husband and I went through a 5 year infertility workup. I never achieved a pregnancy. I am an MD. My mother was the only one who ever hurt me over this. She told me that it had not worked out because God did not want me to have a baby. This is a defense mechanism. Believing that Things had worked out as God wanted them to protected her from pain, she had probably wanted a grandchild more than I wanted a baby. She never minded hurting me. “All things happen for a reason,” is also a defense mechanism. People use these beliefs and phrases to protect themselves. Anyone who has ever worked in an ER and seen babies brought in beaten to death, children killed by drunk drivers, or innocents shot and murdered can tell you that all things do not happen for a reason other than that people are often mean and stupid, and life is unfair. Keep in mind that these are defense mechanisms to protect those who use them. What Mom said to me still stabs me in the heart 40 years later.
Charlie Jun 09, 2018 11:02am
God gives me more than I can handle more often than I like. He must think I am really strong. All I can do is lean on Him.
eileen simpkins Jun 09, 2018 10:29am
...arrive with ears to listen, shoulders to cry on, arms to hold....but mostly with heart
Diane Jun 09, 2018 10:07am
My first pregnancy resulted in a stillborn child. One of the nurses told me that I was young and would have other children. We went 7 years before we were able to start our family. My husband's grandma came from the "stiff upper lip" generation and told me "I shouldn't count my chickens before they hatched." People mean well, they just don't think. My uncle told me that when he was at his wife's viewing people keep saying "How are you doing", which is a common greeting, but in that situation a poor choice.
Susan Jun 09, 2018 9:05am
When my brother died at age 28, a friend commented “well, you knew he was going to die.” But thinking back on that time period in 1987, the most hurtful were the friends who said nothing at all to acknowledge my loss. Try to be thoughtful and say something.
Christine Jun 09, 2018 7:41am
I appreciate people saying something rather than nothing at all. Articles like this make it more complicated to reach out to someone after a loss for fear of offending. I have experienced loss and yes, some strange things were said but I looked past that and focused on their intent.
D. L. Adler Jun 08, 2018 11:21pm
One expression that makes me cringe, is when someone says, "He's in a better place." It's insulting. Think about that . . . A better place would be "here."
Beki Jun 08, 2018 11:07pm
Never say, "it's going to be ok," "just put your head in the clouds for awhile, it's a nice place to be," "chill out," "don't be silly, it's going to all work out," "just have faith," "you need to start thinking more positively," "you are going to make (your loved one) sick if you are negative,"
Ginnie Becker Jun 08, 2018 8:30pm
When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I believe I walked in a real fog. I had lost both my parents and seemed to have gotten past the pain. A not so favorite relative called to see how I was coping. This person has an opinion on every situation. When I explained what steps were necessary to get through these issues, she blurted “you could be like Jane Doe, my neighbor. She’s dead”. I was mortified to think anyone could be so thoughtless and cold. I don’t ever address a patient with details of another’s ailment. We are not cut of the same cloth, and need proper care and plenty of prayers, in our corner.
Megan Mahoney Jun 08, 2018 6:22pm
Don’t ask questions - it’s difficult enough - especially if the lost love passed on under questionable circumstances.....suicide, drug overdose. Just leave it.
Sharon Decker Jun 08,2018 Jun 08, 2018 5:48pm
Never say, "I never let myself get depressed," or " we'll get you through this,"
MD Smith Jun 08, 2018 4:19pm
My mother died of lung cancer. She smoked before it came out how harmful cigarettes are. When some people heard she had smoke they said, along the lines of "what did you expect, or that is what you get if you smoke."
Bruce Pearson Jun 08, 2018 2:35pm
That pretty much sums it up.
Catherine Jun 08, 2018 2:24pm
After my 65 year old husband died from cancer, a friend said to me "Gosh, since you two didn't have children, I can't imagine how you're going to fill your time." I just busted out laughing.
Jean Cabral Jun 08, 2018 1:28pm
I can't think of anyone best suited to handle this.
Frank and Judy Graham Jun 08, 2018 11:34am
Another thing never to say....I know just how you feel. Even if you've been through a very similar experience, you DON'T know how that person feels. Every situation and every individual is different.
Henry Greenspan Jun 08, 2018 11:33am
I'm a huge fan of Emily's work. I also agree--from perspectives of caregiver, patient, and person who teaches about these issues--that was may get too "hung up" on the "what to say" issue. (Although the "what _not_ to say" issues very much worth thinking about). In any case, the people who really matter in hell are not those who find the best things to say or avoid saying. They are the ones who show up, are open to _not_ knowing what to say, able to take cues--or ask for them--from person they are there for. What gets said, or not said, can go a zillion ways in that complicated dance. So the core question is whether one is willing/able to dance. Or not. As every such discussion of these issues shows--and there are many on line--we have all found a lot of disappointment. Luckily, many of us have also found those who don't live on words alone.
Holly Thomas Jun 08, 2018 11:19am
My husband, a 20 year Navy vet, died of cancer 2 years ago. I loved him dearly. A neighbor suggested I go to parties at the local Legion Hall and "Get one with a longer warranty."
Sidney Bailey Jun 08, 2018 11:14am
Never say "i know how you feel" unless you have been through the same experience
Stephanie Jun 08, 2018 11:04am
“I know how you feel” is another statement that can be received negatively
Linda Moon Jun 08, 2018 10:28am
I believe in God's plan for each of us. However, each person should reach that conclusion on their own. I'm a cancer survivor, and I often tell myself when I have other health issues "At least it's not cancer." I wouldn't say this to anyone other than myself!
Joyce Jun 08, 2018 10:27am
Thanks for the good advice! I've found your website tremendously useful.....
Lita Marishak Jun 08, 2018 10:18am
When someone is grieving, never ask, “How are you doing?” or “How are you feeling?” That is the last thing one wants to focus on at this time. Such a question inevitably brings on tears and more suffering!
Lita Marishak Jun 08, 2018 10:13am
When my mother gave birth to my sister and two days later my nearly 8 year old brother died suddenly, someone wrote my parents, “G-d gave you a replacement.”
Pam L. Jun 08, 2018 10:07am
JoAnn (Jun 07, 2018 8:27am) hit the nail on the head. My husband died a month ago & numerous well meaning people said"If there's anything I/we can do just let us know." which was more of a burden than a blessing. Then there was a friend who arranged to have my lawn mowed and the friends who cleaned my house and invited me to dinner and the friends who cooked a meal for my family and me. Most of all there were my sisters who came from far away and stayed with me and did an amazing amount of helpful things without my asking. Sometimes they just sat with me in silence or talked with me about my husband and shared fond memories. I want to talk about him but a lot of people are afraid it will cause more pain to those who are grieving. Just ask the person if they want to talk and/or share. If they don't they'll let you know. I personally loved hearing how my husband positively impacted others' lives.
Carol P. Jun 08, 2018 9:31am
When my very dear friend lost her sister to cancer, which was a long, drawn out illness and many trials of new non-FDA approved treatment, I simply went to the store, and bought a bunch of groceries that I thought she and her husband might need since they were now going to be responsible for two young children. I told her and her husband that I was here if they needed me for anything. I am very awkward in these types of situations and since I recognize that, it's best if I don't say much of anything unless asked.
Mark Gilbert Jun 08, 2018 9:08am
I'll say this to the authors of the article: You really ought not bring God into an article about "Things you Should Never Say"
Joann Krausser Jun 08, 2018 8:43am
When I was 22 my 49 year old mom died of breast cancer..when I returned to work my boss said to me”sorry for your loss but when your number is up it’s up”...I was horrified by this comment and today some 40 plus years later I still remember it like it was yesterday.
Amy Richards Jun 08, 2018 8:32am
These are so true. Read the book “Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I have Loved,” by a Duke Divinity School professor with cancer. Highly recommended.
Kathy O'Dell Jun 08, 2018 8:18am
I just want to add that I heartily agree with V. Black, who posted a short while before I did. Words can't always be just right -- from others or from myself -- but if people are trying to connect compassionately, the spirit of their intention comes through and is comforting. I certainly hope that's the case in reverse, when I say something awkward!
Polly Jun 08, 2018 8:18am
I don't have an awkward comment to share, although I'm sure I've had them between my husband's illness and death and my cancer diagnosis shortly after his death. I try to listen with my heart when people offer comfort, even if it is poorly phrased. Accept the intent, don't dwell on the words!
Kathy O'Dell Jun 08, 2018 8:10am
About the loss of a sibling: "But you weren't all that close, were you?"
Shaun Webb Jun 08, 2018 7:35am
Here, read this book! Unreal comment at a time of crisis from one older sister to a younger one.
bobby weaver Jun 08, 2018 7:32am
just shut up and listen
V. Black Jun 08, 2018 7:28am
Is it possible we need to look past the words, and look into the heart? Yes, some things are totally inappropriate, but others are obvious that the person is trying to reach out in love because of your pain. I have gone through grief, people said some odd things, but you could see in their eyes the pain and that they were hurting for us. It could reach a point where there are no "good" words to say, because what encourages one person offends another. I have seen it happen. Let's try looking at the heart, and give people the benefit of doubt. Very few people are going to try to be crude in such a this busy world, if someone took the time to come, it had to be that they cared, even if they didn't say the exact right words. We all need to sense love, especially while going through a crisis. But we are not going to feel that love if we are focusing so strongly on hearing only "just the right words." Too many have stopped showing compassion as it is, Let's not add more pressure, let's received the love they have to give. We need each other.
Carolyn Jun 08, 2018 7:14am
On the death of my young husband age 33. Who was the father of our three small children my sister said "I know exactly how you feel" I miss him as much as you do". I was outraged that she could even think she knew my pain and loss. It has been 40 years ago and I still remember how I felt. Maybe I have still have not forgiven her because when I saw the question it came immediately to my mind. She also said the same thing two years ago when my grandson died. That time I totally reacted and I did quite a shouting rage and a hang up on the phone.
Virginia R Varrato Jun 08, 2018 5:35am
When we lost our baby after she lived two days, the worst thing the doctor told me was," Just try again". Like another child could replace the one we lost. We were never able to have another child.
Gerald Kmen Jun 08, 2018 3:38am
I have got to admit, CARINGBRIDGE WEBSITE is a good place to start when you are seriously ill. There is a time to receive calls, texts, emails, and messages, and there is NOT a time to receive them. CARINGBRIDGE allows you, and/or your loved ones, to make that decision.
Maria de los A. Amaro Jun 08, 2018 12:14am
Nice article. In chaplaincy courses, we are told to be careful while visiting ill persons. However, some people do not understand this.
JAn Jun 07, 2018 10:20pm
Something to say: “ my heart is with you. I’m so sorry.” Not to say: “well, at least she didn’t suffer” Anything with “at least...”. Don’t minimize my pain.
Jan Jun 07, 2018 10:15pm
“Well, you look good...”
Liz Jun 07, 2018 8:22pm
It could be worse. It really isnt that bad. And "aaah you poor chook". I am not a chicken!!
Mary Jane Jun 07, 2018 7:22pm
God needed another angel in heaven
Peggy Jun 07, 2018 7:19pm
Well, it isn't like your ( adult) daughter lived with you and you saw her every day.
Patti Moran Jun 07, 2018 6:22pm
The worst is God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. Loosing 2children to cancer I wanted to choke people that said that to me.
Cindy Bosse Jun 07, 2018 6:20pm
When my sister who was mentally ill committed suicide someone said to me , “So I heard your sister did herself in.” Even though there has been much healing over the last 40 years, I have never gotten over that comment. Even though I don’t hold a grudge over his ignorance, I still think of that comment when I see him, which , thankfully, isn’t that often.
Celeste Lovett Jun 07, 2018 6:11pm
Thankfully, I had very few comments like this when my father died last year but I will say that it was people's PRESENCE that comforted me. I was really grateful to everyone who came to visit him during his last few weeks and grateful to everyone who came to his calling hours, service and reception. Cards, phone calls, emails were all very comforting. Memorial donations to the scholarship in his name were REALLY comforting because we knew that he would love that. The family got a list of the donors with a total amount but not the amount by individual donor. It was heartwarming and next week, I am presenting a high school senior with the first scholarship in his name. This process has been so healing for me and my family. One of the most thoughtful things that happened for me is that about four months after my Dad died, a friend sent me a pair of handmade mittens (she made them). She didn't say a word about my Dad, she just sent me something warm. I had a good cry that night out of grief and out of joy. So, my recommendation is to just be there, reach out with small gestures over and over again and you will find that the person you are reaching out to will reach back when they can. LOVE!
Donna Mcgovern Jun 07, 2018 5:59pm
As a cancer survivor I can say I agree with the list. Things to say: I can pick up your children from school, do you need help tomorrow? Tell them you’d like to send in a cleaning service. Ask if they’d like you to bring them to temple or church. You get the idea.
Wanda veld Jun 07, 2018 5:53pm
Another one. I think i like your wig better than your own hair
cheri sutherland Jun 07, 2018 4:36pm
I am straight up, the worst at finding the right words, I am a sap, I cry, all while trying not to. I've resorted to," I care deeply and so I want to be careful not to say or be the wrong thing, all while trying to be helpful and stand by you. "How can I best support you and be what you need at this moment or when ever you say? "
pat Jun 07, 2018 4:11pm
I think just listening is sufficient most of the time & maybe saying ,Im sorry you are going through this
Karen Hoff Jun 07, 2018 4:04pm
I think it would be more helpful to list what to say or do. Or even things that other people have said or done that was comforting to us.
Veronica Frierdich Jun 07, 2018 3:57pm
You say what not to say--how about what would be good to say?????
Maureen Friend Jun 07, 2018 3:45pm
Identifying with how someone in grief, loss or pain feels is natural; we just need to leave it unexpressed in words and, rather, demonstrate with actions. I like sitting with people and just letting them talk or not. In most situations, the person is either too exhausted to verbalize or wants the opportunity to talk. I think it's kind of cruel what we expect of people in the public grieving rituals: to receive our sympathy, our feelings at all, seems like a lot. I wish we could give people time until they feel really ready to experience and receive our responses to their situation, particularly when the road they've traveled to this loss has been long and tiring. I'm sure I won't know what I want until it happens to me.
Janet McMahon Jun 07, 2018 3:24pm
I have used CB & found the detailed info For family & friends was most informative -less of burden for family to repeat & repeat The list of not to say was most informative I know have used n now hope to never use Thank you God Bless your work
Michael Stein Jun 07, 2018 3:10pm
I'll add something you should never say to anyone under any circumstances: "You should just get over it."
Paula Russell Jun 07, 2018 2:49pm
"I know how you feel" (no matter your own experience, everyone 'feels' sorrow & pain in different ways.
Jana Gray Jun 07, 2018 2:28pm
To Joyce, and anyone else who now feels afraid to say anything at all....don't let nothing be your reaction! I had many odd comments going through cancer treatments, but overwhelmingly was thankful that people cared. My advice - Find something nice to say! With cancer treatments, I've struggled with my changed appearance. Instead of asking someone what their prognosis is ( a definite dont!) or telling them about your friend or relative who had it , tell them they look beautiful/ you love their scarf/ shoes, whatever...find something nice to say to give them the inner strength while they're in the grocery store feeling naked with no hair. Look into their eyes, rather than their body parts that have been altered due to the disease. Also, for grieving people, nothing is the worst too. Nothing feels like people don't care. Just be genuine and tell them you're glad to see them and that you're sorry to hear of their loss. Ask how they are doing if you really care. Mail an actual card. Just be genuine. Care and compassion go a long way.
Carolyn G Ross Jun 07, 2018 2:18pm
Barbara's comment below from 6/7 is right on!!!! Most people mean well and just don't know what is the right thing to say!!!! Thank you for the suggestions about the responses that are more kind and therapeutic!
Carole Gonzalez Jun 07, 2018 2:16pm
How about "Maybe she would not have grown up to be a good woman."
Jayanta Banerjee Jun 07, 2018 2:08pm
Don't say to a seriously ill person ( or to her/his close family members: " I know you are a great fighter against the inevitable."
Thea Spatz Jun 07, 2018 1:52pm
The gift of silence accompanied with compassionate listening is good.
Kia Jun 07, 2018 1:40pm
Sleep now while you can, before the baby comes home from the NICU! Cause when he does... (as if we are sleeping when our baby is on the hospital...) We are approaching week 12 in the NICU and I am expressing milk (and not enough at that) around the clock. Please stop telling us to sleep. My heart and mind are connected to my baby, and my husband and I spend every hour that is not for work or for our other child at the hospital. I have read through some of these comments and some bother me, but many do not. You cannot know what you will say to someone that may be insensitive to them because everyone has different levels of "sense" that change with each situation. Instead of trying to find just the right thing to say, how about you listen. Better yet, just be there. Don't need to say a thing. And if you must find a word of comfort, say, "I love you."
mark edward kercher Jun 07, 2018 1:07pm
How about, "I know how hard this is for you" or "I understand how you feel".
Terri Rogoski Jun 07, 2018 12:58pm
My mom died from cancer three days after she turned 50 . I was almost 19. My mom-in-law said "I'll be your mom now." Horribly , terribly, painful. Never did have a good relationship with her.
Marge Melinsky Jun 07, 2018 12:52pm
My 30-year old daughter had originally been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer but, praise God, it was not that. However, we were still dealing with cancer and serious surgery. I won’t go into details on which organs were affected, etc., but recuperation took months. A family member kept saying, “Stay positive!” I just wanted to smack her!! Her life is perfect - husband, nice home, beautiful healthy kids, and life is good. What does she know about going through this ordeal?!? Nothing. And I hope she never does. Sometimes, people do mean well. You just can’t fix stupid 😏
Barbara Jun 07, 2018 12:48pm
I've been reading through these comments for an hour now, looking for all the ways I have screwed up; the things I shouldn't have said to a person who was grieving. I've found several examples - and despite my good intentions, I know I've said and/or done other things that were ignorant - and some that just weren't received well. But I didn't want to say Nothing or ignore the situation. I wanted to help; to say the right words. I never wanted to send an unkind or inconsiderate message, but I did. I probably did it again yesterday when I sent a moving article written by a grieving widow to a friend, who is also a grieving widow. But I thought she'd want to know someone was thinking about her and how hard this time must be for her. The thing is - we are human, which means we are by design, imperfect and prone to making mistakes, screwing up, still learning, trying and failing, etc. Nobody gets it right all the time. I've been the grieving person, so I know people say and do stupid - or even deliberately cruel - things. It's the human condition. Here's what we're left with: we can do our best and get help with that when needed, we can give up trying to 'fix' anybody else, and we can forgive ourselves so that we can forgive each other (or when forgiveness is not possible, we can put distance between us and the offender). This list of 'what not to say' is to learn from; it's not to use as a weapon - either against ourselves or each other.
wnada pichon Jun 07, 2018 12:42pm
After my son died someone told me that he was in a better place. I know he is with the Lord but that's not what I wanted to hear at the time. I was not very nice in proclaiming that he was not in a better place that he should with his momma and that I didn't want to hear that. I wanted him with me.
