8 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.

8 Things You Shouldn’t Say

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, even if it’s not your intent, saying this can 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.”

Whether your loved one is or 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.

When someone says to a patient: ” Well, if you think that your situation is bad, let me tell you about what I (or my sister, etc.) had to go through! And then goes on to tell a long story about themselves, showing GREAT insensitivity, while thinking that it will make the patient glad that they didn’t have to go through that!”

Karen Jo W.

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.

I have arthritis. I go to the doctor in a great deal of pain, they take an X-ray. Then the doctor says “It’s only arthritis!” ONLY? Really. Arthritis hurts. I think that is the MOST minimizing thing anyone can say. “It’s only . . . . . . . ” belittles what a person is feeling.

Claudia S.

7. “I know how you feel.”

Why is this harmful? It’s possible to never know how the other person truly feels, especially when it is something you have never personally experienced.

What to say instead: “This sounds so difficult, I’m so proud of how you’ve handled this. Do you want to talk about it?”

Give them space to talk if they need it. Sometimes, they may just need a shoulder to lean on.

“‘I know just how you feel. I went through that with my mother/father.’ Caregiving for a life partner is not in the same universe with caring for a parent. Both represent major loss, but losing a life partner means the loss of a support system, physical and emotional. Better to say, “I know this is hard. Can I help with ______ (running errands, babysitting, getting groceries, etc.)”


“While it’s very nice that someone sends a card with the death of a loved one, I don’t like it when someone says ‘I know what you’re going through’ unless they have gone through it themselves. I personally would rather have a comforting Bible verse. I also make my own cards so I can express my own personal thoughts.”

JoAnn W.

8. 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: “I love you.”

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.

“If you haven’t been there it is difficult to know what to say. Everyone’s journey is different. Speaking as a survivor just send love and support. A positive note in the mail, a home cooked meal or offer to clean or walk the dog or do some laundry.. A quick visit is welcome but long ones are tiring and sometimes the patient feels that they have to ‘be on top’ and smiling when all they want to do is sleep.”

Eileen S.

Keep on Caring

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.

Start a CaringBridge Site

When you’re going through a health journey, you have a lot on your plate. CaringBridge replaces the time-consuming task of sharing your health news over and over. It’s a free, easy to use online journal for sharing health information with your family and friends.  

Don’t go through your health journey alone.

You can stay connected to friends and family, plan and coordinate meals, and experience love from any distance.

All of this is ready for you when you start your personal CaringBridge site, which is completely free of charge, ad-free, private and secure. Don’t spend another minute alone!

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.

  • S d

    When we lost everything in a fire the comment “It was only things” was very upsetting. It was keepsakes and and everything we owned. Some “things” were irreplaceable.S d

  • Kelle

    “Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help.”
    Then months and months go by and crickets, no one comes around. Being terminally ill and the caregiver for someone who is terminally ill is lonely.

    Or the standard every day question from friends and family, “How are you?”
    If you reply with any thing other than “fine”, no one wants to hear it and the subject changes.

    I have come to realize that people don’t really want to know how you are. Asking how you are doing is like saying “Hello” or “Good morning”.

  • DB

    I find it hard, when people want to tell me stories about someone else they know who has cancer…. Even if it’s the same cancer, every person’s body and health situation is different and the information they share is usually not relevant or accurate. Comparison stories should be avoided. There is no one size fits all in cancer.

  • Lung cancer patient

    “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” – that’s not so bad you know. The others are all offensive, but I don’t see the offense in this.

  • Karen Stoltzfus

    After my 25 week preemie was born, I hated when people said congratulations or how exciting. Congrats for what? That my body malfunctioned and almost killed my son??



  • Proudline

    As the surviving spouse of a husband who was a mass shooting fatality what grinds my gears are when people say “At least he didn’t suffer” in comparison to those who may have died of a painful battle with a terminal illness. How would anyone know what fear a person may have experienced at the loaded end of a gun? Or what their life may have been like before it was wrongfully taken?

    And the other thing that I find extremely irritating since I’ve been widowed (twice) is when I might ask a long time gal friend, who seemed always to be available or at least interested while my husband was alive, if she’d be interested in joining me for something and the automatic response is to blurt out that it would depend on what the husband might be doing at that time. Example: “Hi Bev, Farmer’s Market opens on Wednesday. Would you like to check it out with me?” Reply: “Hal is off that day so I’ll have to see what’s going on at home”.
    Who needs that! If I was interested in knowing what Hal was up to I would have asked or invited him directly!

  • Anna Hunter

    Hi Kirby, one of the old BA crew here just wanting to let you know you crossed my mind today. The last time we crossed paths I believe was in London at a disaster preparedness meeting many moons ago. I don’t remember the year but I certainly remember your sense of humor and your ease with everyone and how much you were respected. You are in my thoughts & prayers today.

  • Kevin Cooney

    What great advise the article on “what not to say”, is.

  • Kevin Cooney

    Hey Wendy Anne and I are here in Florida it’s a beautiful day and we were thinking of you.
    Kevin & Anne

  • Dennis M Janik

    I have the biggest heart….what’s wrong with building up my akwardness of just talking sexy & one on one video masturbating…over 4yrs..I feel so disconnected…

  • Maureen

    My full-term daughter died of an unsuspected heart defect the night we brought her home. I had contracted bronchitis while in the hospital and went back for a follow-up visit a few days after my daughter died. I still remember the doc asking me if I were experiencing post-partum depression! Needless to say, I was stunned. When I was able to speak, I replied angrily, “How can I tell the difference between post-partum and post-mortem depression?!?”

  • Susan Hacker

    Never forget you are loved, yesterday, today and always. That will never change.

  • Eija Oksanen

    I agree with all of these as well and use them every day with my 30-year old oldest daughter of 7 kids. She is yet again in the hospital! This is her 8th or 9th time and obviously something isn’t right about the treatments she is receiving. So I went through all of her old papers and found a diagnosis that I wasn’t aware of so I wanted to share this with her current social worker and she actually told me to be quiet! WOW! She wanted to get through whatever it was she was going through… well, I stopped listening to her at “be quiet”! That was it for me and her …. My ex-husband told her supervisor that she was extremely rude and wouldn’t let us talk at all during family meeting of all the times that she had arraigned! So I will not co-operate with her and I will request that my daughter get another social worker because yesterday this same woman left a message to my phone requesting that I bring my daughter’s disability card with her social security payments on it, so she can deposit my daughter to some motel!!!? She isn’t my daughter’s case worker or the state’s social worker, only a social worker from the hospital she has been in for the past 3-4 weeks. Yesterday my daughter was crying on the phone and being still suicidal and way worse than when she went into the hospital, so I am not sure what they are doing to her and I am really worried. Normally, she is very sweet and nice temperament when she isn’t like this. These hospital’s insist she has schizophrenia but an earlier therapist had diagnosed her as having a borderline personality disorder from trauma and a treatment for these 2 things are totally different! She has never received any psychotherapy for the trauma that happened to her just before she got sick and she has been getting sicker and sicker ever since no matter what anti psychotics they feed her, none of them have any effects on her, so you’d think some of them would start to think something is wrong?