Angella Bundy Jun 07, 2018 12:28pm
I am someone who was diagnosed with malignant brain cancer @ 27, & due to multiple brain surgeries suffer from a TBI (traumatic brain injury) that then recurred after 5 years. Now at 44 my husband has left me for a "healthy" vibrant 29 year old, who might I add is closer to my son's age @ 20 then his! Never could I have imagined a more textbook case of a Mid Life crisis!! But I digress @ this point I have probably heard them all & now I find myself with NO friends. All you REALLY need to do is be there and/or available. And yes the most comforting thing to hear is, "I haven't been there, so I WILL NOT pretend to understand what you're going through, however I am available to spend time with you whenever your feeling up for it. I could grab take out & stop in." (BUT ONLY IF YOU TRULY MEAN IT, BLOWING SMOKE ONLY HURTS!!) I must say though, I have NEVER been offended by what someone has said, BECAUSE I realize that for the most part NO ONE says anything with malice on their hearts, it is difficult to know what to say if you haven't been there. & I would NEVER wish ghis on ANYONE, just so they would know the "right" thing to say!!
Denise Costello Jun 07, 2018 12:16pm
As a Catholic, I agree with the many below, and am very disappointed and a bit offended that three out of the seven things NOT to say involve God. Our God is loving, kind and compassionate and is a huge source of strength for those who are suffering and for their caregivers! As a donor and supporter of your website as a resource for those dealing with illness, I feel your mission of spreading kindness and compassion is also off target by telling people what NOT to say, rather than offering helpful suggestions as many of the people commenting have offered.
Lora L Cotton Jun 07, 2018 11:52am
As someone who's husband suffers from 2 chronic (treatable but uncurable) AND "generalized seizure disorder" (that destroyed at least 50% of his short term memory) the one form of comment that makes me want to punch the bearer square in the nose is "Have you TRIED....? Believe me, after YEARS of dealing with these issues if it's out there, WE'VE TRIED IT!! Unfortunately, with my husbands seizure caused memory issues, HE OFTEN DOESN'T REMEMBER IT!!! Therefore, I have to deal with days, weeks, months of (usually the oddest things) bringing the latest suggestion back to his mind, which means I then have to go back over our findings, Dr.s reactions, etc, then having to deal with the inevitable disappointment, frustration and depression, NOT ONLY over another possible "cure" proving FALSE, BUT ALSO OVER the fact that he couldn't immediately remember it!! If you don't know what to say, be HONEST! A simple "I'm sorry" or "how awful/frustrating" is SO MUCH MORE HELPFUL than a NO MATTER HOW WELL INTENTIONED "possible cure."
Juan Mayer Goyenechea Jun 07, 2018 11:49am
Some comments make me cry, really; I'm 70 and learning with your article. Thank you
Ann Sechrist Jun 07, 2018 11:22am
I know how you feel
Jill Thomsen Jun 07, 2018 11:20am
The worst comment I heard from anyone after my son died of an accidental drug overdose was "What a waste". My son's life was not a waste! He's a beautiful, talented, loving, kind, loyal friend and son who had a disease that ended his life .
Barbara Magley Jun 07, 2018 11:12am
Just help anyway you can think of without intruding - Just be available if needed Make sure family know you are there for them - anything - anytime
Janet Hunter Jun 07, 2018 11:08am
When I lost my adult daughter, who had some disabilities, but was otherwise healthy, the worst thing said to me was, “It’s probably for the best. She was such a problem.” The best thing was “I don’t know what to say.” Followed by a huge hug. I needed people around, especially at first. Everyone wanted to help. I made a list of things people could do to help so when they asked what they could do, I had an answer. It was ten years ago. I miss her every day and my friends still mention her. I love that.
Nora C. Jun 07, 2018 10:55am
Oh! My aunt, cousin mom, sister, had what you have, and...(me waiting for encouragement)... she died. If you ever lose your remission, it's over. Oh, they just dial it in now. (referring to chemo) Please send me a picture of you with no hair! He/she's in a better place. Especially for victims of mass shootings; Sending thoughts and prayers
Desne Jun 07, 2018 10:42am
Great article. When I was 10, a dear family friend's older husband died and his relatives were all draped in black. They were a scary sight to me, and I was ready to bolt. My mom told me to extend my hand to each one and say, "You have my deepest sympathy." 10 year olds don't talk like that! "Never mind that; do what I say." I did it and the family members looked at me gratefully. Bottom line: acknowledge a mourner's loss. You're saying you understand this is a difficult time for him/her. I lost Mom over 20 years ago to ovarian cancer and Dad just died of Alzheimer's. Most comforting: a look of shared grief with "There are no words," followed by a real hug; "You have been such a good daughter"; "Your father was so proud of you"; "I'm so sorry for your loss"; "It doesnt matter how old you are, you're NEVER old enough to lose your mother." Also, reach out to mourners a couple of months after every body else has stopped checking in. If you're really available to "do something," offer specifics like "can i bring you a meal?", I'm happy to watch your kids for a couple of hours." When Mom was dying and Dad was caregiving 24/7, friends asked what they could do for her. She asked them to take Dad out to dinner for a few hours. They did, and dad returned home radiant, going on and on about each course. In fact, whenever ANY of us mentioned the friends' kindness, we got a shot of love and energy all over again. If you really worry about saying the wrong thing, its OK to confess to the mourner, just add something you can back "if you need to talk, you can reach me at...i may not know what to say, but I'm a good listener and care about you."
Beachbum Jun 07, 2018 10:31am
I have stage 4 lung cancer. The comments are better than abandoning the person who is ill. When I told friends of my illness. Some choices were to abandon our friendship. I have had cancer for 4 years. I'm still here. I remember a preacher giving a sermon about "I want my flowers now" that's how I feel. If your not going to be part of my journey while I'm alive, don't send flowers to my funeral.
kathleen walter Jun 07, 2018 10:26am
How are things going ? or how are you ? If one has to ask that question the answer is no doubt obvious.
Bonnie Bailey Jun 07, 2018 10:20am
Just to clear up that aside: My brother-in-law was a beautiful, sensitive,wonderful person. There have been others though that I took another tact: "YOU are a wonderful person."
Joanne Elizabeth Belknap Jun 07, 2018 10:18am
"Why didn't you get breast implants?" (after double-mastectomy) "Do you know how long you're going to live?" (after breast cancer diagnosis)
Bonnie Bailey Jun 07, 2018 10:13am
When my sister's husband died tragically, I was astounded @ how many people said "Oh, you'll get married again"; "You look wonderful! I love your hair/dress/outfit..." Don't do that. Friends came over & cleaned her front walk, her refrigerator, guarded the intrusive phone calls, funeral attendees ( followed her & her 4 children around the cemetery like a hawk mouthing inappropriate remarks: "you're the man of the family now"; "it was so selfish of your father.." Monitor the phone; the food; the kitchen or if you can't & it's inappropriate for you to do so, just tell them what a wonderful person the deceased was (you might have to lie).
Martha Kaynatma Jun 07, 2018 10:12am
My son had a horrific car accident when he was 23 and suffered a traumatic brain injury. When he was in the first hospital, more than one person said, ''I know someone that went through the same thing.'' NOT! Or, ''I understand how you feel.'' No No No! The best thing someone said to me in the first two months was a colleague at work, ''I don't know what to say.'' and then she hugged me, hard. I heartily agree with this article and every comment I've read here. I collected more hugs that first year after his accident than you can count. They were such a comfort! P.S. My son has made incredible progress in the last 10 years---- he's still in a wheelchair, but practices walking with a walker every day; he still has a feeding tube (and may have it for the rest of his life); he uses a homemade communication board to ''talk'' but is beginning to speak orally, with great effort. BUT, he has a fabulous sense of humor and he still can use a lot of his brain power, even though there is damage throughout his brain. He's incredible!
Joyce E Dowling Jun 07, 2018 9:56am
The seven things you should never say plus all those comments make me never want to offer or try to offer comfort again. There is only one comment a person says all of those people had intended to say the right thing. Somehow said the wrong thing. I agree with that. I have always spoken sincerely with love for the person sick or in pain. The words may have been wrong but I guess that’s life.
Kay wertman Jun 07, 2018 9:53am
I simply say “ I’m so Sorry”. After losing my husband that was only thing said to me I didn’t get angry over hearing. Everyone greaves differently I don’t like to tell people how to feel. So “ I’m Sorry”. Worked for me
Mickey Davis Jun 07, 2018 9:48am
Over the years my husband and I lost 3 adult children and he was always there to help me through it. Then he was diagnosed with PD and finally had to be in a nursing facility for 5 1/2 years getting weaker by the day. But he never complained and kept making plans for when he could return to his former life with me. I visited him almost daily , fed him and talked to him as well as just sitting quietly by his side. The worst things people said to me were 'you don't have to go everyday; you have to take care of yourself" and 'every day is a gift." Those were meant to be helpful, I know, but my response was always "but he's my husband" and "If this day is a gift tell me where I can return it and have my husband back with me." There is nothing worse than the aloneness you feel when your partner is gone and this kind and gentle person was never going to be my support system again. 62 years of marriage ended when he was in hospice and leaving me and he told me he loved me, kissed me and took his last breath. Hugs and kisses helped but the nicest words were "He loved you so much.". . .and I him.
Beth Cox Jun 07, 2018 9:48am
Things to say: I'm so sorry. How can I help? What do you need? I'm here for you.
Norma Powell Jun 07, 2018 9:45am
Something that was said to me after my husband died of lung cancer, only one month after diagnosis: "At least he didn't suffer long." Or, " He went peacefully."
betty Jun 07, 2018 9:41am
All the posting recently is what not to say, now it would be helpful to know the 7 comments of what to say. Or do you just walk away and leave them to grieve in silence.
Susan Jun 07, 2018 9:34am
Great article! And if cancer or another lousy disease leaves you the inability to have children please don’t say “you can always adopt.”
Robert Kern Jun 07, 2018 9:29am
When my daughter took her own life , more than once I heard, " I know just how you feel" and after I asked " oh when did you have a child take their own life"? The silence was deafening. Do not say that unless you have been through it, believe me you do not know.
Rachael Roth Jun 07, 2018 9:29am
How about when your parent is in a casket and people say... “oh he looks so good.”
MPearson Jun 07, 2018 9:28am
If you don't visit them or socialize with them normally, then don't use the hospital or illness as a social setting or opportunity. Treat the relationship normally., keeping in mind that a card or note with a positive thought may be something they welcome and can see over and over again when they need your support.
Victoria Agee Jun 07, 2018 9:27am
There are others worse off than you are. Not helpful when you are really hurting.
Alan Jun 07, 2018 9:26am
"Now you're the man of the family." Said to me when I was 4 after my father died at age 29.
Lizzie Jun 07, 2018 9:17am
I don't think it's comforting to say: I know exactly how you feel since I've gone through the same thing or to somehow put the focus on you. It's not a contest. It should be about compassion for the other person, not on your situation.
BLAIR Koehl Jun 07, 2018 9:14am
“You’re too young to be a widow” Of course the widow completely agrees! Not helpful.
dupre cochran Jun 07, 2018 9:10am
Joan Jun 07, 2018 8:58am
The key gift is to show love and compassion for the person who is suffering, whether it be the person who is sick or the person(s) caring for them. Take a look at my book "Soul Support: Spiritual Encounters at Life's End: Memoir of a Hospital Chaplain" by Joan Paddock Maxwell which gives lots of examples of how to do this. Available at Amazon and elsewhere.
Deb Jun 07, 2018 8:52am
After our son died a now former friend told me "You need to get over this, or (son's name) will never go to heaven. This was just a month after he passed. It is now 8 years and I am not over it, but I do know he went to heaven the moment he died.
Ben's dad Jun 07, 2018 8:51am
I wrote a song about the subject a couple of weeks after losing my son. "He's in a better place now." I hear it all the time. "At least his pain is gone." you know the line.
Chrissie Jun 07, 2018 8:48am
When my husband passed away from a glial blastoma brain tumor, the one thing I didn't want to hear, and I never say it to anyone ever is, "He's in a better place." It really didn't help me at all. While I was happy for him that his suffering was over, I couldn't help but think that I just wanted him here with me in 100% health, whenever anyone would say that phrase to me. Someone actually told me once that someone she knew died of a heart attack at a young age and he left behind a wife and three children. She then proceeded to tell me that his wife's loss was greater than mine because they had children and we did not. I was incensed. I then proceeded to tell her, "At least she had her children. I was alone. I had no one to grieve with."
William Jun 07, 2018 8:41am
"It's just hair" (said numerous times to my wife when she was bald from chemo)
Debbie Whitlock Jun 07, 2018 8:40am
Being a Christian, as well as a pastor, it really bothers me when people say, “Just have faith,” or “God is in control,” or “Pray about it.” Aren’t you staring the obvious?
Cecelia M. Harris Jun 07, 2018 8:38am
My late husband was in the hospital with end stage liver disease (he had chronic active Hepatitis B, but he was also a beer drinker up to th point of being hospitalized as he had been told he would die young and figured it didn’t make any difference). An associate of his doctor told me, over the phone or I would probably have gone to jail, that he didn’t deserve to be in the hospital taking space from people who really deserved help, since he was just an alcoholic. This about a man who never missed work a day in his life, never drank on the job or when he was on call (he was a police officer), what been a firefighter, a marine, an airborne army ranger, and had basically dedicated his life to helping others despite being raised in an orphanage until the age of 6. And yes, a I did have a friend who was around frequently and knew what the last two years of his life were like, to tell me, right after I told her he had died, that her cat had she knew what I was going through. I am an animal lover, my pets are my family, and I have been devastated st their loss, but no ... not quite the same thing. When I was waiting for a biopsy for breast cancer hturned out to be non malignant tumor),and again for uterine cancer (turned out to be cancer, but stage 1j many people rushed to tell me hw they KNEW I was fine and everything was going to be all right. I know they meant well, but I was scared to death and just wanted acknowledgment of my fear and some sympathy for what I was experiencing. Downgrading and basically telling me there was nothing to worry about really didn’t give me any comfort at all. Simply saying I’m sorry you’re going through this would have been way better for me, personally.
Grieving Daughter Jun 07, 2018 8:37am
My father’s wake. I was devastated and standing next to my mother. Someone in the line of people paying respects started with a kind comment about my father, who knew the man’s family well. Then, the man focused on how old I was and how much younger than his son I might be. He began to do some math at which point I shouted out to all that I had just celebrated my 40th birthday. I looked at him and said, “There! I’m 40! Now you know!”.
JoAnn Jun 07, 2018 8:27am
A young couple who lost their one-year-old daughter said they were most helped by people who did not say 'If there is anything we can do let us know," but instead, "We will cook and bring you a meal every Monday" (or another day). The point was -- don't ask the one in pain to have to think up a task for you. Just do something.
Gay Travis Certain Jun 07, 2018 8:26am
"Only the good die young". We heard this multiple times when my brother in law had a fatal heart attack at 50 yrs old. "All things work together for good." Romans 8:28 that may be true, but no one wants to hear or get the impression that God wants them to hurt so badly.
Lucille Courtney Jun 07, 2018 8:22am
N. Robinson — Amen! Well said!
Connie McDougall Jun 07, 2018 8:18am
We lost our full term granddaughter at 3 days. Due to birth trauma. Worst comment "At least she didn't come home to live with you."
Amy Jun 07, 2018 8:11am
I try to remember that the people saying the wrong thing, really wanted to say the right thing. In most of cases, they are people who care about me. It is hard to see someone you care about, hurting. That said, my advice (when people ask me) is.."let them be sad, let them cry and's ok to not cheer them up immediately".
Donna Holdcroft Jun 07, 2018 8:08am
Sometimes it is best just to listen and be there.
Beverly Little Thunder Jun 07, 2018 8:08am
Listening and a gentle touch on my shoulder helped. Asking if I could use or wanted a hug was so helpful. Then asking me what task they could take off my plate for the day and suggesting the things they were available to do.
Beth Jun 07, 2018 8:01am
"You got this!" or "You're gonna kick cancer's ASS!" I know both comments were well-intentioned.....I preferred those who wanted to get involved: "What do you need?" "What can I do?" "Let me know when you're up for a visit/a chat/...." "I heard a great joke...." "Need any books/dvd's........?"
Helen Lent Jun 07, 2018 7:58am
It is easier knowing that they were going it die. NO it is never easy always want a little longer with your loved one. Also they are in a better place. Again NO the best place for them is here with me. The best thing to say is I am sorry.
Rebecca Jun 07, 2018 7:56am
This is so true... just listen or just be there. Do not give advice...
Jan Nichols Jun 07, 2018 7:49am
I think it depends upon the spirituality of the person as well as circumstances. For some, these comments might be insulting. Others might find them comforting and affirming.
sandra klawon Jun 07, 2018 7:39am
i'm glad i'm not you welcome to the widow's club
Cheri Rinderknecht Jun 07, 2018 7:33am
Yes Good advice
Carol Elmendorf Jun 07, 2018 7:21am
God doesn’t give you what you can handle....he helps you handle what you are given!! We lost our grandson at 20 days thing I doesn’t matter how long you have you have your loved one, be it 20 days or 85 years, you still want them a little longer! It is better to say something than nothing at all!
Diane Lee Jun 07, 2018 4:49am
A friend with stage 4 lung cancer says the worst thing she hears is " I am praying you get well, keep fighting"
Cynthia C Wilcox Jun 06, 2018 10:15pm
“I know exactly how you feel.” Sometimes people even add “I have lots of aches and pains, too.” But no, unless you’ve had a mastectomy, been through chemo, and live everyday with the side effects of aromatase inhibitors and a high risk for recurrence, you do not know how I feel.
Gwen schjoneman Jun 06, 2018 9:36pm
You know there are people who have it a lot worse than you.