  • Linda M Kirkpatrick

    “You’re young enough … you can marry again.” (I recall one 30-year-old widow re-telling those words 5 decades ago….) Better than “Call me if you need anything” might be changed to “I can do such-and-such for you or such-and-such if you need it … let me know if that will be helpful”

  • Karen Jo Ward

    When someone says to a patient: ” Well, if you think that your situation is bad, let me tell you about what I (or my sister, etc.) had to go through! And then goes on to tell a long story about themselves, showing GREAT insensitivity, while thinking that it will make the patient glad that they didn’t have to go through THAT! Aren’t they lucky! JUST DON’T SAY ANYTHING LIKE THAT!

  • Annette Phillips

    Don’t say ” I know how you feel”. Say. ” This was a terrible thing that happened. Do you want to talk abuut? ” I am so sorry when bad things happen to such nice people. Take a small box of cookies or candy or a rose.. ( My husband just died of Covid, and I wanted to talk about him.) These were some of the things that helped me,

  • darlene tenney

    Hopefully your thoughtful words will be heeded by many.

  • Nancy Warner

    Good morning David. Joel just left to walk over to a Safeway store not too far from us for his training session in the bakery department. He had just landed this job when he got sick with COVID. Now, finally, he is able to move ahead with it. Raquel is in Florida visiting with her boyfriend and family who have moved there. Boyfriend’s name is David. I tease her that she might have found a guy with a different name from her father, to make for less confusion. But she doesn’t think my point has any merit. (When I was a teenager my older brother married a Nancy; so, until I married, the two of us had the same name. The family decided I should switch to my middle name because she didn’t like hers–so who asked me???) I digress. At any rate, we are blessed with an abundance of Davids and treasure them all! Love you. Have a good day. Nancy

  • Emilie Bova

    She’s in a better place now.

  • Patrick Mallaley

    I have too many peeves to mention, but these are 2 simple ones and Im hearing it over and over. It happened with 4 family while members while visiting my grandmother in Palliative Care “ I hate visiting people in the hospital. “ yeah we are visiting so often because we enjoy being there to watch our loved ones die. I get crazy every time I hear it, Just gave them my stank eye and stoped hearing it it. The next one is “ I hate funerals”. How could this happen to me? I say why not me.

  • Claudia Silverwood

    I have arthritis. I go to the doctor in a great deal of pain, they take an X-ray. Then the doctor says “It’s only arthritis!” ONLY??? Really. Arthritis hurts. I think that is the MOST minimizing thing anyone can say. “It’s only . . . . . . . ” belittles what a person is feeling.

  • Becky

    excellent article! Thank you

  • Carolyn Foat

    A couple of weeks ago, I received biopsy results saying I have breast cancer. I immediately shared with close friends. Everyone has given me comforting responses except one who said “Oh My, What Stage is it?” I’m trying to sort why this upset me. None of my doctors have said anything about stages and I’m not sure that I would want to share if they had. Am I being too sensitive?

  • Trudy Allen

    Love you Molly.. Thinking about you right now.❤️?Aunt Trudy

  • Carl Wenzel

    Very happy to hear you are doing well and improving. God’s blessings to you every day.

  • Mary Craig

    Many people will say “I know how your feel”—they don’t!! Even if they have been thru similar situations. A Better way would be to say “I don’t know how you feel—-but I really care”.

  • Charlene Gingrich

    Do not try to take their grief away Do not deny their feelings !LISTEN … Give a hug, or hold their hand .its ok to cry together if that’s what’s happening…This is a process each person goes through a day at a time.. Offer your help if they may need anything done ,, cook a meal, groceries, pick up anything on the way to town. Keep in touch, BUT give space ?

  • Kelly Casey

    As a ordained interfaith chaplain, AND as a person who has lost both parents, and most recently my wife of 26 yrs to breast cancer, I have heard all kinds of “helpful” phrases and advice. My pet peeve is “G_d doesn’t give you more than you can handle…”I do NOT believe that G_d GIVES anyone of us suffering. I don’t believe G_d tests us with hardship. I know there are many many reasons that people suffer. I know that many factors are at play in order for us to face a variety of circumstances that may challenge us. I do know from others, and I believe from my own personal experience, that one can feel the presence of holiness in the midst of pain and loss.We are not able to see how free will and all the confluences are at work in our lives. We can turn to our spiritual resources when things seem overwhelming and unmanageable. Because we come from the same source, we are interconnected to all beings. When we do reach out to others in the midst of suffering we discover this holy connection to the Divine and to each other.

  • Laurie Savran

    After I lost my 17 year old grandson 9 months ago it is so difficult and painful to answer How are you doing?, or worse, how is your daughter doing?

  • Jessica A McCall

    If you don’t take care of yourself how will you care for anyone else.

  • Ruth S Eisen

    I lost my beloved son 3 1/2 years ago. He was disabled but lived a full and happy life. He was a college student.One of the worst things I heard was “Now he is free”.I wanted to scream “But, he is dead! He is not here with me! He wanted to live the way he was!

  • Carol Fischbach

    By losing my breasts to a double mastectomy, people would comment that now I will have “perky” breasts.

  • Rose Star

    How about something like… I am so sorry you’re going through this.

  • Marjorie

    Telling the caregiver that the person they are caring for is “selfish” and “unfair”, even though that person has a condition that severely impacts the ability to regulate emotions and thoughts. Then getting angry when the caregiver doesn’t take the bait and turning the anger on the caregiver for “not listening” and “being selfish” and “self-absorbed”. God save me from the self-appointed human saviors who take care of no one but themselves.

  • Frances

    “Call me whenever you need a break.” No not today, I didn’t mean now. Or tomorrow , I have to get my hair dyed. You should come. Oh you can’t? You really need to take care of you. You really have to learn to accept help. Why are you isolating? That’s not healthy. I’ll help but not this week; I’m soooo busy you know I have to get ready for my vacation. I have half an hour next Thursday. Oh that’s when you take her to PT? Oh can’t you accommodate me and reschedule it? I’m trying to help I want to see you. You need to accept help you know. Not to upset you or anything but it is kind of selfish to make this all about you.

  • Christina Rozzell

    one of my favorites people say that to me makes it worse is they’re in a better place NOT helpful thats like saying we weren’t enough

  • L. Brewer

    I am currently taking care of my mother who currently has dementia and is in bed 24/7. When she was younger a doctor told her to “think pretty thoughts”! Mother stood up and kneed him in a “tender area”. She then told him to “think pretty thoughts” and left. Mother is the 6th person I have been the caregiver for. Being I was “just a housewife” it was assumed by the family that I had time to care for whoever was sick. So much for my degree in Early Childhood Education and my medical ASL interpreting. My husband and I agreed I would stay home and raise our children until they graduated high school. Our last graduated in 2007, my husband died in 2004 after battling pancreatitis for 20 years. Surprise! I went from Mommy to monarch in 2 days! He came home from work said he didn’t feel well, went to bed, collapsed and was gone 2 days later. He was 49.The worse comments I can think of came from my cousins to my grandmother about 2 days before she passed. They had not seen her or talked to her in years but flew in from another state to visit when the end was near. They did not come in with “Hi” or “so nice to see you”, they walked through the door and said “Grandma, We are so sorry you are dying.” My grandmother turned her head away from them and just shook it.My daughter, who suffers from PTSD, is the only help I have with Mother. We tag team caring for her, she does morning and early afternoon, I do noon to dawn. I would love to hear anything from my niece and nephews or their parents. We see them 2-3 times a year for an hour or 2. They live approx. 40 minutes from us. I do get word when they are playing sports near us but no one stops by to say hello or see Grandma.

  • Ida Gice Smith

    We love you ? ♥️♥️♥️♥️

  • Rev Ida

    Love you Tony stay in the race you can do this We have you ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️

  • K. Workman

    I don’t want to upset anyone, but honestly, I’m surprised at a list of pet peeves like this. The 96 year old woman I care for would LOVE the opportunity to hear anything from friends or family. But they stay away because they don’t know what to say, are uncomfortable with her dementia, etc. When someone is at least present, demonstrating they care, and making some sort of an effort, how can you be peeved about that?

  • B Mesko

    My sister and aunt feel I should “broaden my shoulders ” and not “side against ” my elderly mother who has dementia and depression symptoms. She is in my care currently…24/7. Siblings are too busy to help with day to day care. I’m a wife, mother, and grandmother and I want to spend time with my family away from my mother. Tired of people trying to make me feel guilty for things they wont do themselves!

  • Betty Aalborg

    prayers for you Kaitlyn! stay strong so proud of you!

  • Pat Pickett

    The warrior comment – not good to assume everyone is in the same place using warrior language. Personally, I find it quite offensive and lacking in understanding of how violence is not recognized in our most basic communications.

  • Rene

    Worst things I heard people say:
    “Happiness is a choice” (to someone with in hospital for suicidal ideation)

    “We’re worried that you are getting addicted to the antidepressants.” (to a long-term primary caregiver whose husband just entered hospice)

    “Are you sure you aren’t just depressed/unmotivated/sleeping too long/overthinking?” (to someone recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder)

    “That is such a selfish act!” (to someone who lost a close friend to suicide)

    “You should really try xyz instead of those horrible medications the Drs are giving .” (usually along the lines of essential oils, keto, meditation, alkaline water… insert current fad)

    I especially agree with the unhelpfulness of “at least it’s not xyz,” “everything happens for a reason,” and “they are in a better place now.”

  • Kathy

    Hang in there….really…hanging by a thread caring for another. Love them so much but exhausting.

  • P.M.M.

    When someone is the caregiver for a parent with dementia, don’t say “be glad you still have your parent “ because you really don’t.

  • Sherry horner

    Don’t ask how are you? They don’t know how they are. They are just taking life minute by minute. Instead try we’ll get through this together

  • Pam W

    This too shall pass.
    Platitudes are never helpful.

  • Kristijosamuels@gmail.com


  • Ruth

    Being the sole CG of my husband, now living in a remote area & having health issues of my own, I’ve heard several of these. What I wish most is that people should stop trying to add to my endless to do list by telling me how important it is that I do this or that. I not only get this from medical providers, but also from family, “friends “, people who supposedly care about me. Or some variation of “You should’ve thought of this or that before…” when I don’t usually have time to brush my teeth, eat or shower before noon. I am NOT looking for pity! I only wish that people would occasionally think before they speak. Or, if something is considered to be so terribly important, maybe an offer could be made to do it for me? Also, just want to mention that cancer is not a blanket diagnosis. One person’s experience with it does not mean they understand what another is dealing with. Pancreatic cancer is in a league of it’s own. Telling someone “I’ve been through that & it’s not as bad as you think it will be” when they are literally fighting for their life is NOT the right thing to say to lift them up. Ijs.

  • Sue

    Hi there Sherry. Want you to know we are thinking of you and sending positive thoughts and healing energy your way. If there is anything you need please do not hesitate to ask. Love you,
    Joe and Sua

  • Marilyn Spangler

    Aleatha, We love you! Ed and I are seeing our doctors and getting prescriptions today. I hope we can see you soon. So proud of how you are facing your challenges! You looked so lovely in the picture with your beautician. ❤️

  • Alan Avent

    Been caring for my wife Mary for seven years (Altzeimers) and received great moral support from most, but had the most difficulty with my 45 year old daughter. She either managed to make me feel as though I was exaggerating the symptoms or would divert the conversation away to someone she knew that had similar or worse symptoms. I put it down to denial as I know she thinks the world of her Mum. It became so bad that I refused to discuss the issues with Mary unless she specifically asked.
    She is unable to give any help and visits about once a month. It has improved, but I am still hesitant to discuss Mary with her. Your advice on “What NOT to say was so true” Thank you

  • Priscilla Scott

    My husband went thru a horrible bout with throat and lung cancer. I think my pet peeve was when I would tell someone he died of lung cancer the first question was Did he smoke? Yes he smoked so that was to be expected was the feeling I got ….

  • Barbara. greenberg

    how to deal with a resident services at an assisted living facility who dismisses my problems by saying I am wrong and no time to. talk and dismisses me leaving me more upset than. before I expressed complaint

  • Ann Weber

    Thinking of you today. My children arrived yesterday. Stacey also brought her dog, Moxey. So my quiet house got a lot noisier. Yesterday was a beautiful day. Good day for walking. The kids are all going to do the Turkey Trot on Thursday. Larry is thinking of dating that Dirty Dozen race on Sat even though the actual race was the end of Oct. traditionally it was this Sat. So some os the people want to still ride the steepest hills anyway. Keep up the good work on your rehab. I miss you. Know that I love you. Ann.

  • Fred

    I’m sorry for your loss

  • Adrienne Fermoyle

    Like Ronda, I had a similar experience after my brother died of AIDS and everyone that didn’t kmow him, asked “was he gay?” At first, I when I told them he was, they got this look on their face that seemed to indicate “oh well then” as if it made it alright. So then I didn’t know what to say so I stopped telling people what he died of. but that didn’t feel right. So finally I said, he died, does it matter to you if he was gay or not? Most of them understood but some didn’t get it.

  • Louetta Seher

    I know this web site offers quality based articles and additional data, is there any other web page which presents these kinds of things in quality?|

  • Kristi Horner

    God only gives you what you can handle.