Joann Parker Jun 06, 2018 7:25pm
My son died of leukemia after a 2 year battle that tore my mommy heart to shreds. It takes all my willpower to not slap people who say "God needed another angel" If it was their angel God called home they would not feel that way! And I really have to bite my tongue when I'm told it will get better. When??? I lost my son. That will never get bettet
MJD Jun 06, 2018 7:22pm
That doesn't leave much to say. 🤔
Dan Anderson Jun 06, 2018 6:46pm
Recently, Playboy Magazine founder passed away at his Playboy mansion surrounded by beautiful scantily clad Playboy models. At his funeral, Not one single man said: "he is in a better place"
Maggie S. Jun 06, 2018 6:16pm
I read somewhere that instead of asking someone who’s ill or closely related to someone who’s ill “How are you doing?” You should ask “How are you doing TODAY?”
Lynn L. Jun 06, 2018 6:15pm
I know just how you feel.
William Griffith Jun 06, 2018 5:30pm
I have a granddaughter who is profoundly disabled due to a genetic defect. Though she walks it’s unlikely she will ever speak. She’s 4 right now. Most don’t know what to say but some tell us she’ll be talking in no time. God will take care of her etc. so I correct them and tell them our job is to love her and provide opportunities to gain more function.
Jan B. Jun 06, 2018 4:34pm
Just to hear “I’m sorry you are going through this” is a comfort. (When I had my 4th miscarriage in a row 20 years ago, someone said to me “Oh would you just ADOPT already!” as if that was for everyone. Ouch. Not a comfort.
tearyl harris Jun 06, 2018 4:14pm
there's a new song out right now... "Not Right Now"... Jason Gray. (check youtube)... though I'm a Believer.... I didn't want to hear it was God's will for my Dad to die... and if I wasn't a Believer....I can't imagine the anger. .... and for those who know their BIBLE, I don't want to hear 'ROMANS 8:28'. Yes, it's a great verse, and yes, a Believer knows that...but at the time....NOT RIGHT NOW.
Mary Tuel Jun 06, 2018 3:38pm
I want to respond to the person who felt this site was dissing God. Not so. Hearing that God planned to kill your loved one is not comforting. Do you really want to say that to a grieving person? This sort of comment makes God look like a chump. I am a Christian and I decided years ago that many people get more than they can handle every day. "God never gives you more than you can handle" is something people say when they don't want to deal with someone's grief. It is difficult to be vulnerable to grieving people! But we get through by our faith, and our friends, and our church community and our broader community, most of us. I did, and people did say those things to me, and I had to give them a pass and know they meant well and/or couldn't wait to get away from me, as if grief was catching. Other widows and I swapped stories and laughed about it later. We're all doing the best we can. You don't have to support Caring Bridge, but they are not down on God.
Mary Kate Denny Ziesmer Jun 06, 2018 3:36pm
Someone says "You are so strong." That is not true. You usually are trying to put one foot in front of the other. Have a good cry . It helps. Then try everything possible both medically and spiritually and hope. And definitely be there for the person to show all the love.
Jan Jun 06, 2018 3:00pm
He was the only grandson your father-in-law had that bore the family name. (After her son and I had lost our first and only child).
Michelle Rzanca Jun 06, 2018 2:45pm
I have heard them all!
N.Robinson Jun 06, 2018 1:54pm
I just lost my dad two weeks ago after a long struggle with Parkinson’s. It’s a cruel disease and although we miss him horribly we are happy that he is no longer suffering and believe that he IS in a better place. So many have said that to us that “he’s no longer in pain” or many of the things that people are saying NOT to say. I think it’s more important to show up and be present than to worry about saying the wrong thing so you don’t show up at all. This article is disturbing. Let people show they care and be themselves! Losing someone is hard enough without focusing on how people come across. So think about your loved ones and grieve well, don’t make it a drama and waste the time you could be spending loving those around you who came to support.
Sarah Hendricks Jun 06, 2018 1:53pm
I lost both my parents in a short period of time. A lady at church said, “I bet you feel like an orphan.” Not a comforting statement.....
Melissa Jun 06, 2018 1:51pm
It is not what I said that will haunt me forever; its is what I didn't say. We were caring for my mother-in-law after heart surgery and our 31 year old nephew (on my husband's side) dying of cancer in our home. One night, our nephew told me he wished he had gone to a doctor immediately upon having stomach pains instead of waiting a year. His voice cracked when he said it. He had been so incredibly strong, courageous, and silent, as is all my husband's family. I am by nature a hugger and comforter. I was afraid to respond in my normal way because I did not want to weaken his resolve; instead I said I wished that as well and continued to cook. He has been gone for close to 10 years now, and I relive that moment over and over again, realizing he was likely reaching out to someone he knew to be a hugger, a shoulder to cry on, and most importantly, a listener. I failed him that night. I hope others can learn from my mistake.
sofie buschman Jun 06, 2018 1:45pm
Many people are very private even though they are very nice people. They have a hard time accepting any kind of help. What can you do for someone like this? I know a lot of comments may seem unfeeling. So I tried hard to understand that they really meant well but it came out all wrong. Then there are those who simply aren't sensitive.
Julie Jun 06, 2018 1:37pm
Offer your time not your words. A fragile, exhausted caregiver needs time away from their loved one to re-energize, Shop for groceries, spend time with other family members, whatever if may be. Offer a 30, 60 or 90 min break to the caregiver. They will be forever grateful!
Robert Christenson Jun 06, 2018 1:15pm
'Things could aways be worse."
Tamm Surface Jun 06, 2018 12:43pm
A friend of mine died very suddenly and his son who lived several states away was there when he passed a way. I was comforted that his son was there to support his mom, during the visitation I told him how glad I was that he was there, when his dad passed away, I could tell that it hurt him. Not a good thing to say
Sheri Kingston Jun 06, 2018 11:48am
Thank you so much for saying exactly what I hate hearing. It's not helpful. It mashes what you are dealing with smaller. Another phrase is "I know how you feel". NO YOU DON'T. THANKS AGAIN.
Wilma Jun 06, 2018 11:35am
I lost a son to cancer. I hate to hear, "I know how you feel I lost my dog that I had for 15 years". NOT the same!
Al Freemont Jun 06, 2018 11:22am
Helen Eastlack, what you wrote is exactly the reason I’m not religious. You use God to punish and not to help.
M.b. Jun 06, 2018 11:18am
“They’re in a better place.” “At least they’re not in pain anymore.”
Dave Jun 06, 2018 11:12am
It would be nice to know of some things that are proper and helpful.
Pamela B Jun 06, 2018 11:04am
Here's another one you missed, "I know what you are going through." Every situation is different. The grieving one is still in the situation of hurt and grief. It doesn't go away with just a little statement.
Suzie Hutton Yoshihara Jun 06, 2018 10:52am
When my baby was born at 26 weeks after a difficult pregnancy and we were dealing with her numerous overwhelming health problems, a friend said, “Well what did you expect would happen?” Not a supportive comment.
Nancy Faber Jun 06, 2018 10:37am
You missed a big one—- “Let me know if there’s anything I can do” After making this statement the person walks away knowing you will never call, but hey— They offered ,so if you don’t call ,they did offer , so the ball is back in their court.
Julie Horn Alexander Jun 06, 2018 10:33am
“You’ll be (or you are) a much stronger person because of this experience.”
Anne Jun 06, 2018 10:31am
I'd like to recommend this 3 minute video by Brene Brown, Empathy vs. Sympathy. I love it for the simple ways it offers us ideas for being empathetic and walking alongside someone...
Jeremy Jun 06, 2018 10:21am
"So easy a caveman can do it!" Not sure where I heard that one but it's DEFINITELY not the right response ;)
Susan Jun 06, 2018 10:16am
I've learned that, like many people posting comments here, sometimes people think they have the right to impose their beliefs or experiences on others. But the tragedy another person is facing is not yours to own or comment on. It isn't about you. Or your beliefs. Or what you think is right. Or how you handled an experience you think is similar. True empathy is to co-grieve without imposing yourself. Is is to own the hurt as a shared human experience, with selflessness and humility. More often than not, a genuine expression of love and shared sadness is all that is needed. The worst chill comfort I received after a cancer diagnosis was: That's such a common cancer! Everybody has it!
Jean Patraw Jun 06, 2018 10:12am
Another is if you have lung cancer - did you smoke? Doesn’t matter - no one deserves any form of cancer !!
Joy Jun 06, 2018 10:03am
I was on the receiving end and a lady said to me after my ill daughter passed away..,.”You must feel quilty now that your relieved that you daughter passed away”!!! No, no that was far from the truth!
Melinda Jun 06, 2018 9:59am
As a long-term caregiver/support person for multiple adult family members, I cringe when I hear, "Don't forget to take care of yourself. You should travel and have some fun. You aren't getting any younger!" Unless the person saying it is willing to jump in and fill my shoes so I can do so, the person should not give such advice! The same is true of, "I worry about you." Worrying about me does not help me. Assisting me helps me.
Tammy Q Jun 06, 2018 9:53am
Many years ago I had a miscarriage. My pastor's wife said to me, "It must be because they were twins, God knows I sure enjoyed having mine one at a time.". She meant no harm, but those words still sting. Another lady in the church, gave me a hug and wispered, "I'm sorry" then held me a moment as tears rolled down both our faces. After all these years that moment still touches my heart when I think about it.
Bonnie J Watkins Jun 06, 2018 9:49am
Please don't say, "I know just how you feel." While you may have had similar experiences, you can never share exactly what another is sharing and all our feelings are quite unique.
Michelle Jun 06, 2018 9:35am
I was really ill over 6 years ago, and I struggled with trying not to SHOW how much I was hurting or how frustrating the day was, so I would put on my makeup to try to fool myself and others. My comment is so strange, I realize; but it's actually a good one. "You look good today! You must be feeling better?" (Even though that was my fool people, it STILL irritated the crap out of me when people would SAY that!!!) Like, I would've soooo much more appreciated if someone came up to me, really looked into my eyes, SAW my hurting, and sincerely told me they thought I looked pretty but that they could SEE my pain. Then, ask if there was ANYTHING they could do to help me through it. That would've been EXTREMELY helpful.
Prefer not to sign Jun 06, 2018 9:34am
You must not be praying enough (b/c incurable chronic illness is not gone) is another negative comment (plus she was a nurse)! Both of us are strong Christians.
Christine Mackanich Jun 06, 2018 9:31am
God needed him / her in heaven more than you need them here on earth.
G Mack Jun 06, 2018 9:29am
I know exactly how you feel! Is probably the most inaccurate and unsympathetic comment ever....
Debby Whetzel Jun 06, 2018 9:27am
I’m tired of being told what not to say. People do their best in hard times. I ‘m tired of the word police telling me what to say or not say.
I would prefer not to sign Jun 06, 2018 9:24am
She/He is in a better place now.
Gemma Jun 06, 2018 9:17am
So true. Also don’t say negative about their weight, like you “loose weight, “ DUH! I just had chemo and radiation and still feeling the side effects of the treatment, you know???
Marj M. Jun 06, 2018 9:13am
In reading some of the comments, I noticed that some people said: this is about things we should never say -- so, tell us what we "should" say instead. Well, there is help -- that's what the book mentioned above is about: “There is No Good Card for This: What to Do and Say When Life is Scary, Awful and Unfair to People you Love,” by authors Emily McDowell and Kelsey Crowe. Although... it would be nice if Caring Bridge would give us a few of the positive points from the book. Thanks!
Helen Eastlack Jun 06, 2018 9:07am
I had a feeling that most of the "7 things to never say to a sick person" would involve God. I wonder why I knew this? You have lost any support I would have for your organization. I will show this little diddy to my Christian friends to be sure they don't support you either. In the Bible, Psalm 14:1 says: Foolish people say in their hearts "There is no God".... The only hope sick people have IS God (I and others I have known have been sick). Yet you would want to take this away from them. You claim to be "experts". Then you have the audacity to ask for support. Lol
Terry Lind Jun 06, 2018 8:56am
You'll always have his memory.
Y Jun 06, 2018 8:55am
You don’t look like you have cancer.
Judi Jun 06, 2018 8:54am
She’s in a better place.
Dan Larson Jun 06, 2018 8:46am
I'm guessing it was around 25 yrs ago when the term "closure" came into vogue. It was used by others to appear that they would solve the despair by convincing those who had lost a close friend or relative, including family members, that all would be back to normal if we just closed the book on the situation. The word should only be used in the sale of a house.
Geo Kendall Jun 06, 2018 8:38am
"Has she tried yoga? "A friend of mine stopped taking all those Western doctor's medications and did a cleansing fast and was totally healed. It's worth a try, huh?
patti homan Jun 06, 2018 8:35am
I remember when my son died and he was my only child. Someone said with a pat on my shoulder “all better now”.
Ellen Tuyahov Jun 06, 2018 8:34am
Another one not to say after someone’s love one has died is: “Well, at least you know he/ she is in a better place. “ My mother died decades ago and to this day that bothers me. But the person who said it meant no harm but assumed I believed as she did.
Elliott McCulley Jun 06, 2018 8:32am
I think a lot of what should or shouldn’t be said depends on how close you are to the people you are reaching out to. Having been through this with my husband a year ago, and now with his best friend, I find the best thing to say is “I love you” followed by a hug and kiss if possible. Saying “what can I do” is well meaning and helpful, but just doing stuff that needs to be done (grocery shopping, laundry, taking out the trash, running errands, etc) allows the patient/caregiver to focus on the more important work they need to do. When I was asked “what can I do”, I was usually too frazzled to have a clue. When someone just dropped food (or whatever) off at the door and then texted me it was there, it was such a blessing! Try to get a sense of what THEY want or need and then just DO IT. If you visit, don’t over stay - many people lovevvisitors, but it can be exhausting for them, and they have very important work to do preparing for the next steps they are about to take. This is about THEM not YOU. Leave your own “stuff” at the door, and focus on what they need. If you approach this with love, kindness and gentleness, and you won’t go wrong
Jenise Ricci Voelcker Jun 06, 2018 8:27am
I love this. In past hard times such as looking a baby I think all 7 of those stupid phrases someone said to me. Sometimes it's a good rule of thumb to shout your mound open your ears.
Steve Wall Jun 06, 2018 8:25am
Suffering and death are NOT part of God's plan. God can use any suffering and even death for good, but neither is in His plan. Listen to an expert on the subject: Father Mike Schmitz
Tina O Jun 06, 2018 8:13am
The thing I don’t like to hear people say. Call me if you need anything. The person is going through a rough period find something and do it for them. Examples fix a meal, grocery shop for them, pick the other kids up from school. Keep the kids over nite to give the parents a break. Walk their dog , mow their grass shovel their snow etc. just be helpful. Tell them what you can do don’t wait for them to ask
Reverend Stefanie Etzbach-Dale Jun 06, 2018 8:02am
Don’t promise to visit or call or keep someone in your prayers and then not do it. When feeling betrayed by one’s body, or one’s God, such promises “fulfilled” are critical lifelines by which the suffering/bereaved just may find their way back to faith, or to the strength needed to make it through another day.
Charlotte Crawford Jun 06, 2018 8:00am
I was a grief counselor for NICU for many years and an OB nurse and have lost two children the words were hard but sometimes a hug, genuine tears and I’m sorry were all that was needed at the moment
J. Ugalde Jun 06, 2018 8:00am
I guess it really depends on the person you are telling these things to and their beliefs. If you say these things to non believers they will resent those comments and be uncomfortable, but if you are a true believer, then those can be the best words you can say because it is true whether we believe in them or not. We already took God out of the schools, now we also want to censor Him in these special and hard moments of our lives? One thing is for sure. When you are a true believer and you go through these hard moments, it becomes a little bit more bearable than if you do it alone. How sad is to believe that there's no God's plan. That means there's no purpose on anything. However we must respect every human being and and say things that we think might be in line with their beliefs and not impose our beliefs into them. That's why sometimes we say them and sometimes we stay quiet because it really depends who you're dealing with. However, no comment is a bad comment, we are all just trying to help and the fact that you showed up and took time out of your schedule in those moments speak volumes. But I don't think we should tell people not to say these things and censor God out of our lives.
Ferne Franz Jun 06, 2018 7:54am
Most people who've gone through death, illness, any kind of loss, know that loving friends are trying to help and don't know what to say, so sometimes they'll make one of those trite comments because they feel they need to say SOMETHING. When I've been traumatized, I just needed someone to wrap their arms around me and let me cry or just hold onto them. No words we can say can ever be comforting, but a kind and silent soul nearby, I think, is the best balm.
Lisa Ann Latham Jun 06, 2018 7:45am
Although I understand the intent of the article by McDowell and Crowe, I am appalled that several of the entries are diminishing the sovereignty of God and His role in uplifting, encouraging and caring for others in their time of need...both the infirmed and their caregivers. We are not promised a pain-free life, but we are promised, by our Creator and Lord, that when we face the obstacles and struggles of this existence that He will be there for us, to be our strength, our comfort, our tower and our shield...that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Who better to guide your caregivers than the One who knows every hair on your head and every cell in your body. My father died of ALS and it was his faith that sustained him and it was the Lord Jesus Christ that sustained me through it all!
Teresa K Grorud Jun 06, 2018 7:43am
A good thing to say is; “I’m sorry, there are no words to say.....but I’m here to help you with anything I can.
Margaret Toman Jun 06, 2018 7:43am
While I respect the right of religious people to be religious, I wish they wouldn't presume to inflict it on people they don't know well with instructive comments like, "Remember to pray" or "Let's pray together about it", or "Just put it in God's hands." They may mean well but it is irritating and fatuous and the very opposite of supportive, particularly if they don't know the caregiver well.
Kathy S. Jun 06, 2018 7:40am
What do you do for a friend who’s spouse is frequently hospitalized do to chronic ETOH and cirrhosis of the liver? Offer advice? I don’t know what help is most beneficial!
Elizabeth Frazier Jun 06, 2018 7:38am
"I wish the casket was open, I never got to see him."
diane Jun 06, 2018 7:36am
Terrific list. And, if offering help, be specific: "I'd like to drive you to your next appointment; tell me when it is and I'll be there. " and, "I'm making some ______soup and would like to share it; does that sound appealing? " and many neighbors did call and say, "I'm off to the store this morning; please tell me what I can pick up for you". I always kept small bills on hand so I could repay on-the-spot, saying I'd like to be able to accept this favor sometime again and want to start off this way. That was understanding always accepted graciously. NOT a good idea: Telling your own story or that of someone else; dangerous grounds, as we do know everyone is different.