    C’mon now. If that were true .. my life would be even harder than it is! MY God does not treat people differently or unfairly give more pain to one family than another simply because I can handle this. This is totally unfair.

  • Shelley VanAllen

    the worst thing I heard during my cancer battle, and now with my husbands cancer battle is [you sure don’t look like you have cancer, and my husbands is terminal and people say it will go away and you’ll feel better soon are they Freaking stupid ?]

  • Teresa

    This is the best post ever! People need to know these are the worst things to say. I’ve been through stem cell transplant for leukemia and have heard all of the and they DO NOT help. Thanks.

  • Ronda Beaty

    Through my journey, I felt treated differently than other people with cancer. Some people, including medical volunteers, asked me if I smoked. I remember the first time someone asked me that question. I had already been carrying the guilt but had no one to talk to about it. I did smoke. For thirty years, off an on, throughout my life.
    I already felt responsible for my cancer. I was embarrassed to tell people I had lung cancer, because I knew the question was coming – Did you smoke? I almost felt as if I deserved my cancer. However, with time acceptance, and research, I learned everybody deserves a cure, treatment, and compassion, regardless of their smoking history.
    The pivotal moment for me was during an appointment for testing. I arrived at the hospital. I was walking from the reception area of the hospital to the scan area. It was pretty challenging walking, it was difficult to breathe. The volunteer escorting me was a darling (young spirited) older man whom engaged in conversation with me. He asked me, “did you smoke”? I just stopped. I took a small break and continued following behind him. I finally replied, “does it matter”? He stopped. We looked at each other, and he said, very lovingly, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t even think about what I was asking.” He continued, “no one deserves to have cancer, whether you smoked or not”. “I learned something today. I learned to never ask that question, ever again.” It was a teachable moment for both of us.
    I learned not to be ashamed to say, “I have lung cancer”.

  • Adrienne Kliger

    In the past, I have shared anecdotes about similar health issues as the patient, thinking this would signal understanding or empathy with their own situation, but I have come to believe this is actually annoying to the patient instead of helpful. It takes the focus off of them, where it actually belongs.
    As far as what I dislike hearing when I am the patient, I think someone telling me that Alternative or “Eastern ” medicine is a waste of my time is definitely not helpful .

  • Kelly

    My sister in law responded to my husband and I,after he told her I have breast cancer, well you already hated you’re hair anyway.

  • Kelly

    I have heard, you get a free boob job out of this. Really! I don’t really feel like it’s free, chemo and radiation for half a year was the cost ?

  • rosalie balderston

    “You must have a sense of freedom now”. or “What are you going to do now?” or “You’ve had a lot of stress and you need to get away and have a break. Have a holiday.” I sold my home and moved in to the family home to care for my aging mother 10 years ago. As her health began to decline 5 years ago I gave up my job to become her full time caregiver. She developed myeodysplastic syndrome and had a bad heart. But for all that her mind never declined and so between blood transfusions when she was feeling well she loved going for drives, going to a restaurant for lunch or dinner and lots of other stuff. Caregiving for an elderly parent isn’t always easy but the good times certainly outweigh the bad. She hated having to go into hospital as these got more frequent and I could see her frustration and fear as she slowly declined and her transfusions became closer between each other till they no longer worked for her. She passed away a month today. No. I don’t have a sense of freedom. I can’t get past this feeling that I have to go and get her from hospital or from the end of one of her transfusions. Or that I need to visit her with some item I’ve packed to bring to her. Or at night making a meal for her that she would like as she had got fussy with food. Or warming her clothes in front of the heater and helping her dress quickly so she stays warm as she felt the cold. Or making sure her favourite warm clothing was washed and dried. Shopping and washing and meal making is strange. I look at two empty spots. Hers and my small elderly dog who died only a few months before her. I don’t know what I’m going to do now. The family home will be sold in a few months. I don’t know where I will be. Not in this expensive city. I’m nearly 59 and have my own health problems and am on a waiting list to see an orthopedic surgeon. So I have gone off the small amount the govt has given me as caregiver to less money on a sickness benefit. So now I have a growing fear and uncertainty about my future. Going on a holiday? Can’t see how that’s going to help. And as for a sense of freedom? What a thing to say. I miss her like crazy. I was both caregiver and daughter and for a long time. People don’t realize the bond that forms. I don’t know how to move on from that caregiving structure toward an unknown future. I live in NZ.

  • Kasey

    You’ve got this. Worst thing to say to someone with cancer. No, “we don’t got this”. We are scared and facing an uncertain future.

  • Fran Morgan

    Don’t cry. You have to be strong for your family.

  • Kathleen Ziolkowski

    I have High School friends who just lost their only son to Colin cancer. They have mentioned hearing some of these same comments and how much it hurt. They said they would rather not talk about their son at all which I feel would make the grieving process even harder. Expressing love and giving small care packages are signs that you care.

  • Louise

    “I know just how you feel. I went through that with my mother/father.” Caregiving for a life partner is not in the same universe with caring for a parent. Both represent major loss, but losing a life partner means the loss of a support system, physical and emotional. Better to say, “I know this is hard. Can I help with ______ (running errands, babysitting, getting groceries, etc.) And please don’t bring me a casserole!

  • Susan Cooper

    I didnt lose my husband. He died. I have started asking if anyone has found him. Nasty but ” Sorry you’ve lost your husband”. is just stupid.

  • Mel Wagner

    Julie and Tom, Both of you have such strong Faith and are such an inspiration to all us. Mel and I love you dearly and we are looking forward to Julie getting better and getting the transplant. We remember both of you with our daily rosary. Looking forward to Julie getting back home.

  • Marilynn K

    NEVER say to a young mother who has just lost an infant, ” At least you’re young you can have another one.” Really. How can you totally disregard the life that she just lost !?

  • Deb d

    “Your hair will grow back” was something I didn’t appreciate hearing when I lost my long hair to chemo, knowing that it would take years before I would look (and feel) like myself again. I appreciated when someone would say “you inspire me.”

  • Francesca Aragon

    We all experience losses and likely there will be more of them no matter what we do or do not do, right or wrong. What I hear in so many of these posts is that people who make the less than comforting comments don’t know what to say or how to say it. They are all afraid…afraid of being too close to death or a person’s pain, mental or physical. Are they trying to shore up the one who is sick or grieving? or are they trying to shore up themselves, because it could be them or their family who is suffering . And it could happen in an instant, out of the blue…an accident, a wrong turn, a bad decision, a sudden moment of inattention. We are all so vulnerable. Perhaps it is best to say little and speak heart to heart only, through an embrace.

  • Evelyn Johnson

    Love you and am praying for you throughout the day!

  • Uncle Bob

    From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli. You’re a good man Michael. I pray for you every night. Love you Man.

  • De

    A friend from Midwest of 50 years plus who is a Christian and prays for me and who I thought was a dear close friend comes to the East Coast for several days. Arrives the day after my husbands Memorial and makes NO effort to come see me as I suffer. My husband died after a year long battle with an aggressive brain tumor She continues to call I am not in the state of mind to tell her how I feel. So sad and hypocritical.

  • elaine dubray

    What really grinds my ears is advice from so-called “friends” who advise me to seek employment at fast food restaurants and other low level jobs, because I happen to be a professional with an advanced degree who got terminated from work as a contractor, from an at will employer, and not able to find suitable work due to age discrimination. Then these idiots tell me there is no age discrimination. (I’m female and not a veteran).

  • Jaclyn Beck

    “It’s because of all of those pesticides and gmo foods that they got cancer. If they were on a clean raw vegan diet they wouldn’t have to go thru chemo, and they probably wouldn’t have gotten cancer in the first place.” This completely minimizes the patient and the family’s pain, places blame on the individual and environment saying that the cancer could’ve been avoided if such and such happened. F that. Cancer is still a mystery. It’s genetic as much as and maybe if not more than environmental. It’s a superior way of thinking, implicitly judgmental, saying avoiding it was completely in the persons control. Or that if you don’t undergo chemo that you’re better off. Or that bad thoughts/bad eating/bad environment got you there. Any of that might be true, and yet there’s no proof!!! And it is hurtful and harmful to say these things to patients and their families. Unless they are absolutely receptive to this, don’t go on a soap box touting your cleaner healthier lifestyle as being an answer. A friend told me this—“my friend’s mom has pancreatic cancer and she is in remission after a raw vegan diet.” She was in remission for a month. And died two months later. My dad was in remission for 10 months. He followed a different protocol. Please do not say these things. Off an alternative only if people are receptive, and if they aren’t, shut the f up.

  • chris m hampton

    I’m Born With Autism and I got Banned from going to the krew youth building because they don’t understand autism and i’m protesting for the voices and rights of special needs people with autism disabililities down syndrome across america and around the world

  • Florence

    When my husband died, my friend thoughtlessly said, “everyone has problems.” What would have comforted me would be…”I’m so sorry! I’m here for you!” Instead I felt shut off, like she didn’t want to hear anymore.

  • Michele Carter

    My father is dying of stage 4 lung cancer. Its hell to watch a loved one quickly get so ill. My father means the world to me. I’m devastated. Granted hes 83 years old..but was a very very young 83..was very active and golfed everyday..then..everything changed in a blink of an eye…he was diagnosed at the end of may..with light cemo treatments..they gave him 6 months tops..( cant operate because of his heart) I’ve been ok this last week..but still having such anxiety..I feel so desperate not to lose my dad…that if it was possible..I’d give him a few of my years left on earth so he could enjoy some more days..and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought this..the is no sugar coating death..and the pain inflicted by it..physical or mental..I dont have any idea like others..what happens when we die…but I sure hope someday I’ll get to see my dad again and other loved ones that have passed. My heart goes out to all the people everyday that loses a loved one..?

  • Chris Matthies

    He’s been lost-not he died.

  • Midge

    I’ve been diagnosed with bladder cancer. This cancer is one that is highly spreadable. My oncologist told me that with most cancers, if one can get to 5 years, you’re pretty much in the clear. With mine, I was told to get to 10 years. And then, people actually have told me that at least I don’t have one of those serious cancers. I really don’t think it can get more serious.

  • Joan henderson

    How about I’m worried you are getting bitter! From one who travels the world. Than she calls my best friend and repeats this quote. She did this at a lovely restaurant we were having lunch at. She also told me I had a small group of friends and that was my world. She is no longer my friend! I take my day as it comes getting through each issue one at a time.

  • Penny

    I don’t want to hear “Sorry for your loss.” It sounds so impersonal, so cliche to my ears, as if they’re reading it out of a sympathy card.

  • Eileen

    Having endured two different types of malignant cancer, the one thing I learned was how valuable laughter is. When I am asked what helped me through all the surgeries, radiation and chemo, I tell them I tried to find something to laugh at everyday. I disagree about positivity – a positive attitude makes you feel stronger. Believe me, the first time I was diagnosed, I was ready to check out. My family pressured me to try for as long as I could. I did and amazingly, I found I was so much stronger than I ever new. What works for some may not work for others. Know your audience!

  • Kathy

    Someone said to me, “Oh, my friend had that, she’s fine now.” I had just been diagnosed with cancer. My own doctors could not even reassure me that early that things were going to be “fine.”

  • Marilyn Edwards

    They’re in a better place.

  • Cathy

    For me it was “well he isn’t inpain anymore”
    I was

  • JoAnn Youmans

    While it’s very nice that someone sends a card with the death of a loved one, I don’t like it when someone says “I know what you’re going through” unless they have gone through it themselves. I personally would rather have a comforting Bible verse. I also make my own cards so I can express my own personal thoughts. Thought this was a really good article. Gives me new and different ways to express sympathies and love. Thank you.

  • Delores penn

    We Have this

  • Noname

    My daughter had at least six miscarriages and was taking hormone shots and lots of meds. I was so upset and a friend said to me, “ Not everyone is meant to have children,” with a smile on her face. I will never forget that.

  • Margie Fisher

    God only gives you what you can handle.
    God only gives special children to special people.
    If anyone can handle this you can.

    When my daughter was born with Down syndrome Christians were the ones I couldn’t handle being around. It was as if I was singled out for his special blessing of pain. I needed to grieve, I needed to feel the impact of disappointment and the confusion of “where is God” and allow myself to process things. People (we) want to fix life and make it right and we can’t. We need to enter life step by step and gradually absorb it sometimes. I didn’t want answers to escape my problem I wanted to know how to live with it. I know God has an overall purpose for all of us but sometimes I think things are random and not assigned some eternal meaning. But that doesn’t mean I can assign meaning in time. While God may be aware and in control of everything I just don’t think God is the only one who orchestrates the things that happen. There are many players in the game of life.

  • Sandi Bruns

    People often put their own religious beliefs in their “comforting” comments…”She’s in a much better place” or “soon she’ll be on the right hand of God”… Rather than be offended by such comments at a time of stress or loss, I tried to think they were saying to ME what would comfort them, and just appreciate them for going to the trouble of reaching out and caring. Don’t ever be paralyzed by fear that you’ll say the “wrong” thing.

  • Dominique Steinberg

    Social Work 101 = Don’t offer platitudes to people in need. Find real ways to offer real help for people in real situations. For example, CustomElderCare offers resources to improve quality of life for both people in care and their caregivers. Now THAT’S real help! Come give us a visit. Dr. Dominique Steinberg, Founder/Principal

  • Jo Ann Circosta

    Only about three weeks after losing my husband, a friend and her husband wanted me to have dinner with them. About a third of the way through the evening she blurted out: “So, what’s your plan?” All I could think to say was: “I have no plan.” It was an exceptionally crude and ill-timed remark and I have never forgotten the affect nor have I ever felt the same about my friend.