Tammy Andrews Jun 06, 2018 7:35am
Caring Bridge story of seven things not to say is horrible! They are telling you to take God out of a difficult life changing situation! Please put God in everything in your prayers and in acknowledging his presence in everything. God will see you thru and yes he does have a master plan of eternal life. Without HOPE, FAITH and LOVE what do we have to keep us going in times of trouble! Very bad article for this company
hyam fakhoury Jun 06, 2018 7:32am
- when you see other people problems, your's will seem easier to accept
Kate Stone Jun 06, 2018 7:32am
I am on Facebook list with many dog owners in US and Europe. Seems every day there is Facebook entry of heartbreak over loss of beloved Angels passing over Rainbiw Bridge. There is a real ministry of comfort in supporting this personal heartbreak in loss of pets.
Paul M. Hedeen Jun 06, 2018 7:30am
Reading these posts makes me wonder if there is anything anyone can say to relieve what is awful. I know I have said versions of everything that is on the above list. I conclude that there really is nothing to say that can be guaranteed to provide comfort. People are in extremis and touchy, hyper-critical, and are likely to misunderstand, even the intent. So better, I suppose, to offer as much nonverbal support and comfort as possible. Be around, but not too long. Don't become a concern or burden yourself. And if help is offered, a person, by God, better deliver on that offer if asked.
Mike Jun 06, 2018 7:29am
While I enjoy the advice on what not to say, why not give better examples of what to say and do! Families that are going through a tough time need to feel supported and tend to be hyper sensitive to just about anything anyone says or do. And it will be interrupted through emotion not using logic. Then the hurt family members will do one of 2 things. Be understanding and continue to help out the best way they can or get upset and won’t try to do anything. Either way, relationships are compromised. The givers get tired of feeling the sacrifices they make aren’t good enough or not enough and check out leaving behind the very people who need them. So again I must ask, What should be said or done and what responsibility do the receivers of the support have in how things are interrupted?
Karen Jun 06, 2018 7:27am
Your still'll find someone else.
Yvette Nachmias-Baeu Jun 06, 2018 7:25am
I will say I am sorry. This is hard. But what I want to say is, let go. Life and death are part of the same continuum. However hard it is to let go...eventually you must and will. Then I will say, grieve because you have lost someone dear to you. Grieve as much as you need to. I will listen to whatever you want to say. I will not try and comfort you, because I can't. I will stay in the room with you.
Yvette Nachmias-Baeu Jun 06, 2018 7:24am
I will say I am sorry. This is hard. But what I want to say is, let go. Life and death are part of the same continuum. However hard it is to let go...eventually you must and will. In the meantime, grieve because you have lost someone dear to you. Grieve as much as you need to. I will listen to whatever you want to say. I will not try and comfort you, because I can't. I will stay in the room with you.
Yvette Nachmias-Baeu Jun 06, 2018 7:23am
I was say I am sorry. This is hard. But what I want to say is, let go. Life and death are part of the same continuum. However hard it is to let go...eventually you must and will. In the meantime, grieve because you have lost someone dear to you. Grieve as much as you need to. I will listen to whatever you want to say. I will not try and comfort you, because I can't. I will stay in the room with you.
Richard Barbieri Jun 06, 2018 7:17am
When I went to my first shiva in an Orthodox Jewish community I was advised of the rule that you say nothing to the bereaved — lest you interrupt or contradict what they were feeling/needing at the moment. Instead, just be with them in silence until they let you know what they are thinking. Great advice.
Janet Tucker Jun 05, 2018 6:35pm
At least he didn't have children when he died at 19
George Stewart Jun 05, 2018 8:41am
“Wall of Silence” is created by people with good intentions but do not know what to say. Action speaks louder than words. Noted a friend visit a caregiver who was visiting the person they were helping, the friend said, “ what do you want on your hamburger besides lettuce and tomatoes, I will be down in the lobby in 15 minutes?”
L Boogie Jun 02, 2018 9:59pm
Sometimes, be quiet and just listen. You don't have to open your trap.
AJS Jun 02, 2018 6:21pm
Or keep up the good work what could u do or what should we all quit our jobs. Lol yea those are good too
David Ehline Jun 01, 2018 4:48pm
And never say, "God must have wanted another angel."
Denise Jun 01, 2018 3:44pm
A DOCTOR said to me "Too bad you don't have Hodgkins lymphoma (instead of non-Hodgkins), because Hodgkins is completely curable."
Sandi Bowen Jun 01, 2018 2:19am
You might still get better! Even doctors can be wrong!
Barbara May 28, 2018 7:06pm
"At least you didn't die." My response: It would have been a lot easier, and a lot less painful. But of course I'm not allowed to say that. And as I slowly plod... "take your time." Like I have a choice?
Sarah May 28, 2018 1:12am
Susan Johnson,. I wonder if a GPS monitor would work? An ankle bracelet perhaps? The Sheriff's office may have ideas. Better to be prepared in case he wanders ......????????
Burned Out May 25, 2018 4:33pm
God had something better to do with your (13-year-old) daughter. This is especially helpful when the person you're telling this to doesn't believe in God
Mandy's mom May 21, 2018 8:28pm
You can have more children. Heaven needed another angel. She's in a better place.
Susan Johnson May 21, 2018 8:25pm
My husband has dementia, and I thought I lost him today at our daughters house. It turned out he was in there basement, without any lights on. I need something he can wear, that he could wear, when I push the alarm bottom, that would sound off so I can locate him quickly. Maybe someone out there could help me, as this is all new to me, and I could use any advice. THANK YOU.
Ann S. Vogt May 18, 2018 4:23pm
Don't say "Let me know if there's anything I can do".
vanessa May 09, 2018 10:07pm
I read the stories and i just feel empathy, i cannot imagine what that feels like. I take care of my mom and it is really tough, especially living in fear of her dying at any moment. It is rough and reading people's stories and the RESILIENCE gives me some peace and hope.
Araceli Moya May 08, 2018 7:51am
Not everybody dies from....
Duckie May 07, 2018 11:17pm
"The only comfort is that you have had some wonderful years together and that can't be taken away from you. Those memories will persist". I know that was well-intentioned but I wasn't ready to accept that I was going to lose him and that we wouldn't have the 20 years we'd planned together.
Heart broken May 06, 2018 4:27pm
To the person dealing with a family member with TBI; it’s a lonely lonely hellish place to be. I know; I’m the primary caretaker for a family member. No one understand how they change, how every day it’s something different to handle; how I go sometimes for weeks without a shower , how my teeth are falling apart because I can’t leave the person unattended or I’m too exhausted to brush them; why I’ve gained 20 pounds in 7 months; why I go to the bathroom with the door open so I can hear them; why I get blamed and criticized and lectured by people who have no idea what 1 minute of my day is like. Take time for yourself—how? Ever try to find a reliable affordable health aide?? And that takes time and energy I don’t have. Go to the doctor—really? When? How? I’ve been told by healthcare provided to stay up 24 hours a day for days to watch for seizure signs. I’ve been told to at the same time get rest and keep up with social activities. I have to work at home to pay bills but I spend 80% of my time doing cargiving. But people still give advice and critics abound. I was also the primary caregiver for my mother during her cancer for 2 years, she was also disabled. After her last radiation treatment I was hospitalized almost died. Two weeks later my family member had anTBI. I moved into the hospital and rehab for months and moved us into my mother’s home. To all the people who say it can’t get worse it did and it does. My mother passed away 6 months after my family members TBI. My brother lost his mind. Can’t get any worse? Oh yes it can. For the woman whose husband has a TBI I don’t have any useful advice other than do what you have to do to survive and what you believe is right for your husband. Not what other people say or doctors say or nurses; everyone in healthcare from the receptionist to a surgeon will feel entitled to comment and express opionions on how you are caring for him; on how you care for yourself; on anything. Ignore their narcissistic spew. Listen to yourself and learn all you can about TBI. Read medical journals. Read message boards from veterans with TBIs And their family members. A TBi is a TBI no matter how you got it. The wife of the ABC reporter Bob Woodard has some useful things to say. Some veterans wives have noted that the people who push you the most to “take time for yourself” Become angry and judgmental when you actually do. And people say they will help but most don’t. But help although rare will come from very unexpected places and people. You will be surprised who is truly decent. And who belongs in the other category.
Heart broken May 06, 2018 3:44pm
Did you call my mother and thank her for the food? Don’t send a card you have to call and do it before the wake.
Heart broken May 06, 2018 3:30pm
She’s better off. Your brother is handling it better than all of you. Enjoy your meal and don’t forget to send everyone of us a thank you card. I mean every one. All of our names are in the card. I think she’s in a better place; I mean that’s what we believe but I don’t know. I hope she is. You can thank me for the Mass card; my address is in it.
T May 04, 2018 9:43am
“Let me know if you need anything. ANYTHING”- but then they disappear. Offer to do specific things then fail to follow thru.
Maria Elena Ruiz May 02, 2018 4:30am
Hello everyone. I am Maria Ruiz and enjoyed reading all the con and pro comments. I had a turbulent childhood but it made me stronger. I have witness many deaths in my lifetime, from Newborns to 90 plus years of age. What I usually say to those who loss loved ones is "I am sorry for your Loss" then ask if there is need for anything to please contact me at their convenience. I give them a very warm hug then leave the funeral home. Most of the old community are Catholics and always use the Church Hall for food, Sharing things about the deceased. I very recently lost an x boyfriend of 30 years. I did not go tho the funeral or viewing as I wanted to remember him while he was alive. I am glad I found this site. Good bless you and your loved ones always. As far as the non-believers, you are still my brothers and sisters in my heart, and no different than anyone else, I love you also. May 3, 2018 4:30 a.m. I had to post so if it reads loopy or confused it's because I am sleep deprived,
Charlene Burns May 01, 2018 7:47pm
I have lost 3 of my children over a 11 year period and it was these comments from family and friends and the compassion and strength from God almighty that got me though all of it...and I do think everything happens for a reason...and God does have a plan...and what doesn't kill you will make you stronger...and positive thoughts are always better than negative ones...and He won't give us more than we can handle...and yes...I still have 3 children ...16 grand children...and 4 great grand yes...I am still blessed so much more than some people I I don't think you can say not to tell someone these things... these comment s and the Lord got me through it don't tell people not to say these things....some of us need them and some people who say these things are just trying to help us get through these hard times and illnesses the best they know how...and people who say the things really don't even know what to say...I thank everyone of them for at least not saying nothing...because that is where it gets hard...the loved ones of a person who passes or is sick or whatever...hate the silence...these people were here or still here sick ...we just want you to be able to talk to us and not be afraid you may say the wrong thing... so you say nothing...we want to hear whatever you have to say about us or our loved ones...if you know the Lord and believe His doesn't matter ... you just HAVE TO BELIEVE AND GIVE IT TO HIM...He will make everything ok...
Martha Bryan May 01, 2018 5:35pm
My husband had colon cancer 13 years ago and a casual friend from church asked me "how long does he have?" I was astounded and told her I hoped he would live until he died. I am still having chemo from a 4 1/2 year bout with ALL. My neighbor (whom I barely know) and her friend walked over to our yard. The neighbor told her that I have cancer. She said, "How long do you have ?" My husband and I laughed but why on earth would people ask this????
Joie Monfort Apr 24, 2018 10:54pm
Empathy never starts with the words "at least it's not as bad as"
Diann Miller Apr 24, 2018 7:46am
This is such a difficult topic, I wish more people were made a ware of the resources available out there. When someone is faced with grief there are things to do and NOT to do. I found a great resource that helped lay out some of those unspoken but important guidelines Anne-Marie Lockmyer's book, When Their World Stops. It was such an amazing resource that I would recommend to ANYONE, loss happens to us and those around us at all times and it is not intuitive to everyone on how to be supportive during these times. This resource helps with that, I found it here, I hope this is helpful for someone, take care of yourselves and those around you.
Throckmorton Apr 23, 2018 6:25pm
From a father whose 13-year-old died in an accident: 1) The God's plan part is really annoying, because the person may not believe in God (and I don't). I think that man's religions are a fairy tale, something created to help them deal with the unknown and unfathomable The only time you should mention God at all is when you know that person is deeply religious. But they still don't want to be told that she's with God now - they want her or him right here. 2) God doesn't give you more than you can handle. Life isn't an ordained test. I believe that much of what happens in life is due to chance, and certainly is not caused by invisible spirits (the last person who tried having the spirits heal her was my sister, who went off her medication, became psychotic, caused $20,000 worth of damage in a day, and wound up ina lockdown psych unit. 3) Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Uh-huh. The kid down the road was a nice, easy-going 16-year-old when I used to play basketball with him. He went to Iraq, got shot at, killed two Iraqis, and when he came back, his father said , "He's different now." He never recovered and shot himself in the head. My now ex-wife claimed that our daughter was murdered. She abandoned me and our surviving kids three years later, moved back in with her mother, brother and sister 4 hours away, cut off me and the kids , isn't working and still believes that our daughter was murdered. Some people get stronger, but some people fall apart. 4) Things don't happen for a reason. There is no good reason why a perfectly healthy 13-year-old died. Everything doesn't happen for a reason. Things simply happen. If things happened for a reason, there wouldn't be people living in Syria, being threatened with torture and death every day and living in constant terror. Unless you believe in reincarnation (and they were bad in their former lives) or that God is punishing these people so in their next life they will have experienced hardship. I believe that this is simply chance, once again.
ChristineM Sanders Apr 21, 2018 9:19am
My husband was in a serious motorcycle accident. He lived and we are so glad to have him. Now four years later we are trying to help him live with TBI. He is not the same person. He is not aware of the hurtful things he says and does. I am trying to help him but I dont know how anymore. My family blames me for his disposition. I am really hurting and it is effecting my health. Where do I start?
Linda Apr 19, 2018 10:42pm
When I was 61 my husband of 42 years died suddenly. One of my friends told me I had 6 months and she'd fix me up on dates then. It still shocks me. I still don't date , 8 yrs later.
Linda Apr 19, 2018 10:39pm
When i was 16, my father died at 40. The one thing that bothered me then and when my mother and husband died was "Im sorry you lost so and so" . I know what was meant but I'd have never left them in a shopping cart, or in a parking lot etc. I just wouldnt have lost them. I knew exactly where they were. They died. Also, my 38 yr old son had been diagnosed with cancer. Someone I knew said " oh boy, my brother just died of that". I can barely speak to her still, even tho my son is considered cured now.
Karen Apr 17, 2018 5:52am
A friend recently shared a question she was asked regarding her son who 8 years ago, at age 14, took his life. "When did you stop grieving?" her response "I'll let you know. "
Cari Talarico Apr 15, 2018 10:47pm
Get over the loss. Very rude. That loss happened a long time ago {a week after it happened.} Also very rude and insensitive.
Jamie Beck Apr 15, 2018 5:15pm
You're looking so much better. She knows what I mean.
Sandra Apr 14, 2018 7:48pm
"Why would you shave your head like that?" To my 23 y.o. son who has a radiation burn from treatment for brain cancer (and this person knew he'd had treatment...just not that it would cause hair loss). Just be sensitive about appearance comments.
JM Apr 14, 2018 7:23am
Shortly after my father died (my mother had already passed) someone said “Wow, I never thought you would be an orphan first.” Still stings after 10+ years.
Gwen Thomas Apr 14, 2018 7:10am
After we lost my 28 year old daughter and then six months laterm my 5 year old granddaughter, some one said "God doesn't give you more than you can handle"......I couldn't help but say, we'll he's pushing it......some times a hug is the best thing.
T.S. Apr 11, 2018 6:48pm
I'm so glad to have found this site tonight. Reading through the short article and then the responses is so helpful to me right now. I lost my beautiful Mom in Sept. of 2013, and that happened just two months after my ex-husband divorced me. and I had to move home to have my family help me. Two weeks later my beloved kitty Jasper had to be put to sleep, and I'd had him for 21 years. It was THE hardest time in my life, especially because beaneath the losses there was (and still is) bipolar depression. When everything happened, my Dad and his side of the family were the ones who helped me as far as extra money, finding a place to live, etc-things I'm grateful for of course. But, I never did have the kind of support I needed back then, and so I felt totally alone in my grief. I did reach out to a grief group and a therapist who worked for the group, but it had only been two months since my Mom passed away, and I was numb, plus tbh the therapist and group did not help at all. I guess after that I gave up for a long time, and drowned in mndepression and grief for a few years. I'm now seeing a god therapist, am on good meds, and have new groups. To slowly gather support from. But when I think of how completely lost I was, I still wish that my family could've been there for me. I do know now that they did not and don't have it to give, but that doesn't ease the lingering sadness I feel when I think about that time in my life. I was either left alone to grieve or like many of you I got to hear all sorts of unhelpful things. My Mom was an alcoholic, and died from an accidental overdose, and so some family members said things like "At least she can't drink anymore" or " she's finally at peace". Even my father (they'd been divorced since 1984 and he remarried in 1985) said "You lived far away and only saw her two or three times a year, why are you so upset?" Grrrrrrrrrrrr! I'm upset and was then because my Mom was a human being with a problem-a beautiful, intelligent, hilarious, wonderful, empathetic woman who was my very best friend and the great love of my life. Being without her has been THE most painful thing I've ever endured, and the only thing that keeps me going (one of the things but def the biggest) is that I believe in an afterlife and I'm lucky enough to sense her spirit. That's a huge gift, and I'm grateful every day for it, but I still can't pick up the phone and call her, or hug her, or look into her deep brown eyes and see the love she felt for me shining in their depths. I can't do any of the things with her that we planned on doing once I moved back to my homestate, because she's no longer here to be a part of them. To lose my marriage and my Mom meant losing my two very best friends n the world, and I never could have imagined how much that would hurt. But as with my grief, regarding my divorce all anyone could say was things like "Well he was in the military and was gone a lot any way so maybe it's for the best". Um, we were married for 23 years, basically spent half of our lives together, and I'm just supposed to be like "Oh yeah you're right it's not that bad"???? I guess what gets me is not just that people say certain things that aren't helpful, it's that with some people you can tell that their own discomfort is more important than trying to comfort you, the bereaved person. I'm not perfect at this, btw, but I do have a lot of empathy for others and sometimes I think certain people just do not have that quality. To me it doesn't seem hard to say something like "You must be hurting right now" or "I'm so sorry this happened". Or even "I don't know what to say right now, but I want to help, is there anything I can do?" It would've meant the world to me to have that kind of support when all of this first happened , but because I didn't get it, I really feel strongly about helping others now. I don't know what form that'll take-maybe becoming a grief counselor or something similar) but I want to know that someday when some dear hurting soul is in need of comfort, I want to be there for them. We all need and deserve that. Thank-you for letting me get all of this out tonight. I still (obviously) have a ways to go on my own path of healing and it feels good to share what's on my mind with people who have gone through some similar things. I also want to say that I'm sorry for all of your losses. I hope you all have the help that you need to get through this. Hugs to all.