  • Nancy Lou Bender

    Everything happens for the best.

  • Eileen Smith

    If you haven’t been there it is difficult to know what to say. Everyone’s journey is different. Speaking as a survivor just send love and support. A positive note in the mail, a home cooked meal or offer to clean or9 walk the dog or do some laundry.. A quick visit is welcome but long ones are tiring and sometimes the patient feels that they have to “be on top” and smiling when all they want to do is sleep.

  • Karen Maya

    It’s a journey.
    You must have (done something to bring this about)
    Have you tried X?

  • Nancy

    “My goodness, girl, you are SO thin — you need to put on some weight!”

    Couldn’t they just say, “That dress is so becoming! I love the color on you.”
    (This works for everyone who has lost OR gained weight. It’s not as if they aren’t already aware of it!)

  • Carol and Larry Smith

    Paul, I will be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers every day! God’s got you!!! Sending good wishes!!!

  • Michele Lyn Stuart

    I’ve got a son whom is quadriplegic with Cerebral Palsy. My own sister told me “well atleast you’ll always have a baby.” I will never, ever forget that statement. And it’s been 40 years. And yes, I’m still caring for him. Fulltime, alone.

  • Gale

    You should be greatful because……

  • Judy

    “When I went through this very same thing, I (fill in the blank–prayed, exercised, whatever) and you SHOULD too.
    “Should” should never be used. Comparing your experience without prompting isn’t okay either.

  • Judy K. Underwood

    Saying “I love you” is much better than “You are loved.” Active voice is more powerful than passive voice.

  • Kathryn Taylor

    Oh well. Life goes on. Don’t be miserable. Words spoken to me following the recent sudden death of my husband.

  • Gina

    “Out of sight, out of mind”, To someone with a severe weakened immune system….” You cannot be fearful of germs” , ” “I cannot deal with this situation. . It is out of my comfort zone” A prayer from a nurse.. “Lord, help her with your grace to accept her husband will die”, ” I have had enough and done with caregiving.” ” I have a right to a life”. Reply: Um…don’t I also have a right to a life and need a break as well? ” Response: ” Well, you married him”. With no help, breaks or time for rest and I was told, ” Take care of yourself” ” I helped for _____ amount of time. Time’s up. I want to have fun”. “We will have to get together for lunch.”… Months, years later and still waiting. “Call me if you need anything”….then silence from our closest friends. ” Many of these statements have been followed by ” Trust God”.

    It is not until one walks the journey of suffering or caregiving that people have blinders removed to the power of words that bring encouragement or discouragement.

  • Patricia M

    You’ve got this! And it could be worse! Both grind my teeth.

  • Yvette Derby

    You’re just fine. You’re a strong woman. They’ve really gotten better with that treatment. It doesn’t help to minimize someone’s health problem… They are scared and need help and support. Company would be great. Here I sit all alone all the time. No one visits.

  • Beth Maynes

    When my 14 year old daughter had cancer a friend knew my husband’s mom and dad died of cancer and said, “I almost didn’t marry my husband because of the cancer genes in his family.”
    Thank goodness our doctor had educated us and said they don’t know what causes her cancer and I educated my friend!

  • Laura Winters-Duke

    Tomorrow will be better. Sometimes it’s not. Maybe just, “I’m here.” And then make sure you are.

  • Kathryn Taylor

    Just keep smiling. Life goes on. Eat quality foods not quantity. Said to me by a shop assistant yesterday in response to my comment that my husband died 2 months ago and I am losing weight through stress. How heartless can a stranger be?

  • Kelli L. Osborne

    I hope you don’t have Dr. –insert name–he’s terrible. And he was my doctor.

  • arlene

    “What’s on your bucket list?” hints that YOU may kick the bucket sooner than planned. It also puts an emphasis on future plans at a time when the future may revolve around more medical procedures, tests, waiting periods.

    Offer to help with the immediate “to do” instead.

  • Kara

    I have gotten a lot of.. you look good, at least you don’t look sick. I have a mix a autoimmune diseases, and once I start looking sick it will be because things have turn very bad, it annoys me when people tell me that.

  • Kristin

    This post seems to focus on the difficulty we all have with not being perfect. When awful, painful circumstance happen- of course, no one knows what to say. When I was going through cancer treatment- I tried to enjoy the love I felt from family and friends- even ones who said ridiculous things.

  • Gail Cambpell

    There is always someone worse off than you.

  • Karen

    My husband had a major stroke three years ago. He does well in many ways, as it left him able to remember everything from before the stroke. However, he has difficulty with “executive function”, which amounts to all the things we do and say every day and don’t think anything of it. So when we say he has trouble with his computer and can’t really use it – they say “Boy, me too .” Well, no, they can still ultimately do what they want to do – he can’t! He also sleeps a lot which is very limiting – so people say “sure wish I could do that” – so I sometimes say, “no, you don’t, you’d miss half of your days.”

  • Stuart Shaw

    God bless you Robert Ericson.. May God continue to richly bless you sir. I love your story, married 62 and a half years and to your best friend! What a blessing that is to others, to me, to hear your words. I will pray for you. Right now.
    Dear Almighty God
    Please watch over your son Robert, please bless him with many invitations, even if he is the third or fifth wheel, from married friends. Please bless him with relational living among a community of caring friends. Please place in the hearts and minds of his friends the thought “Let’s Call Robert and invite him to have fellowship with us today and tonight”. Please remind Robert’s friends that his best friend is missing and that life for Robert can be lonely even with a strong faith. Please Dear God be with Robert, remind him he is a mighty oak, bless him with many friends, new friends, many social opportunities. And please God encourage Robert and send him out to be a continual encouragement to others. There are so many lonely others and so please make Robert your instrument to fellowship with them. And just bless Robert with friends who take time to be with him.
    In your name God, in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and in the name of the Holy Spirit, the Triune God.


    Call me if you want any help. Then when ask for help it’s sorry busy with the family, work or on holiday and you have to go back into your dark deep depression hole.

  • Avis Wright

    When you’ve gone through cancer and some one ask….did they get it all….1st of all you really don’t have the answer to that question and I once read somewhere that cancer is like a terrorist….so true.

  • Joyce Bowser

    “I know exactly what you are going through.”
    Um, no you don’t. You aren’t me

  • Sarah Kehlenbeck

    He / she is in a better place. Really? Instead of in my loving arms? It was all I could to to not slap the person silly when I suddenly lost my 54 year old husband to a stroke 16 years ago. I was devastated, as were our 2 adult children.

  • Debra Frigulti

    I had a post knee surgery nurse come into my room and stand there with her arms folded and say,”I think you need some tough love”. The fact that I was in excruciating pain meant nothing to her. no compassion, nothing. I hope someone, someday shows her the compassion and mercy she failed to show me.