Charlotte Nitschke Apr 10, 2018 9:46am
I had my brother-in-law say to me ' I'm glad it's you not me.. ' so unbelievably insensitive!
Debbie Moore Apr 03, 2018 2:07am
it is written no one lives forever
Jessie's daughter Mar 09, 2018 2:59am
I've been a caregiver since I was a child(literally) My dad liked to say that he thought I was strong for staying with my mom. My aunts say I should have moved out or put her in a home. I never had a choice, I grew up taking care of her I didn't know anything else and I'm not the kind of person who can leave someone to die. My mom didn't have anyone and it's rich coming from my aunt who lived with my grandma her entire life and never took care of anyone. She's in her late sixties or early seventies and still lives in my grandma's house. Also, most people are well meaning but there are people who are just mean and spiteful and like to kick peo pl e when they are down. Those are the comments that bite and you would know if you did it. Some comments are a slap in the face or a kick in the gut the speaker is not ignorant of that. It is not about being pc it is about being a decent person if you don't know what to say just be present or ask what the person needs or share a memory, tell the person that you dont understand the sistuation and ask if they will explain when they feel up to it, or simply tell them that you don't know what to say, they might not either. Grief is hard and life is hard why make it feel worse for those suffering.
Jessie's daughter Mar 09, 2018 2:15am
My mom has been ill since i was young and everyone thought she would die at anytime and I am her only child and had no support. I had a school nurse when I was in highschool who would come and find me everyday and tell me that things could always be worse. I knew that, that was why I was scared.
Ashley Minnich Feb 10, 2018 11:51am
Don't ever say: "God wanted him/her more. "
Alice Jan 06, 2018 11:30pm
Your almost done with Chemo so things will be better. Not understanding it’s just a milestone not the end game.
Tizzy von Trapp Walker Oct 30, 2017 10:15am
The top three were shared with me on numerous occasions when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer three weeks before seminary graduation. I am soooo glad you have this list.
Jane Grudt Oct 05, 2017 3:56pm
POSITIVE THINGS I just need to know that folks have not forgotten me no matter how hard it is to respond. Just letting me know I am not forgotten means a lot. An e-mail or text “Just thinking of you” is special and one I do not have to respond to but know I am still remembered. It also gives me the opportunity to respond, if I do want to share something, as I do like to write. I enjoy hearing brief special memories like “ I remember when he helped me get my Pinewood Derby Car ready, when my dad couldn’t be there.” Or “He would head over to church to check the boiler and shovel the walks, with his big Poppa Smurf smile.” There is no need to elaborate, as my attention span seems to be very limited these days. (My apologies if I seem to tune out, when you share things of any length with me!). I continue to cherish a tribute written in our church annual report when my hubby could no longer volunteer to keep the boiler running. He enjoyed so much the opportunities to help with church maintenance on the Property Committee for 42 years. You do not have to wait until my loved one is deceased - as a spouse of an Alzheimer’s victim in the later stages still living, those memories are special for me. I am grieving the death of his mind, but I must continue the caregiving, whether it be direct hands on, seeing that financial costs for his care are provided, as well as trying to visit him when he no longer knows I am his wife of 48 years. Other helpful things to me have been just inviting me over for supper, blowing out my plow ridge (I like to shovel snow or mow my lawn but…), or bringing over a small casserole (I hate to cook and do not bake). I may have been sitting all day, but I am exhausted! It is often the little things that make a nice difference in the stress I am coping with. No one (even those with a spouse in the latter stages of dementia) can understand what I am going through, as God had made each of us very different from each other. It does help to know when we are no longer engaging in activities and events, we are not forgotten. Just because our schedule seems open, does not mean we are ready to handle an event that we once did on a regular basis with our spouse. For those of us with a church family, I am suddenly not a couple, but a single – yet I do not “qualify” as I still have a spouse. There is no man to bounce off little things that may not seem just right at home. My focus had to change to listening to how widows cope with household calamities. I needed “Plummer Bill” when I told my neighbor my toilet often stuck and kept running. He told me he would come over and check it out the next day. He e-mailed me his advice, as I was not home, got a new part (for under $20), and took care of it. My hubby was a great handyman – now my neighbor is just gave me that gift of helping. This week his wife noticed I had just returned from visiting my hubby (tough for me) and said “come over for supper.” It is often the spontaneous things, that to me are not little, but very big in helping me deal with the stress: the depression, the loneliness, the loss, the expenses and all the struggles. We have learned more than we ever want to know. Sometimes it becomes a blessing to us to just be with others as they walk through similar paths and encourage and listen. So thanks for asking and for reading my response!
Janet Beatty Sep 26, 2017 9:18pm
What I have said or written to others who have lost their parents, as I've lost one, is this: "No matter what the circumstances, losing a parent is just hard. Really hard. I'm thinking about you and sending you lots of love."
filiz mainekaela Sep 10, 2017 9:09am
wow, it is nice,????
Jana Lopez Aug 05, 2017 4:01pm
"I'm sorry to hear that" said with no emotion at all...
Deb Sprau Aug 03, 2017 4:23pm
When I have lost someone and can't finds words to say, I get a card and write memories I have shared with that person. Sometimes they are just little stories, sometime they are funny little things in our past. What I have found is the person receiving the card has really appreciated it, often sharing with other family members. I have always received some sort of comment, acknowledgement, of how it made them feel. Usually good comments, sometimes tears, but tears aren't always a bad thing, sometimes they just need that release.
Real Aug 02, 2017 10:48am
Really it would be more nice to me, as i engage in here for a better highlitment, i hope some there care and do what i care for
Michael Jul 31, 2017 11:55pm
I had someone ask me the day after I lost my close brother, "What are you ever going to do now?" That really hurt mostly because that is the horrible question that I sure didn't have an answer to. When you have lost someone very close it is very hard to see yourself going on living for a while & then for someone to whack you across the head with the very thing that has been the ever present question pounding inside you head is about more than a person can take.
Ken Tartar Jul 29, 2017 5:04pm
Hurrry back Pete, so we can go out and beat up on the golf course agin. Especially that one we took a 13 on!
Ollie Jul 29, 2017 11:50am
"This is God's plan" and "God doesn't give you more than you can handle" are only clunky and rude if you don't believe that it's true. I believe it, and trust me, there's nothing more comforting.
Jeffrey S. Jul 28, 2017 8:08am
As a former seminary student, one of the first things that we learned in both being with the sick or the families of the dying is that there ARE NO MAGIC WORDS. Trite statements really fall on deaf ears when someone is in pain or grieving. The best thing that you could ever do to a friend of family member in physical or emotional pain is to let him/her know that you are here, AND THEN LISTEN. Validate however they feel - feelings are neither right nor wrong. You may also ask if there is anything that they may need.
Beccie Braun Jul 25, 2017 11:28pm
Fill the physical needs and be present and silent. Have there house cleaned, laundry done, drop off groceries, take dog or kids for the day, plant flowers, water flowers. Words/ I love you, I care, I am here. God mends the wound,
Beccie Braun Jul 25, 2017 11:24pm
Be silent- but be there - with a cup of coffee and donuts- whatever- offer to have house cleaned or laundry done by professionals . People suffering don't want to feel they are a burden. So be a silent angel- and fill needs the person going through the journey can't do!
Liz Jul 25, 2017 2:28am
You wear it well. - comment from a doctor after I had been fighting multiple myeloma for 5yrs. I would rather die then go thru what you went thru. - comment from someone who quickly became a former friend after I had a stem cell transplant.
Colleen Simon Jul 19, 2017 12:46am
My daughter has been through life-threatening illnesses: Wegener's disease, end-stage renal failure, kidney transplant, stage 4 Burkitt lymphoma and leukemia. What I've gotten tired of hearing: "I don't know how you've gotten through it! I never could!" Yes, you would get through it!! Do you mean there's something you wouldn't do for your child if they had a life-threatening illness??? ???? I have to mention that having a CaringBridge page for my daughter has been a lifesaver for me and my family, so THANK YOU, CARINGBRIDGE!! And, my daughter is doing well! ❤️
SUE D ELLIS Jul 09, 2017 12:00am
"You don't look sick."
Shirley Wallace-McCray Jun 27, 2017 2:19pm
I just lost my father to Pancreatic cancer. We received the diagnosis just 20 days before he passed away. I was his caregiver and I will be the first to say that that role is both a blessing and a curse. I cannot explain the pain that is felt watching your super hero get weak and die. I am left blessed with the amazing memories of his life, yet cursed with the memories of his last days. I try to take it day-by-day and accept the roller coaster of emotions that I am having. I think that the best way someone can help anyone going through this is just to admit that they are not sure what to say or do to comfort you, but that they are there for you no matter what.
Charles Kirke Jun 19, 2017 12:15pm
After some years of informal study of bereavement I can add the following to the list above, additional and not in any way replacing it: “I know how you feel”. NEVER NEVER NEVER EVER SAY THAT “At least you have…” or “At least you are…” ANY PHRASE STARTING WITH 'AT LEAST' “Pull yourself together and think of others.” “You have to be strong for the sake of other members of the family.” “You are strong enough to cope.” “You must look ahead and think of the future”. “You are still young enough to marry again/have more children” etc. “You have cheered up a lot lately”. “It takes time, but you will get over it.” Our capacity as human beings - even caring human beings - to be crass and harmful to the bereaved is extraordinary. It is better to be there than to talk this rubbish, even if you think it is true at the time. Be there. Be there. One additional point - adjustment to situations that bring grief take a long time, and that means years. Even after people think that they are 'over it' we are ALL subject to what I have called 'grief ambushes' where with no warning the grief is re-triggered. People can think that they are some sort of freak if the grief returns: you're not - you're a normal person reacting to personal loss in the normal way. Charles
DavidReno Jun 10, 2017 10:17pm
I have found when you share grief it diminishes and when you share joy it increases. I am not sure why this is so, but I have found it is. DavidReno
Lynn Jun 08, 2017 2:33pm
Someone said to my daughter after her sister died, "How does it feel to be an only child?" Of course it wasn't meant to be hurtful, but when I heard the words, I was shocked. There have been many other inappropriate comments from others as well. Sadly, people don't realize the impact of their words at the time they say them. As time has moved on, I have been able to understand what their words were meant to say.
Cheryl Jackson Baker Jun 07, 2017 7:35pm
May I add to the above list? "He/She's in a better place"
Sue Jun 07, 2017 5:38pm
This is very true and helpful to anyone who has a loved one who has cancer or any other terrible disease. We need to be careful what we say to them while letting them know how much we love them.
Daphne chapman Jun 06, 2017 7:15am
My sister died in a tragic car accident. Many people at the time would say " she's in a better place". This wasn't helpful at all. She was 17 and full of life. We wanted her here.
Mrs Joanne E Yarad Jun 04, 2017 11:58pm
I have to disagree with one off your of your comments regards"Think the Word Positive". From the moment when my husband came from the Doctor's surgery & was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma, we looked at one another & agreed that we would wake up each morning & our first word would be "Think Positive". 5 years later after being in remission for those 5 years, he was diagnosed with Burkitt's Lymphoma - not much was known re Burkitt's back in 2007 & after some pretty horrible treatment, although not in pain we passed away, just going on for 71. Each day we would think "Positive" the first time around, we told the nurses & staff that our word was Positive thinking - out here in Australia, our nurses told us that the result that they had from patients who thought Positive - most of them left hospital - WELL.
Amy Conroy Jun 03, 2017 7:01pm
Upon learning of my cancer diagnosis, someone said, "My grandmother had the exact same thing. She was dead in under three months." I still have no idea how that was supposed to be helpful.
Eugene Wessling Jun 02, 2017 11:06pm
Whenever there is trouble or tragedy everyone should help everyone relate to and get in touch with Almighty God. He/She is the perfect love, solace & source of strength. One of the primary weaknesses of our current society is the fact that we are afraid to come to Him/Her for love and help. He/She is the source of everything in our lives.
Tommie Coke Jun 02, 2017 3:23pm
Only two responses applied to me. It did give me lots of "what not to say" to terminally ill and those left behind. But it was more directed to Do you have a similar blog geared to people with illnesses that are not terminal? Personally, I suffer from fibromyalgia, along with arthritis, and some of the same things are said to me. "You look great; you must be getting better." When they ask how I am doing, am I to say, "fine" and let it go at that? My family is most guilty of pushing me to walk, to go on a picnic and to do other things that are outside my ability THAT DAY. As a home-alone person, my only interaction is with bus drivers and volunteers. Does anyone help me with laundry, with putting a sheet on a top bunk, carrying my garbage to the collection box? And, yes, I ask. This sounds like a pity party but it is just frustration at not finding help like this site.
Bev Kreps May 30, 2017 6:02pm
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, a friend asked what I had done to get cancer. Hmmmm! I responded that I was just the unfortunate eighth woman since about 1 in 8 American women deal with this.
malinda cannon rn May 30, 2017 8:40am
I know how you feel.. (anything said before )but use words that say I care about you, I support you.
Thomas Cleveland May 29, 2017 4:57pm
"So..How's it going / How are you?" People asking me at my mom's, dad's, and brother's funerals.
Debra May 29, 2017 2:31pm
I have lost many people, 1998 my father to cancer, 2002 nana to dementia (the amazing woman who raised me),2007 my husband in an ATV accident and 2009 (4 days before our 6th wedding anniversary, he was buried on that day) and lastly my step father to a massive heart attack (who I had to do CPR on). I have heard many varieties of the phrases above and other variations. For me the worse was from a friend who I knew since grade school who was supposed to me my dearest friend looked at me not even 12 hours after my husband died and told me that I was a good looking woman and I will find some else HOLY SMOKES! . I work in health care and I have admitted many people into the hospital and when you get to social history and you find out they are widowed I always ask when or how long and if it is recent the patient often offers when they passed and how long they were married. I only know them for 30 + minutes I always reach out and touch their hand make direct eye contact and say I am so very sorry. Depending on the situation and the patient I tell them for me the first year completely sucked and after that slowly things changed and got better and I also preface that by we all grieve and heal in our own way and our own time, remember that there is no recipe or timeline for this. For me sometimes no comment at all is very comforting, a gentle touch, holding a hand, a hug, a soft and comforting smile as you are deeply hoping the person you are with can feel what is truly in your heart.
Kimberly May 29, 2017 4:12am
My father passed away in 2002. Before the wake, my mom told me that if someone asks if there's anything they can do, she will take them up on their offer. When the first person expressed their kind sympathoes to us, they continued with the, if there's anything....before they completed their sentiment, my mom responded with , yes, my windows are due for a washing and my garage needs to be painted. About two weeks after my dad's funeral, the windows were washed and the garage fully painted. My mom passed away in 2015. As it was in 2002, caring and kindness were overflowing from people. A few comments gave me pause - did they really just say that? It's awkward for both people. Not just with the loss of my parents - I've been on both sides. Whatever someone says or does, it will not change the loss. If they fumble with words, my opinion is they want to help, provide comfort. Whether someone attends the wake and/or services, sends a card, flowers, preps some meals - count your blessings that no gesture of kindness is too small. If the words aren't 'perfect', remember the intention and gesture were out of love and kindness.
N J Ferreira May 28, 2017 8:09pm
Would love some guidance on what ARE some good things to say.....
Mary Anne May 27, 2017 8:06pm
Please, focus on the intention, not on the words. People are not trying to be cruel or hurtful when they say these things, but doing their best to say what they think may help. Each of us has different ways of expressing ourselves and each of us interprets what others say differently, so why be judgmental? Why make people hesitant to say anything at all in case it's the "wrong" thing? BTW, I once expressed my sympathy (as best I could) to the grieving parents of a teen-age son who died after a long illness, and their response to me was "This is God's plan."
Janet May 26, 2017 7:43pm
I not only am undergoing chemo for breast cancer but then my husband died with brain cancer. I've been told: You are strong so this will pass; Pull yourself up by your bootstraps...others have done it; Call me if you need me; Make up your mind to be above this hurdle; I know exactly how you feel; Let me tell you about what happened to me. Those comments are just a fraction of what I've been told.
Gary Zimmerman May 26, 2017 5:14pm
I have to say, I'm a little saddened by this article and most of the responses. Right now, I'm the one in our lives who may soon be gone and to me, I completely understand that people don't know what to say; nor is there anything they can say that will make it all better for anyone. When a person takes a moment of their day to simply express the fact that me and my family mean something to them means the world to us. If you can't appreciate that and prefer to critique their words, then I think those caring souls may have simply wasted their time. For me, any word of encouragement or thoughtfulness has meaning; even if it's silence out of respect for our time and the knowledge that there's nothing that can take the pain away. A wise person once told me, it's not about me, they can't help me; it's about them expressing their love, care, compassion, or whatever. Personally, I don't evaluate the words, I accept and appreciate the effort. It may help us all to remember that whether we like it or not, life goes on and every person we encounter has their own issues, their own challenges, their own losses to deal with. That they take a moment to set that all aside for me, my family, or you should be appreciated -- in my humble opinion
Betty May 26, 2017 9:03am
The one i dislike the most in this day and age is I googled ..... Just because you can find information on google does NOT make it true or good information
Sandy Iverson May 26, 2017 9:02am
After many years the comment I remember after losing a baby at birth was, "Well, at least you never knew him" The other was, "Be glad you have other children". You do know your baby when you have carried him for 8 months and of course I was glad to have other children but we felt a terrible loss for the little boy we didn't get to bring home. Again, I know people meant to be helpful but I think a simple I'm sorry would have been sufficient
Jo Hempstead May 26, 2017 8:00am
To the mother of a stillborn or miscarried child, don't say "You can have other children." This child is irreplaceable,
JC Smith May 26, 2017 7:55am
Sounds like the best thing to do is to leave them alone and let them grieve the best they can rather than risk the harsh critism for having saif=d the "WRONG" thing!!!! After all the "TERRIBLE" things that really well meaning people say, trying hard to be helpful, that ARE SO TERRIBLY WRONG, I think the best thing is to avoid them and leave the person alone to grieve by themselves, cause God knows, i wouldn't want to say the WRONG THING. So from now on, they can just suffer alone, rather than risk becoming the butt of their sarcastic comments!!!!!!!!
John C Smith May 26, 2017 7:50am
After all the "TERRIBLE" things that really well meaning people say, trying hard to be helpful, that ARE SO TERRIBLY WRONG, I think the best thing is to avoid them and leave the person alone to grieve by themselves, cause God knows, i wouldn't want to say the WRONG THING. So from now on, they can just suffer alone, rather than risk becoming the butt of their sarcastic comments!!!!!!!!
Mary Hacker May 25, 2017 7:03pm
Never say "I know how you feel"
Tracie Acosta May 25, 2017 5:29pm
While this is extremely helpful in knowing what not to say and very wise, perhaps a next great post would be 7 positive or good things to say. I think often it is so hard to know what to say out of fear of saying something wrong or hurtful, and therefore we remain silent or even avoid the situation so as not to be uncomfortable. ???? I often find myself silent and listen yet just wanting to hold and comfort with a hug.
Marilyn D Mitchell May 25, 2017 4:50pm
I have survived cancer and other life threatening medical issues and have been widowed twice. I found all communication comforting. No one else is going through your circumstances, so they are doing their best to show they care. The ones who simply ignore your hurt are the ones who pile on more hurt for me. If they truely care, they would say SOMETHING, even if it is a trite and overused phrase.
Lynne Clemente May 25, 2017 3:20pm
Read many of these comments. When my Dad passed away at the young age of 63, I was in shock and frankly don't remember most comments. But I do remember people relating fond memories of him which was so comforting. But what to say at a friend's wake when you don't know the deceased? Please comment.
Laurie May 25, 2017 3:12pm
I would also encourage people not to talk about retirement. Some of us have incurable cancer and our life expectancies vary. I hope and pray that I am alive when they find a cure. I don't let myself think about retirement and when that discussions comes up, it makes me sad.
Ruthann Cowell May 25, 2017 1:24pm
The wisest words came from a fellow widow. This particularly insightful woman told me she had been in "those shoes. Not your shoes, but those shoes." She went on to explain she was not in my marriage, so she does not know how I feel, but she knew what it was like to be in her marriage, and thus, the shoes of a widow. It's comforting to know others have made it through, and chances are, I will to. If you don't know what to say, a hug and I'm so sorry. A mother/father is very hard to lose. You had a good one. That hits the right place for me.
Ruthann Cowell May 25, 2017 1:13pm
I knew I would never be able to stay on my feet if anyone said something "stupid" at my husband's visitation. I am am 55 years old, my husband was 60, and we, as a team, fought a 2 year battle against leukemia. He had a stem cell transplant which depleted his immune system and a nasty pneumonia claimed his life very quickly and with little warning. I wrote this out and placed it by a nice bouquet of flowers, hoping people waiting in the visitation line would read it and take it to heart. No one said anything stupid, but many people thanked me for being brave enough to share it, and commented how they never know what to say. Several took pictures of it, including a Hospice Care nurse friend. She asked if she could share it with nurses, families and patients, alike. I offer it up for anyone to copy and share at their loved ones wake, visitation, gathering, and if it will save one broken heart more hurt, I will be forever grateful. Please don’t tell me “he is in a better place”. Don’t tell me “he is no longer in pain”. That doesn’t make sense to me right now. I am grieving. I want him back by my side. Tell me how much he meant to you, tell me how much you will miss him, tell me how your heart is breaking. My heart, my home, my life are empty and I don’t know how to go on. If you want to comfort me, meet me where I am.
Maryann Guhl May 25, 2017 12:38pm
Well at least she had a long life. She's not in pain anymore These two comments can be hurtful.
Anne May 25, 2017 11:27am
I find it important to remember that when another human being is suffering that there is absolutely nothing I can say or do that will make that person's situation and ensuing pain go away. It's important for me to remember that I am not their God and that any real and meaningful comfort must come from Him. As a human being like those I come across and care for that are in crisis, I try to remember that my role is not as "fixer" or as "healer" but rather as a calm and extremely loving presence.
Eliecia Progar May 25, 2017 10:29am
I apologize for posting the same thing twice. I didn't think it posted the first time.
Eliecia Progar May 25, 2017 10:21am
I have been a registered nurse for 25 years and have heard people use all of these expressions countless times. I am sure that everyone has good intentions. If anyone sat down and actually thought these statements through, they would never say them again. The part of the statements that I personally find to be the most hurtful and inappropriate, is that God dishes out servings of pain and misery upon people. This could not be further from the truth. All the maladies of mankind are a product of the human condition. Our kind and merciful God does not dish tragedy upon us. People do have things happen to them that they can't handle, that does kill them, that breaks them and makes them weaker and are far far worse than cancer. I have stood by precious, much loved family and friends that have lost their battles to illness and injury. I have cried over the bedsides of countless patients that have lost their battles too. Most times there is little to say. Leave it at "I'm sorry" offer a kleenex, make a call, do a small favor or chore. Make yourself available "if" help is requested. Sometimes it isn't. Make your presence known but not intrusive. Allow people room to grieve and be emotional. It is warranted and necessary in these situations. Never say something, or make an offer if you don't really mean it. Be kind
Eliecia Progar May 25, 2017 10:05am
I have been a registered nurse all my life and I hear people say these kind of things all the time. I know everyone has good intentions but if anyone actually sat down and thought these statements through, they would never say them again. The part of these statements that is the most hurtful and inappropriate, in my opinion, is ..... that we have a God that is cruel and intentionally dishes out hardship. This could not be any further from the truth. First and foremost, all the maladies of mankind are a product of the human condition. Not servings dished out by "god" And people do encounter things that they can't handle, that does kill them, and are far far worse than cancer. I have had to stand by the side of precious family members that have lost their battles against illness and injury. I have lost countless friends in the same manner. This goes without saying I have cried over the bedsides of many, many patients in 25 years of nursing. Sometimes its best to just say "I'm sorry" and nothing more. Just be there to lend a shoulder, hand a kleenex, make a call, do a small chore. There doesn't always need to be a comment. Offer assistance "if needed" (it always isn't) keep an open ear. Allow people to hurt. It's warranted and needed in certain times.
Paul Douglas Anderson May 25, 2017 7:50am
Look at the good side.. You get to go see Mom before I do...
Sandra Dickerson May 25, 2017 7:21am
At least he died young before you had a chance to really love him.
Judy sSilva May 25, 2017 7:11am
You are not the only one dealing with this... that DOESN'T HELP. You are not the only one, but you are special to me and I hate that this has happened to you.
Me May 25, 2017 6:48am
I've come to learn that if I don't want "insensitive" comments that it's best for me to suck it up, lean on God and not drag other people into my personal drama.
Sophie Elena May 25, 2017 6:01am
Hello, I respect your choice to your opinion, and I disagree that 3 of the above statements are unhelpful and 'should' not be said. The very fact you chose to use 'should' suggests, from my counselling training, that you think your position is 'the' correct one, and therefore right for everyone. I accept you may not find these statements helpful, and I hold a different viewpoint, and that is right for me. Kind blessings to you, Sophie X
Lauri Ann May 24, 2017 11:13pm
I've said, how are you? When I know how they are.... I always feel silly after I say it!
Mary Ann Petro May 24, 2017 10:53pm
Someone said to me (I have 2 serious diseases) that their family member could never have cancer as they are a good Christian person and people are praying for them.
Emily McCall May 24, 2017 9:19pm
As a psychotherapist , I know one of the WORST things you can say to someone grieving a loss or an impending loss is "If you cry it's because you're just feeling sorry for yourself!" I don't know who the moron was who came up with that, but loss is loss and the longer the relationship, the deeper the grief and sadness.
Laura J Endsley-Tobin May 24, 2017 8:51pm
As a Stage IV cancer fighter/survivor, I agree somewhat with this "list", in my darker days, this stuff would drive me crazy, but guess what, "God does have a plan" and "God doesn't give you more than you can handle". If you are talking to a believer, bringing faith into the conversation is mandatory. Please don't tell people not to bring him up. Alternatively, "you look so good considering what you are going through" is hurtful to ME. It might not be hurtful to my friend. Be careful when laying this out there like that. It's hard enough to try to deal with it inside. People say what is in their heart, they don't know what to say and how to say it, because there are NO WORDS sometimes.
jsmyth May 24, 2017 7:40pm
I know how you feel How are you - really (after you've said fine)
Bonnie Blomberg May 24, 2017 6:39pm
I have read all the comments. I am deeply moved by all the caring/wonderful things people have said here --(God) please help us all to be caring, loving beings -- to be present with those we love (in times of trial) and love all. Love first, speak second.
Shirley Dentler May 24, 2017 5:18pm
The CaringBridge website was great for me when I had breast cancer. It was a form of encouragement and I appreciated all the prayers, etc. posted. Also, when my daughter-in-law had a website it was a great place to go to look up her progress without making phone calls everyday. She had a long recovery period from a bone marrow transplant. She is still in recovery but doing great. Also, it is a great place to make a little donation to this website.
Elaine Simon May 24, 2017 4:34pm
Sometimes just a hug helps
Jeanne Struble May 24, 2017 4:17pm
I have lost my husband, both of my parents, two brothers and one sister-in-law in the past 10 years. Yes....I too have heard all of the above statements but you know what? At least friends, relatives and neighbors honored my loved one and me by coming to see me at such a sad time. It is easy to get tongue tied at times like this and for most of the people who told us what they dislike - very few told us what they did like or appreciate. I forgive everyone who may have said something that didn't sound just right to me BUT they came, they gave me hugs, sent cards, brought food to my home, moved snow in some cases and everyone of them have been a blessing to me. I'll never forget the one person who said "I am so hopeful that your fond memories of your loved one, the fun times and the love you shared is a great source of comfort to you at this time." Enough said!
Andy Mirdik May 24, 2017 4:06pm
Ok, I have read ALL the posts and came to the following decision: (for me) I truly believe that any comment we perceive as good,bad,insensitive,rude, inappropriate, on and on ad nausium, all of them are made by most people who are rather nervous or uncomfortable and really don't know what to say, but yet feel a need to SAY SOMETHING. From now on I will take what they say in kindness and honestly thank them for their concern and caring; receiving this comments graciously, without judgment of the contents. My late wife was THE most accepting and unjudgmental person I have ever known. She truly accepted everyone-and I mean everyone-without exception. What a remarkable and rare attitude. She accepted her final days with the same attitude. Never "why me" or "it's not fair." Not in a fatalistic way, just absolute acceptance! Sorry for the length of this, but this forum has truly help me to better understand without being negative.
Sandy Hummel May 24, 2017 3:18pm
Please don't say, "I know how you feel". As human beings, we want to be empathetic. But honestly, no one truly knows how another person "feels". If at a loss for words, perhaps a better thing to say is "what can I do for you?"
Catherine Lynch May 24, 2017 2:32pm
Eleven days after my son died suddenly, I called a Compassionate Friends hotline. I was in utter anguish. The man told me that his son had died ten years ago and he is "just starting to get used to the horrible pain". That did not help me. I wanted some hope of lessened pain, somehow. Then, thinking of ten more years of the pain I was experiencing, was beyond horrible. The truth is, as years go by, it does get better, never the same, always a painful place in my heart, but I can be happy again. It has been 21 years.
Betsy Grimes May 24, 2017 2:31pm
Following the death of my son: "Why are you (STILL) so sad?" And no kidding: "You're in hell, you're in hell, you're in hell!"
Susan Banach May 24, 2017 2:28pm
How about adding " You shouldn't feel that way."
Dinisha Anna Millman v. Outten May 24, 2017 2:22pm
I don't remember using any of the above phrases, at least, not for years, but have lost a friend lately, and I don't know why.
A'Lexa Hawkins May 24, 2017 1:43pm
Oh...I'll also add two things. 1. I've noticed listening works every time. Be there to be a good listener. Don't make the person feel rushed or like they are boring you in any way. The greatest gift I got when my sister died was two friends who came over and let me talk. I didn't realize how much I needed to talk. 2. when you do comment, I've found people are somewhat contrary. If you say positive things like 'this will get better' it's almost a reflex to say or think the opposite '(you just don't understand how bad it is.') So... when I comment, which I try to not to do too much, I might say something like "No wonder you feel like you do. This is really hard." And they start to counter with "...yea, but things will get better."
Sherry May 24, 2017 1:26pm
When my baby died I was told by many, "oh be thankful she wasn't a child, be glad she was only a baby". WOW! The second best is "don't worry, honey, you can have another". I know people mean well but sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all, just a hug or a hand squeeze or "I'm sorry". When these things are said though, you have to keep in mind, they mean well and really don't know what to say.
A'Lexa Hawkins May 24, 2017 1:25pm
This is a very helpful thread of comments. I'm reading it because I am one of those people who DO care and DON'T know what to say. I've said "I'm praying for you" and meant it and did pray, often. I've said "What can I do to help?" not to be vague but because it was a real question. I didn't know what to do to help, and I wanted to contribute in some meaningful way. I didnt' want to be the 1000th casserole when the person couldn't hold down anything, or the intruder when the person felt like they had to entertain. This is hard stuff. But a little grace -- on all sides -- goes a long way. Any other suggestions of what TO do would be great.
Kami Fehlig May 24, 2017 1:16pm
I have lost a sister and husband to suicide. I have been told almost every comment on the list. That said, some of the things people shared below, I have said. This has been very helpful for me to realize that I too, have said things (well-meaning) that were not well received. I obviously do NOT want to hurt anyone with my comments. I will be more careful with my words in the future!
Duane Erhard May 24, 2017 1:13pm
My dear wife of 44+ years passed away a little over a year ago. During the 99 day's from diagnosis to her passing, she/we received many, many card's, note's, e-mails, phone calls, posts on Caring Bridge (Nancy Erhard) and visit's. Flower's, meal's, hotel point's, airline mile's, and transportation all came our way, and thousands of dollar's were donated to the charities of her choice in her memory. Hundred's showed for her visitation and hundred's more showed for her Memorial service. When I think of all those wonderful people and their gracious gestures of love, I'm reminded that they were a testament to the love of my life and the impact she had on each of them. What a gift! To this day, I often don't know what to say, even to some of our very best friends when we meet. So, how could I ever stand in judgment of an awkward expression of kindness, given from the heart in a moment when they too were experiencing a loss? Be kind to them and to yourself and listen to their hearts.
Marilyn Lowry May 24, 2017 12:39pm
"Your Mother/Father lived a long life" Yes, they did, but whether they lived to be 80 or 180, it doesn't make you miss them any less. You will never see them or talk to them on this earth again, and the length of their life does not make it any easier to bear.
Nancy Bryan May 24, 2017 12:37pm
I've been recipient of "0h you'll get over it. I had cancer surgery too, it's not a big deal."
Margie Shubin May 24, 2017 12:34pm
I get it but then it isn't from the heart. Our society has become so PC that you have to be afraid to say anything. This is one of the problems with our society. I guess I just won't say anything at all. I do try not to say things that may make things worse but it has gotten out of hand.
Linda Van Kirk May 24, 2017 12:34pm
At the age of 26, diagnosed with cervical cancer, hysterectomy followed, along with comments, you can always adopt, once they do cut into you,air gets in & the cancer spreads.Hives followed due to the stress. Several months later, was hit by a car, er room missed my broken neck. My gynecologist called me at home after he received the x-rays, told me not to move my neck & get to the hospital immediately for a neck collar. Lost my ovaries due to adhesions and tumor on the "good" ovary was found during surgery to remove the adhesions. At age 50, was hit sitting at a stoplight. She had been up all night, on too many pills, never hit the brakes. ER missed 6 of the 7 broken ribs, brain injury that led to chronic pain, vertigo, speech and memory problems. The additional damage was found by another doctor & physical therapist. My husband had to be shown the x-rays of all the damage incurred for him to believe it. Violent boughts of vertigo, vomiting, ability to stand, walk, lay down, memory issues, speech, PT followed and continues to this day. I'm now 66. Several drug interactions followed by extreme weight loss. I'm 5'3" tall, was 125, went to 85lbs. A wonderful doctor took the time to look at everything & I have been able to reach 110 lbs. A lifelong friend said I should "sell my diet secret"! Another friend said how great it would be to get the $ from the lawsuit. What a joke. I have been receiving anywhere from 14 to 24 injections from pain management doctor for over 16 yrs. Due to steroids along with pain meds in shots, developed adrenal insufficiency & tumor. Will be on hydrocortisone meds & the injections the rest of my life. People who have not experienced chronic pain have no conception how one's life is affected. Because I look "normal", assumptions & various accusations are made by those you thought would NEVER do so. Why on earth would I do to someone else what has happened to me? I no longer have contact with them. Because I wasn't given the care necessary, injuries missed, my rib cage is barely "connected" & have broken ribs 3 more times since 2001. As I age, comebacks are more difficult. I must sleep, all 2-3 hrs at a time, with my head elevated, only on my left side since. I am very grateful for those who have taken the time to ask questions, know how much I hate taking pain meds to be able to partially function on my own & desperately try to maintain my independence. I stopped trying to explain my situation to "friends & family" that don't nor want to understand. It's really very tedious, tiring and frustrating from my point of view. A smile, laugh, any act of kindness are the greatest gifts & hope I have received, many from strangers and some wonderful health care professionals that take the time to see me as a whole person & treat me as such. The best thing anyone can do to help those who have lost a loved one, human or animal, suffers from a disease, emotional issues, any chronic condition is to simply communicate. Ask how they can help & actually make the effort to do so. Sympathy, in my case, is not needed or necessary, smiles, good memories, laughter, listening and being treated with the respect you would hope to receive is! I hope this gives some answers and understanding to those truly looking. Just take the time to think about what you're going to say before it leaves your mouth, what you would need or want to hear yourself. The hurtful words stay forever and can't be taken back.
Paula Gohde May 24, 2017 12:04pm
A cousin lost her son and his wife in a horrible accident. When I saw her at the funeral, I blurted out "I can't imagine losing a child," and she answered "I hope you never do." We hugged & cried, and talked. It was the right thing to say.
Lynn Sites May 24, 2017 11:57am
My father died in a Catholic hospital. A nun told me God needed someone to mow his grass. 47 yrs ago and I have never forgotten nor ceased to think that was about the worst thing for someone, let alone a nun to say ????
Ev May 24, 2017 11:27am
When my 91 year old mother died, I realized that no matter their age, 'it's always too soon to say good-bye' to someone you love. So that is what I sometimes say or write when someone loses a parent. Perhaps some might find that insensitive too, I don't know.
linda freeman May 24, 2017 11:15am
I have had breast cancer. So many people, almost all, told me they would pray for me. I wonder if they really did. However, not one of these people offered help to me. I live alone, no family and could have used some help in going to the grocery store and bringing the groceries up the steps and taking me to chemo and back and other doctors appointments. It seemed the people who were going to pray for me just wanted to sound like they were God fearing believers. I may sound cynical and probably am somewhat at this point. Just remember that prayer is excellent but so is some hands on help.