  • MollySue

    I don’t agree with alot of the comments. When I had cancer and I was very sick and people would say positive things and it was hard to hear sometimes but they only had my best interest at heart. Things could always be worse and sometimes you just have to think positive thoughts to get you through the tough times. I am great now and cancer free, my hair has grown back and I thank all the caring people who kept me in their thoughts and prayers. Now I do the same for others.

  • Marie Keehl

    When your mother tells you your father would still be alive if it wasn’t for you, I was only 19 at the time and just came home from the service (Navy) 1973. ?

  • Reneejardy

    God only gives you as much as you can handle!! I absolutely hate this because does it mean the stronger I am the more God will “ give” me because he knows I can handle it? If that’s the case let me be weak and maybe God won’t “ give” it to me !!

  • PJ

    Do not talk about people who died of the same disease the ill person has!

  • Michelle

    My husband passed away a year ago in April from pancreatic cancer. I retired on the same day viewing both events as life changing. 2nd marriage for both of us. We only knew each other for 10 years and married for 3, but we were so in love with each other! I never really believed in soul mates until I met him. I sold my home of 35 years to live in his community. No family here and no real friends. I try reaching out and going to events but it’s hard alone.
    Some worse things people say to me is “he lived longer than most with that kind of cancer” and then proceed to tell me of someone they knew with the same diagnosis. Or “now you are free to go and do whatever you want to.” We loved to travel but I find no joy in making those kind of plans. Perhaps in time it won’t be such an ache in my heart but I think when you are the caregiver and watch someone you love so much literally melt away from you it’s something you never get over.

  • Robert Ericson

    My wife passed away in July, 2018. We were married 62 1/2 years. We did everything together, she was my best friend. I am no longer a couple and so many things married couples do is to get together with other couples, out to eat, an evening of games, take a trip or cruise, sit together in church, go to plays, etc. I am now the third or fifth wheel. When together I am always aware of the empty chair or sitting in the back seat of the car alone. After church we used to always go out for lunch with other couples, now I drive home alone and eat alone. One of the best things others can do for a widow or widower is to be sure they are included in going places, being invited to their homes for dinner or dessert, or to a play, concert or other special events. An empty house is very lonesome. Even a telephone call is helpful. I have been getting together with others whose spouses have passed away to encourage and to be encouraged. Great help. Words that I wish people wouldn’t say: How are you doing? Most who say this do so because they don’t know what else to say. Unless they are really close fiends who really care the others could care less. Don’t use take aways. Example: Ï’m so sorry over _________ passing away. And then begin to tell you about their mother’s death. Don’t say I’ll pray for and then forget to do it. Be sincere. Maybe to offer to pray right then. Don’t be afraid to talk about the deceased. I want others to remember my wife. Don’t say we need to have over and then forget to follow up. Don’t say you lost a special person. I really loved her. When while she was living the speaker seldom initiated time together. Don’t say, Ï don’t know what to say.” If that is the case don’t say anything. If you say this at least say I am so sorry.

  • Pamela

    My husband’s doctor told me when she diagnosed him with Frontal Temporal Dementia, “at least it is not Alzheimers, FTD is the fun dementia “

  • CMM

    When someone says “we’re all going to die of something. I could be walking across the street and hit by a car!” Ok, so that somehow made my life threatening diagnosis somewhat easier to take!

  • Linda Miller

    You are so strong. Reality is that I am barely hanging on. If I am so strong, they really don’t have to help me.

  • Pamela Roebuck

    Thank you for sharing this. When my granddaughter passed I wanted to scream when people kept telling me that she was in a better place. In my understanding, our Erin wanted more than anything to be with us. It felt cruel and patronizing.

  • Sandy P.

    At 42, I was diagnosed with a grapefruit sized brain tumor. Generally the type of tumor it was would be benign but in my case, it contained a plasmacytoma, a cancerous tumor. They were able to remove most of the tumor with a total of 5 brain surgeries and shrunk what remained with 25 radiation treatments but I was initially paralyzed on my left side. Its been two years and I have regained some function in my leg but my arm, hand, and foot are not responding.

    My biggest pet peeve is when people say they know what I’m going through or they understand my frustration. Unless you tape one hand in your pocket and use a cane with the other to shufflestep around the house, unless you worked two jobs for 18 years and suddenly can’t work anymore, unless you can no longer sleep in a normal bed, love your spouse, pick up and hug your kids and grandkids…. Please don’t tell me you understand my struggle.

  • Joan

    Closure. I hate that word when it’s used regarding a loved one. As time goes on you’ll have closure regarding your mother. As if you can wipe out all memories with your loved one. Wrong.

  • Larry Fairbairn

    The worst thing I kept hearing 20 years ago was, “We know that in all things GOD works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). We..my wife and I…heard this many times in the months after we found that our third child…unborn at 20 weeks gestation… had a terminal birth defect anencephaly — the absence of the brain.
    The passage Isaiah 41:10 is much better…”So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” this was shared with us within a week after we were given the news by the doctors…. and was utilized for Christopher’s funeral text. passages shared from NIV

  • Larry Fairbairn

    The worst thing I kept hearing 20 years ago was, “We know that in all things GOD works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). We..my wife and I…heard this many times in the months after we found that our third child…unborn at 20 weeks gestation… had a terminal birth defect anencephaly — the absence of the brain.
    The passage Isaiah 41:10 is much better…”So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” this was shared with us within a week after we were given the news by the doctors…. and was utilized for Christopher’s funeral text.

  • Anchor

    What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. My wife had a nervous breakdown after our daughter died. Didn’t make her stronger, or make me stronger.

    This is God’s plan. Someone did tell me that God had something better to do with my daughter. I don’t believe in God, and even if I did , I’d want my daughter here, not in heaven.

    Saying nothing. Thanks a lot. Thanks for walking across the street so you didn’t have to talk to me about my daughter dying. Thanks for no one saying anything when my wife on 3 hours otice abandoned me and our 2 surviving children.

    Offering to help, or simply listening, in any crisis or caregiving situation (and I’m now caregiving for my kids, a sick sister and a mother with Alzheimers) can mean lot, so please offer to help, or at least to listen.

  • Suellen Brahs

    When your spouse has dementia and someone says “At least you still have them with you “
    No, you don’t!

  • Lyn Jewett

    What I have difficulty with are the words “I don’t need to know the details. Don’t tell me what you’re going through. “ That not only sounds to me like they don’t want to be engaged with what I’m going through but also it sounds like they’re too busy to care. Plus it screams that I’m not important to them period.

  • Melanie

    I was TEXTED by a historical friend, but realized she changed and became an up to date BULLY: her text was “ So, are you bald yet?”