Jackie Mashore May 24, 2017 11:12am
I have not seen a comment about mental illness. We have two adult children with a mental illness. Serious behavioral disorders have the same effect as a death- the old person is gone and in their place is a quite different and ill individual. It creates a grief that is 'ambiguous loss'. The stigma attached to this type of serious illness in our society leaves individuals with no clue of how to respond. I've forgiven countless well-intentioned comments. By far the worst response to these illnesses is silence and failure to acknowledge our experience. Suggestions: get educated about the illness; continue to be a loving, caring, compassionate friend/neighbor; be brave and ignore the stigma; bring a casserole! Acknowledge the challenge and exhaustion of caring for an adult child who is critically ill in the same way one would reach out and support in any situation with a critical chronic illness. Don't be afraid to be present.
john w dineen May 24, 2017 11:01am
Also don't say: "I know how you feel."
Brenda Lisa Hubbs May 24, 2017 10:41am
Things you should never say to someone trying to support you. "These are 7 things not to say." Instead, say, "These are 7 things to say that are helpful"...
Jenny May 24, 2017 10:40am
We went thru several years of tragic things happening, and I coined these statements "nice-isms". When I was around people who were NOT saying nice-isms, I made a point to mention how unhelpful and annoying they were, to hopefully prevent any more of them! One such statement was the vague "is there anything I can do?", usually by people who didn't live nearby. Instead of saying this, a person can offer something specific... like "can I come over next Saturday to help you pack?" OR "I'd like to bring you dinner on Tuesday, OK?" OR is it OK if I come over one day next week with cookies, and we can talk?".
Dorothy Brar May 24, 2017 10:40am
Doctors' favorite when discussing "odds" with a patient: We all deal with risk; I could get hit by a truck tomorrow.
Anita McClanahan May 24, 2017 10:23am
Beth Bishop May 24, 2017 9:56am
So, WHAT are the seven things one CAN say?
Pat Fuller May 24, 2017 9:50am
I heard many of these after a breast cancer diagnosis. One that is not on that list is blaming the 'sick' person for their 'illness'. Such as; "Have you had many mammograms? You know, I read where they actually can cause breast cancer." Sigh . . .
Catherine May 24, 2017 9:49am
After my husband died from cancer, these were the top two comments that I never expected to hear from two different friends. I just busted out laughing when they said the following: 1) "Since you didn't have children, I can't imagine how you are going to fill your time." (My response was that I will continue to do all the same things I already do: work, volunteer, keep a home, have friends over for dinner, visit family, etc.) 2) "You're not grieving correctly." (A Hospice counselor gave me the most amazing advice: "Your grief is as unique as you are. Don't ever let anyone tell you how to grieve.")
Jeanette May 24, 2017 9:45am
I'm with Laurie in that I try to give people the benefit of the doubt for at least trying. Sometimes we really don't know what to say and a cliche flies out of our mouth before we can catch it. In moments of grief I have treasured the friends who said, "I'm so sorry" and nothing else, and wrapped their arms around me, because what I needed was their presence, and sometimes permission to cry. What I truly don't appreciate and can't find a valid excuse for is when someone compares my pain to a worse case scenario. "Think about (insert name) and how much she's suffering." I always want to say, "But I'm not going through what she's going through. I'm going through this, and it stinks."
Cindi May 24, 2017 9:42am
I have read through most of these and most of the comments are what NOT to say. Please give us some tips of WHAT to say! Thank you!
Jill Blythe May 24, 2017 9:34am
My sister was a severe diabetic from childhood. This was 40 years ago before even the good advancements of today. She lost a leg, eyesight, was on dialysis for years, had two kidney transplants and other surgeries. People would say the God never gives you more than you can handle phrase. She would try to laugh and say well I wish he didn't trust me so much! She died in her mid forties after years and years of difficulties. Still miss her kind sweet words and great advice!!
Barbara King May 24, 2017 9:33am
thank you for this; some people don't know what to say, others try to be encouraging and think they are and just don't realize; sometimes it's so easy to just say something and say the wrong thing
Cindy May 24, 2017 9:32am
As my child is battling leukemia, a "friend" sent me an email telling me I needed a certain supplement for him, worded in a way meant to make me feel guilty if I didn't get it, and she is a representative and sells it and would love for me to buy some from her! Really! If it's so great and you are so concerned, why not offer to give it to him. The nerve of people trying to take advantage of me to make money as I am taking care of my son.
Beverely Thomes May 24, 2017 9:27am
I feel like people need me to reassure them by saying I feel as good as I look. I am learning to be kind to myself and that means choosing loving people to be around when ever possible.
Pat Cole May 24, 2017 9:11am
I had wonderful responses after my husband's death. They came from people who loved my husband dearly. And God was with me and comforted me every step of the way. But the one thing that people often said was "Are you hanging in there?" or a similar phrase that indicated "hanging in there." I know they meant well, so I was not offended or hurt. But I always countered with, "I am not hanging in there. I am living victoriously because God is with me and helping me through my grief." And I would say it with a smile. Of course I grieve. But there are many more times of refreshing from the Lord so I am not downcast. That doesn't make me Superwoman. It makes me a child of the Lord who offers the best support and comfort than any human can. Our trust in His love and strength and faithfulness in the time of sadness is the best antidote for taking umbrage at any careless remark from others.
sandra May 24, 2017 9:03am
God works all things for good..........
Mary Ann Bethea May 24, 2017 8:49am
He was such a good father, God took him on Father's day. (The pastor at my brother's funeral actually said that.) God needed a new angel
Linda Davies May 24, 2017 8:42am
Having walked the "Grief Journey" more times than I care to think about, ( I have lost my entire family barring my brother), 5 in total, I concur with you all about these well meaning comments from folks who stumble over the old cliche's when the really don't know what else to say. I just take it all as well meant and with a pinch do salt. They are uncomfortable and just trying to be kind. What does one say after all?
Elizabeth May 24, 2017 8:39am
I have had several friends with cancer. Most of them were given by well-meaning people different diets, pills and teas. Eating sensibly is wise, and they are finding in medical research that some plants have the ability to attack cancer cells, but it is not useful to have a lot of special diets brought to the patient. One friend had a disgusting soup brought to her, as if the chemo wasn't making her sick enough. We did laugh about it though. Maybe that was the purpose. My husband has dementia and gets weary of folks telling him they lose their keys though there isn't really anything wrong.
Kathy Hall May 24, 2017 8:29am
Things that I have found helpful are "I'm so sorry you're having to go through this" and a sincere hug. T
David Ditter May 24, 2017 8:16am
Just let me know if there's anything I can do for you.
wendy Goodman May 24, 2017 8:16am
Bill May 24, 2017 8:15am
So agree 2 things to say: I am so sorry I you you
S harrell May 24, 2017 8:14am
This just why some people don't visit the sick and bereaved. Be helpful. Offer suggestions as to how to handle rather than " you're making it worse"
DC Book Angel May 24, 2017 8:02am
I, for one, have felt it more personally positive from those who say or write "Our thoughts and prayers are with you" or "I am so sorry this is happening" if it comes with all of the other good things people have mentioned and from people for whom I know it is true. And the memories shared in a note are a real help (even the goofy ones). The best are the people who try to understand that recovery from loss (or anything else) is not instant and check back in over time with a simple "Thinking of you, how are you?". But yes, all seven are regular responses, plus the idiot questions looking for a cause, "Did he ever smoke?" "Did she get an annual mammogram?" and my personal pet peeve, "Well you know a lot of people so this kind of thing is to be expected."
Nancy Mullen May 24, 2017 8:00am
Both of our children died as adults, they had cystic fibrosis. People have said, OMG I can't imaging losing one- but two! How can you possibly go on? Another neighbor & friend who avoided us for over a year- when I stopped by her house said, I'm sorry, I can't look you in the eye anymore without imagining losing one of my own kids; It's too painful for me!
Maria Pimentel-Gannon May 24, 2017 8:00am
Another statement need not be said: "Well, at least she didn't suffer long." Or "At least she was older / lived a long life." Or "At least you had her for many years."
Delmar Hager May 24, 2017 7:44am
I have always found the simply saying: 'I love you and I am praying for you' is usually the encouragement they need.
Pat Laudicina May 24, 2017 7:43am
"It will be harder for me to lose my mother as I had her s0 much longer". I was 22 and my beloved mother just died at 47.
Donna May 24, 2017 7:42am
Dear Folks: Please suggest what to say. Many of us are at a loss as to the right things to say to a person who has lost loved one or is dealing with a terminal illness.
jay clark May 24, 2017 7:41am
A friend to my wife, "It'll be easier for you to die than me. You go to church".
Mary Anne Cook May 24, 2017 7:39am
I know how you feel.
Pat Laudicina May 24, 2017 7:39am
When our daughter was in a coma with a traumatic brain injury one of the things that hurt our hearts was "be grateful she didn't die". Or while a sister stood and watched her beloved home burn to the ground along with 30 years of memories, "at least no one died"
Beth Johnson May 24, 2017 7:35am
"How are you feeling?" REALLY? Now, that's a stupid question
Patti Moran May 24, 2017 7:30am
The worst thing someone can say to me is God doesn't give you more than you can handle. I lost 2 children to cancer a husband to cancer,a son-in-law to a car accident.My son-in-law was married to one of my daughters and they had 2 small children.I took custody of my 2grandsons.
Phil Wagner May 24, 2017 7:27am
Excellent information. It would also be helpful to give us 7 things we could say . We would appreciate it. Thank You.
Jody Biddle May 24, 2017 7:21am
"I know exactly how you feel." No one knows exactly how another person feels so this is not a helpful comment.
Jan May 24, 2017 7:18am
I lost my beautiful daughter, Heidi, to leukemia.....everyone of the "7 Things You Should Never Say" were said to me.....
Carol Winner May 24, 2017 7:13am
When my son died from cancer a "friend " said "Well it wasn't as if you didn't know he was going to die " .
Mick May 24, 2017 7:12am
Thank you so much for writing this article. I used to cringe every time someone would say, one of these sayings. ( I know they meant well, but it did not help)
Pam Wexler May 24, 2017 7:05am
Debbie Depner......My neck got hot when I read your post. Choosing NOT to focus on the insensitivity ( that borders on cruelty) from the closest people to you. I just want to encourage you by saying that there sensitive, loving souls out there who would embrace your challenge with you. I know it takes energy to find them and that may be in short supply. I am praying, (truly praying) that you will find the support that you need and deserve to have the strength to go through any recommended treatment, restore hope and LIVE! Been there, my friend.
Isabel Purpura May 24, 2017 6:52am
What seems insensitive to me is when I'm describing my son's illness and someone says to me, "Well couldn't you tell he was sick?" or "Why didn't you take him to the doctor sooner?" or something like, "Well you knew he was gaining weight." Really, blame the parents, that didn't help. I was already feeling guilty enough as it was that I didn't see his heart failure coming. Not even the doctors say it coming!
Debbie S May 24, 2017 6:45am
- At least you had him in your life this long - you're lucky you had someone who loved you so much
Steven Lopez May 24, 2017 6:29am
What can I do to help? (just do something) My thoughts and prayers are with you. (a mindless response as we feel we must say something) Everything will be okay.-->Similar to "I know how you feel". How are we today? (Do not treat grown-ups like children) You look great. (nice try to lift up ones spirit)
Jenny Coss May 24, 2017 6:23am
The one I always struggled with is people wanting to tell you stories about themselves, their family or people they know who had the same surgery or condition that you have. These stories always involved either people who sailed right through and were out dancing two days later (figuratively) or, people who had the worst possible experience with lots of complications, infections, etc. These are NOT the stories I want to hear when going through my own situation. In fact, I don't want to hear anyone else's experiences, unless I ask.
Rosemary H May 24, 2017 6:09am
The best gesture I get out of all of these comments is "a hug and say I love you." Does anyone have anything better than that? I'd like to know, please.
TJ May 24, 2017 5:59am
We have gotten all of the above but this one stands out as the worst, "God doesn’t give you more than you can handle". My wife passed about 2 months ago after about 7 years of suffering and is at peace now. We were definitely given way more than what we could handle. I have talked to several pastors and they disagree with that one as well.
Allison May 24, 2017 5:56am
Hey, how about being positive and giving ideas about what people should say! God is in control by the way! God Bless!
Sandy May 24, 2017 5:53am
I lost my son to suicide 20 months ago and what not to say is so true. People mean well but that list is very accurate as to what not to say. I love hearing "how are you doing." Or, "I think of your son Danny often." The pain never goes away, it is about learning to live with a loss. I love it when someone reminds me of a fun time or cute story involving my son. Our Compassionate Friends support group is helpful. We meet every month.
Nancy Morrow May 24, 2017 5:47am
Just be a listener. Allow a person who is in whatever situation, to express their feelings. We really do not know what they are feeling or handling their loss or illness. Everyone copes in different ways, some want to talk about their issue, some don't. If you stop and listen, you will find the words that person wants to hear. Pray for the Lord to give you the words of wisdom to comfort that person.
Sue J May 24, 2017 5:42am
As evidenced by the " need" to have this discussion, we all have a difficult time expressing our caring . Our friends are well meaning and struggling with what or how to say it. They are grieving too. Perhaps we need to remember not to be judgmental or critical, but rather appreciate their sentiment and affection. It is a difficult time for everyone concerned.
Elizabeth May 24, 2017 4:35am
Add to these to the list : If you have to have cancer this is a good one. Cancer is never a "good one". I understand what you're going through. I know you're going to be okay. Don't worry, Your hair will all come back. And never say - you really look cute bald. More could be added and there must be a pill for that. ❤️
Heather May 24, 2017 4:29am
God works miracles every day. You never know....
Toni May 24, 2017 3:21am
I can't stand when I am grieving the loss of a loved one and someone says "they're not in pain anymore" or "you had a lot of good years together". I think that people feel obligated to say something, anything. Personally, I would prefer a touch or hug to words that are cliche. Just let me cry, no one and no words can ease the pain of losing a loved one.
Susan May 24, 2017 2:24am
Another one that wasn't helpful: "Good luck!" - our oncologist's favorite phrase : (
Susan Ryan May 24, 2017 2:16am
Please, please, please, don't share horror stories of other people you know who have suffered. I would rather hear a comment about the weather or a sports team. Better: "I am praying for you," or a comment about something positive ("So glad your appetite is better!" "I hope tomorrow is better!" "I'm praying you get some good rest" "I'm glad the doctors are figuring things out") or just "I'm so sorry you're going through this! Hugs!" My husband was so sick we couldn't get a lot of visitors, so he and I eagerly soaked in every comment even if they weren't said perfectly. We just knew people loved us, and we encouraged them to click the "heart" as if it were "waving through the window." When he passed away, I asked people over and over again to post memories of him, and I would read them over and over. Sharing memories is the best - whether someone is sick or someone has lost a loved one.
Anna Brown May 24, 2017 1:35am
Look on the bright side.
Kat Bybee May 24, 2017 1:21am
I think the worst was when I lost my mother and one of her friends proceeded to tell me (after her memorial service) that God only takes the very best. (Are you kidding me??!!)
Kat Bybee May 24, 2017 1:09am
As someone who is dealing with a chronic condition, I have heard a lot of them at times...I try to use humor. But it is not always easy. I turned one that I noticed someone else is bothered by into a personal motto, when I read it rephrased like this: "This too, shall pass; it may pass like a kidney stone, but it WILL pass!"
Joe Maple May 24, 2017 1:02am
Never say:"All things work together for good, so we know good will come from this...."
Elayne Sikelianos May 24, 2017 12:38am
Thank you so much ~~ i will try & re-post as i know so many who need to read these! Each one, teach one!
Car Clifton May 24, 2017 12:19am
Instead of "I'm sorry for your loss," how about honoring the person by including them in your comment. For example, "I'm so sorry you have lost your father (or mother, or son, or sister, or Bob or Gail or little Zack). Then follow with something like, "Even though you had your dad for 52 years, it's never enough." or, "I think of your mom so often, and it seems she always makes me laugh. What a sweetheart!" or "I remember when Gail was my babysitter, she told me the best bedtime stories!" When trying to convey your empathy with how scared, worried, confused, they are, instead of saying, "I know how you feel," say something that conveys your pain, such as "My heart is heavy for you." or "I'm so sorry." If you feel comfortable with adding "warm" words, how about "My heart is heavy for you, my friend", or "I'm so sorry, buddy."
Maria Rincon Noriega May 24, 2017 12:11am
I would like to add. Never say someone with Cancer gave up. I heard this with my mom & she did not give up. No one ever needs to hear that.
Susan Lloyd May 23, 2017 11:57pm
God only gives (fill in the blank) to special parents. "I could never do what you do"
Debra Kelley May 23, 2017 11:33pm
I was with you until the phrase "health journey." "Journey" in a health context is trite, banal and insulting. Better luck next time.
Lila Cohen May 23, 2017 11:23pm
I'm always honest in my remarks about the person who has died and remember a positive thing the person did or said that I will always remember them by and then give the living person a hard reassuring hug and give them an opportunity to talk.
Marie Longo May 23, 2017 11:22pm
Yes, I've heard almost all of those,and didn't appreciate any of them. It felt too superficial, like some one was trying to give my pain a quick brush off. These experiences have taught me to be more careful with my words to others that are goung through tough times.
wayne nechy May 23, 2017 11:12pm
lve heard everyone of those cliche ass comments my entire life about one crisis or sickness or bad situation my whole life.just stick to the truth and say what you feel in your heart. fuck the dumb shit keep it doesnt cost a penny to be real.we all have a date with death from one thing or another just be a friend and keep it real.
Mary Blankenship May 23, 2017 11:05pm
You missed an important one. "I know just how you feel." It is maddening when someone who has their spouse or family whole and healthy says that to you.
Judith Bedard May 23, 2017 11:00pm
Someone said to us after our son went to Glory; "Maybe God was saving him from something far worse!" Far worse?? Than a 21 year old A student in college, wanting to graduate in wildlife biology after a lifetime of loving nature and God's creatures? We praise God we know where he is and will see him again, but the loss, even after 32 years is still fresh sometimes.
Hal Laser May 23, 2017 10:58pm
Unfortunately, the expressions of compassion, sympathy and empathy are too often dressed up as cliche phrases like, "it is what it is". This phrase is so totally dismissal, as if the illness is static and doesn't change from year to year, day to day, perhaps hour to hour. Oh, really, the medical community isn't quite sure about the true prognosis of the disease, but "it is what it is". There is very little comfort to be drawn from that expression. Also, don't say, " if you feel as good as you look, you must be doing ok ". I am sometimes tempted to say, " if I'd look the way I feel, I wouldn't want to appear in public ". Please don't assume that there's a direct correlation between a person's appearance and their state of health, or emotional condition. If you want to demonstrate "caring", allow the person to tell their story, and listen.
Sandy May 23, 2017 10:52pm
When the hospice coordinator (who you think would have more sense) responded to me when I said "I'm taking my daughter home" she said, "yes she will really be going home soon."
Melanie May 23, 2017 10:50pm
I was scolded for updating my illness on Facebook. I have stage 4 cancer and things are constanly changing. A friend told me that, “it may not be cancer, but alot of people suffer”. That I embarrass her when I tell people I have cancer. All these comments from the same woman. I had to end our 30 plus years of friendship. This person contantly minimized my disease and I chose to not have her in my life anymore.
Melanie May 23, 2017 10:46pm
I am a woman with stage 4 cancer. I hate it when people say, You don’t look sick.. Recently a friend, said, “It may not be cancer, but alot of people suffer, not just you.” Have you tried (some adjunct therapy..shark oil, etc). This makes me feel that these people don’t think I am doing the right thing. I am senstive to these comments and they can upset me. I get sick of them. I was scolded by a friend for putting updating my illness on Facebook. I do this because I don’t want to explain over and over again what new has happened to me. There is alot of movement with my disease.
Diana Lieberman May 23, 2017 10:44pm
Do not say anything that blames the victim, such as: "I guess she didn't catch it soon enough."
Carolyn Gwynn May 23, 2017 10:42pm
More comments... about comments that WERE appreciated would be helpful
Janet OHUCHI May 23, 2017 10:40pm
So true. How about: "We don't know why God does these things."
Nancy Olson May 23, 2017 10:36pm
I have been and am a caregiver. My youngest son had two cancers. First when he was 8. The second when he was 13. He will soon be 30! Then caregiver for my mother who had dementia. She passed 6 years ago. I miss her every day. The end of this September will be 4 years since my husband finished chemo and an autologous stem cell transplant. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson's a few years before. Now we are learning how the cancer and chemo effected his Parkinson's. Your list of 7 things are clear reminders as we did hear many of them. We were told our son's first cancer was one in a million. His second. He was the only one to have two different cancers. After the treatment he received during his first cancer. People said we would have better odds winning the lottery. By the time my husband was fighting cancer, people were telling me how they admired me. How strong I was. How they could never do what I am doing. How they could never be with their spouse all the time. All I could do was smile and try my best not to look at them with an expression of shock. My thoughts were How could they not? I also heard the saying, "God never gives you more than you can handle." During my son's second cancer I remember hearing how Mother Theresa had added, "But God why do you trust me so much?" I am not a conceited person. But this struck me in a strange way. I agree with many of the comments I've read below. In my experiences, I found looking into the persons eyes, you can feel what they are trying to say. And hang onto those moments. When we were asked what someone could do to help, all we could ask for is to keep us in their prayers. Each prayer would hold us together when times were rough. The Cancer-coaster and even the dementia-coaster are journeys with more twists and turns then most people can imagine. No amount of sharing is felt or understood unless you are experiencing it directly. The hardest thing is too many are on these and other similar journeys. As I wrote above, when presented with any written or vocal expression, may your heart listen to the caring behind the words. May your heart gather the strength you need to keep going. And no matter what may you know you are NOT ALONE in your journey. Reach out, there are others who do understand.
Randy May 23, 2017 10:30pm
Laurie Mcgregor Connor is spot on. As I recovered from injuries sustained when I was hit by a truck while cycling, friends did not know how to engage me. I was in a coma for about a week and took several years to revover from the effects of a TBI. They didn't know how to act around me or what to say as I worked through physical therapy and recovery. Many of the people I considered close friends virtually abandoned me. I hold no grudges and now see many of them again. They just didn't know what to say or act around me. It was new territory for all of us. There's nothing you can say that is PC.
Heather Thornburg May 23, 2017 10:26pm
What would you recommend to put in a sympathy card when you did not know the person or family well? I see to avoid, "Sorry for your loss." I like being specific with what I can do, like bringing a meal, etc. What if your not in a position to truly offer something except your words. What do you write?
Tricie Young- lost a son in 1973. And I do have 2 relatives on Caring Bridge. May 23, 2017 10:25pm
Don't say - You can have another child after having lost one
Phyllis Garris May 23, 2017 10:24pm
After being diagnosed with breast cancer and having a mastectomy a couple years ago, I am glad people take the time to say anything; what they say is not always important; what is important that they care enough to say anything. Many of the comments above would not bother me in the least. Let us not be so critical and be thankful we have friends who care. God made each of us different so what bothers one person may be the best thing to someone else. "Let their be peace on earth and let it begin with me".
Andy Mirdik May 23, 2017 10:24pm
Ok I agree there are many comments given, how about posting what one SHOULD say. I was the caregiver for my wife for 23 years. She passed on Feb. 5, 2016 and I've heard all the nice meaning but not very helpful comments.
Deanna May 23, 2017 10:22pm
Things I've had said while dealing with a chronic auto immune disease: We will invite you when you get better ! ( my thought , let me decide if i feel I have the energy or not , not you ! ) I lost a lot of weight over a period of several months 117 down to 92 lbs .. someone I knew said " girl put on some weight " rather than ask me if I was doing ok . Another : " wow , I've never seen you with wrinkles on your face before" ! Never mind I was fighting for my life and this was the least of my concerns !
Dale May 23, 2017 10:20pm
While sitting Shiva for my Dad, a friend kept telling me "it will get easier". I told her with expletives and a loud voice to get out of my apartment. It's 15 years later and I still grieve and miss my Dad who was my best friend.
Pam Blackwood May 23, 2017 10:19pm
I don't know what I would do if it was my father.
Marty Brown May 23, 2017 10:18pm
I know how you feel. :>(
Michele May 23, 2017 10:18pm
I appreciate any kind words that a person gives to me when I am facing a difficult loss of a loved one. I know that it isn't easy to comfort someone when their loved one passes. I therefore know that whatever kind words they offer, they mean them from the heart. Not everyone is great with words, and the situation at hand might make them uncomfortable. They mean well, and the fact that they even try, shows their love!!!❤❤
Ed May 23, 2017 10:16pm
The obvious point is that you have to tailor what you say to the person you are trying to comfort. What will comfort a person of faith differs from what will comfort an atheist.
Jane Good May 23, 2017 10:13pm
When I was 26 years old I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a complete hysterectomy and underwent extensive chemotherapy. More than once I was told "Just, remember. There are others who are much worse off than you." SERIOUSLY??? I was supposed to take comfort in the fact that others were suffering more than me????
Marla H May 23, 2017 10:11pm
Please call me if you need anything. Yes I have said it and I have had it said to me. What a stupid statement. However , I meant well and so did the people saying that to me so it was all ok. We all struggle during these times.
Joan May 23, 2017 10:11pm
I have told several people that have said to me " I don't know what to say" , that it's not the words spoken, it's the acknowledgement that this, sad, or horrible thing has happened. To not say anything, and go on as if you haven't just lost one of the most important people in your world, is a far harder thing for me to deal with. Knowing that the person is willing to speak with you even if they say " I can't understand what you are going through, but I do want you to know I care", seems far better to me.
Peggy Trachtenberg May 23, 2017 10:10pm
We all eventually experience huge up close losses which is part of being mortal. We should keep in mind that the effort is being made to say something comforting - it might not always work for the recipient. We all come from different backgrounds, cultures and religions and even countries. Focus on the effort and intention rather than the words. I believe in human kindness.
Mia May 23, 2017 10:08pm
After being diagnosed with breast cancer and then having a double mastectomy, someone said to me, "Don't you have the attitude of gratitude?" Really??? I still don't know what that means.
Donna Gagne May 23, 2017 10:03pm
Never say I know how you feel
Sandy Atkinson May 23, 2017 9:58pm
I am a hospice volunteer, and I still think about the time years ago an acquaintance from work got cancer. This was the first time I had been exposed to someone who was actually dying. When she got so sick that she had to quit work, several of us went to visit her one night after work. The first thing I said was, "Hi, Dorothy, how are you?" She looked terrible and was extremely weak. What a dumb question to ask. I never forgot it.
Scott May 23, 2017 9:58pm
. i try usually say oh man that sucks and if i have been through same situation say i know same thing hapoened to me. and then say i know there nothing ill say that can make anything better but if need anything let me know. And i mean anything and if its a guy friend i say except a BJ and if its a girlfriend i say and i mean anything except for the laundry.
Carol McCandless May 23, 2017 9:56pm
10 years ago I had a major hemorrhagic stroke that left me totally paralyzed on my left side after brain surgery to remove a blood clot the size of an apricot. My brain surgeon told me that he felt I could make a complete recovery. I have worked very hard over the past years, and with physical therapy, I have regained a great deal of my mobility. However, I have not made a complete recovery, and still have limitations . I have had to develop a completely new lifestyle because I can no longer do the things that I enjoyed such as playing the piano, singing , playing golf, gardening, cooking etc However, I have developed a new range of interests that I find very fulfilling. People are amazed that I have made such a good recovery. I like to encourage people to never give up , because you never know what you can accomplish if you keep trying. My life is very different now, but it is wonderful. I find people are very helpful and kind, and I am very grateful for all the people who have blessed me with their prayers.
joseph m. newcomer May 23, 2017 9:56pm
No. Sh** happens. Assuming that there IS a reason, good or bad, makes no sense. To call pain and suffering "God's plan" is to demean every representation of a loving God that has ever been proposed. And centuries of deep thinking about predestination only lead to logical paradoxes. That which does not kill you can leave you crippled for life. This is a silly phrase. What if it IS cancer? And why is death by cancer worse than other kinds of deaths? My wife died of cancer, and her passing was gentle; she was never in pain. Positive thoughts? Give me a break! When the oncology team says, "Go home and try to enjoy what time you have left", positive thoughts are not high on the list. God, if you believe in Her, is omnipotent, and can do anything. Including giving someone more than they can handle. Really? I was a "healthy child" until my congenital heart defect caught up with me at age 42. If modern medicine were not where it is, I would not have survived for a year. I am now 70. My sister was born with a defective metabolism, was not expected to live two years. She died at age 52 of ovarian cancer. Not only are these phrases insensitive, they do not even make sense. Insensitive and nonsensical is a really bad combination.
Stephen Marcus May 23, 2017 9:52pm
If you are on the receiving end of the stupid comment, try to be kind and remember the person is just trying to be kind and it's not easy to find the right words. I have seen more family at a wake make the people visiting the deceased be comforted by the family than the other way around. As a society, we don't deal with death and terminal illness well and truly do not know the right words to say. Sometimes the family has to just let it go and know the person's intentions were good but the didn't know the right words to say.
John Stuckless May 23, 2017 9:52pm
I know how you must feel. My support group got so sick of hearing that; every one of us. When we got together we made up retort (which we never used). "Exactly what God's gift lets you know how I feel". We would get together once a week. One night we were all crying and the restaurant offered to comp us. Another night, we were all laughing, and a friend of one of our members ask what was this fun group. Bill blurted out: "we're all recent widow and widowers." Didn't sit well with the husband of the friend who asked he question. The point is that there is no easy or normal way to deal with the loss of a loved one.
Joyce Schultz May 23, 2017 9:51pm
I've had some people say, "Oh yes, my cousin had that......he didn't live very long or he only lived 2 weeks" Yikes! Please tell people not to talk about people dying with whatever disease they have....we are looking for "hope", not despair.
Marlene May 23, 2017 9:50pm
Please never say " I know just how you feel." No you don't. Grief feels different for everyone. Never say "You had a miscarriage because the baby was deformed or something was wrong with it " Nice way to lay on the guilt and tell someone that they created an inferior child. Even if you have had a similar experience, don't say "Been there, done that!" And NEVER say, "It could have been worse."
MMC May 23, 2017 9:44pm
On revealing to a coworker that my husband was just diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, she said, "oh, I was sure my husband had that same cancer last year, it was so scary, but he just had pneumonia." I was too shocked -and still in shock over the diagnosis - to even mutter "um, that's not helping..."
Jan Gibson May 23, 2017 9:43pm
A well meaning member of my church said, "You can always have another baby." This was after my daughter died of SIDS. Little did she know; I had my tubes tied the day after she was born.
Alice May 23, 2017 9:42pm
"You've got this!"
Wanda Clay May 23, 2017 9:35pm
I have lost my husband and 5 years later, my 33 year old son. I have heard all of the comments above. Also the other one, I don't like to hear is "it will get better". When you don't know what to say, I have found out that a Hug and I Love you is very good. Sometimes people just need us to be with them. Yes, the one, call me if you need me, is so un needed. If you have ever gone thru death, you aren't going to call someone, because when you need to call them, you are so upset, you don't want to talk to anyone. Best things for anyone is to know that Jesus still Loves us.
Ilse May 23, 2017 9:35pm
Annie, I think I have the wrong comments box. But if this gets to I want to repeat that more and more you sound like a scholar and a scientist. Very impressive. Love -- llse P.S.It looks like you are getting the same message twice. Sorry.
Ilse May 23, 2017 9:33pm
Annie, I think I have the wrong comments box. But if this gets to I want to repeat that more and more you sound like a scholar and a scientist. Very impressive. Love -- llse
Debbie Depner May 23, 2017 9:30pm
I was diagnosed with bladder cancer.... My Mother in law told me after surgery " You look like HELL put some makeup on and pull yourself together ". My Husband said when I told him the news " What the F am I going to do with 3 kids". They are his kids?????
Jean Johnson May 23, 2017 9:28pm
The postings of Annie and Laurie reverberate with me, having suffered the loss of a seventeen-year-old daughter and two years ago my husband of fifty years. I have heard such a range of comments from well-meaning friends. The best are specific offers to help, and later, allowing one to talk about their loved one without forcing anything. The worst thing a friend ever said to me after my husband died was "well, we have our pity parties and then we get over it." Really? I have concluded the poor lady is just not very bright. No one understands the experience of losing a loved one until they themselves go through it. The best notes and conversations I have received expressed a memory of my daughter and my husband, as Annie says.
Janet Mickelburg May 23, 2017 9:26pm
All seven things are very hurtful. They minimize what you are going through.
Mary Spletter May 23, 2017 9:25pm
What wonderful advice. And I hear it all the time. Thank you, Mary
Jane Sanders May 23, 2017 9:24pm
God needed another angel in heaven.
Elaine Olson May 23, 2017 9:23pm
Upon the tragic loss of my dear husband, I heard three of the above comments. While none of them were helpful, or believable to me, it is difficult because the message senders are all people of strong religious faith. So, I kept that in mind. I believe people are trying to be helpful, and given that most of us never learned how to deal with death, I think it is best to not waste precious energy on such remarks when they do come our way.
Mary Lewis Grow May 23, 2017 9:20pm
Never, never say, "I feel so sorry for you," or "I pity you." No one wants to be an object of pity! It's fine to say, "I really admire your strength" or "you're a great role model for how to face hard things" (assuming, of course, that this is true). Or say, "I hate it that you are having to go through this." If at a complete loss for what to say, it's also ok to confess that you want so much to find the right words, but it's proving hard to do.
Amy Hallowes May 23, 2017 9:18pm
Gotten all or most if these. Please don't. It hurts more than helps.
Theresa May 23, 2017 9:17pm
I know that people struggle with trying to figure out what to say and no matter what the blunder is, they usually mean well so I'm not trying to be critical. However, when I hear someone say "I'm sorry for your loss "I feel incredibly alone as that comment seems so distant and cold and lacking in compassion. That is just how I experience that . I don't know about anyone else.
colleen wartelle May 23, 2017 9:12pm
What should you say in order to be of real comfort?
Laurie McGregor Connor May 23, 2017 8:58pm
While these are awkward things people do say, I've always taken the approach that at least they are trying to say something. The silence is worse.
Annie May 23, 2017 8:40pm
my personal "trigger" or grind is the ol'.... " my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family". Im sorry for your loss".... is sad how people really don't know what to say... and go right to the "text book" version... trust me... when you loose a loved one.. we want to talk about THEM... not our loss of them...share a memory ... and if in a quiet intimate place, ask that person what they are missing.. or what they will miss? and THEN give them the hug...
Laura Bushinger May 23, 2017 7:52pm
She wouldn't want you to cry.... These words are comfortless and only said because someone is uncomfortable with your grief, pain and loss. A simple I'm so sorry is all that is needed if you feel at a loss to say something.
Monica Hooker May 23, 2017 7:46pm
"But you can't be that look so good"..????????
Phyllis Litman May 23, 2017 7:13pm
When you have a chronic 'hidden' illness, the last thing you want to hear is, "But you LOOK fine". That implies that there is nothing wrong with you, and you should be out dancing or dining.
Ruth Barrow May 23, 2017 7:04pm
"Now if there is anything I can do to help, let me know." This is meaningless. Why don't you say, "I have nothing planned for Tuesday. If you like, I will stay with your patient and you can go to lunch and go shopping for awhile."
skeeter Tower Apr 30, 2017 1:48pm
words are so hard to think of at times like this. i pray I won't offend, but i hope my heart is heard.
Chandler Dann Apr 29, 2017 5:23pm
David, I'm so sorry to hear of your illness. I'd like to just mention that I've read Anita Moorjani's book about about her experience with Cancer, and how she was able to lick it. I also got a lot of useful information reading Dr. Bruce Lipton's book. I hope that you will be able to check these out, and that they help you, as they have helped others. I got both of them from the Amazon Kindle library. Good luck, my friend. I have been following your writings, for years, and certainly appreciated them for all of that time. (That cup of coffee is still available, and I'd love to see you drinking it with a nice long chat. Cheers, David. I know you'll do well.
Margie Underwood Apr 29, 2017 4:20pm
"This too shall pass" If ONE MORE PERSON had told me this when I was dealing with cancer....
Kelly Rose Apr 26, 2017 6:54pm
I have been told this one: "S/he will be in a better place after s/he dies." I do try to look at the intention. People mean well even if the words that come out appear insensitive.