  • Barbara Kidder

    These are so true. We are going thru a terminal illness with my 32 yr old son. His dad died from Glioblastoma 7 yrs ago. We heard such thoughtless comments along the way. Just understand when someone is going thru a difficult time, be thoughtful.

  • Pandora Lay

    At least it’s not cancer was said to me by a orthopedic doctor here in Tulsa that I trusted! Dr Richard Drake. Needless to say, I’m searching for a more sensitive and trusting doctor. Will never forget when he said it to me!

  • Jone Lane

    Hi Ray. I know your Grandpa Mike and Grandma Kathy. I used to teach with your grandpa. Now we are in a book club and enjoy discussing the books we read. I’m sorry this is happening to you. I am sending love and prayers to you!

  • Donna Welker

    When I told a friend that my husband and I were infertile, she commiserated a couple of minutes and then bluntly said, “Oh well. Enough said.” All my hopes and dreams had ended. And now I’m old and have no family.

  • Catherine Hardman

    I was diagnosed with lung cancer in July of 2004. Some people I knew were telling everyone I would be dead by Christmas. Almost 14 years later, I am still here. Early diagnosis and surgery left me on my feet.

  • Eileen Litchfield

    disagree with # 7. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. Leaves the bereaved the opportunity to speak, or not.

  • Patricia Carol

    These are spot on. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, we heard all the clichés, think positive thoughts, God has not given you more than you can handle, this is his plan! Oh, and let’s not forget, you will be healed if you have enough faith! Nope! Positive thoughts, prayer, faith, he died anyway. Just do not put it on the patient that it is their fault that they aren’t healed!

  • Rosalyn Weselak

    Unhelpful, “do your chemo & move on, you have to think positive”. Rather say “ my thoughts are with you as you go through chemo , let me know if there is anything I can do to make it easier for you “

  • Jacky S

    When my unmarried brother died a couple “kind” people said “at least he didn’t have a family”.

  • Bonnie McClain

    You should be glad you’ve had as many good years together, a lot of people never have.

    It could always be worse.

    Remember to count your blessings.

  • Bonnie McClain

    You should be glad you’ve had many good years together, a lot of people never have.

    It could always be worse.

    Remember to count your blessings.

  • Deb Young

    “I know exactly how you feel. “ No you really don’t. Every person and situation is unique. This also tends to switch the focus off of the patient or caregivers situation to your own. Instead….. “I’m so sorry you are going through this. I love you and am here for you 24/7.”

  • SusanW

    “But you look so GOOOOOODDDDD!”. If I hear that one more time….. grrrrr.

  • Carol

    “What stage is it”? Does it matter? It doesn’t. Instead, how about, I’m sorry, I’m here for you.
    “So you’ll be fine, right”? Just don’t say that. It’s not supportive at all. That question is about you wanting me to be fine. You’re uncomfortable with my illness and you need to minimize it to feel better.
    Or, “I don’t know how you do it”. I hope you never find out. But you know what? You would do the same thing in my shoes because you would chose life and health too.

  • Janice Brymer

    My pet peeve is when people say, “I don’t know how you can cope with this. I couldn’t do it.” Guess what? yes you can and you would because you have no other choice. It implies that the other person feels that they somehow love their family more than you do.

  • al krier (cousin al)

    Fred & cricket, The priest contacted me yesterday and told me to back off my praying a little as god is a little overwhelmed with all my request, but assured me you & cricket are on the top of the list. think about you guys everyday and love. cousin al

  • Patricia Petry

    My Personal Favorite is
    “God Knew ____was to good for this world So He took Him/Her Home with Him”
    Made my Blood Boil when I saw this on someone’s (who lost their Great GrandDaughter during birth) & it took God’s Strength & EVERYTHING in me not to Comment back or send this Person a Instant Message He/She would Never Forget…

  • Marcia

    CaringBridge is a great idea. We can know about our friend/loved one without being intrusive and we can send out love and support via CareBridge’s comment section. Thank you so very much for making this great tool available.
    Melissa, we love and appreciate your dairying and keeping us informed.
    Anne, we love you and think about you often. We think of your many talents – especially when you made the wonderful Norwegian cookie tower when we had a Norwegian dinner in our little dinner group. That was amazing and added so much to the evening and it’s theme.
    Love you,
    Dick and Marcia

  • Julie Friedeberger

    “Be positive” and “Think Positive thoughts” are my main bugbears.

    Also: never tell a carer that it’s her/his job to keep the person’s spirits up. S/he are probably just as sad, despondent, despairing as the person themselves.

    Another geargrinder is “Everything will be all right” (particularly when said to someone just diagnosed with cancer. You don’t know that – the the person knows you don’t know it. You’re saying it, usually out of fear, because it reassures YOU, but it only tells the person that they can’t tell you how they feel.

  • Lingard Ellis

    I am from UK, I was diagnosed of (COPD) in 2018 and I have tried all possible means to get cured, i even visited pulmonologist but all to no avail, until i saw a post in a health forum about a herbal doctor from Africa who prepare herbal medicine to cure all kind of diseases including COPD, at first i doubted if it was real but decided to give it a try, when i contacted this herbal doctor via email the clinic sent me the COPD herbal medicine through courier service, when i received this herbal medicine, Dr Hassan gave me step by instructions on how to apply it, when i applied it as instructed i was totally cured of this deadly disease within 15 weeks of usage, if you are suffering of this diseases you can as well Contact this great herbal doctor via his email solutionsherbalclinic gmail com or visit their website at www solutionhealthherbalclinic com

  • Jen

    “I know how you feel… It could be worse… At least it’s not cancer… You don’t seem like you’re in much pain… You should think more positively… You need to move on/get over it… You don’t look good. Are you okay?… You never know what life brings… You should get a job/eat healthier/exercise.” I could go on, but I’ll stop there. Saying nothing sucks, but it’s much better than the insensitive comments above.

  • Dana wyles

    “We’re all going to die sometime.”
    (Yes, someone actually said this to me about my very sick sister.)

  • Joanne

    You will not regret caring for your mom. I already regret it . I have given up my freedom to have her let my brother move back in. To put up with everyone and everything taxing my brain> The things that I actually do for mom I do not mind I mind the extra. Snow shoveling taking doen and disposing of tree branches, listening to her whine about food thats not up to her standard. And most of all whats Marc doing, has he been upstairs did you make enough for him…or if I have a personal challenge…marc can do it better. And then there is where can I go I have no job. MC thinks I can move out and commute to come here its like they all think I am obligated. I stepped up because it was right at the time. I am now wondering when to step down.

  • Mike Ford

    “You need to get yourself a real job.” My father kept saying to me after I got in a car accident once. Okay, so I know I needed a better job at the time, and I fortunately wasn’t physically injured in that accident, but telling me I need to get a better job is actually more harmful than helpful, because I was trying to deal with the trauma of being in an accident. The truth is a better job may not be readily available immediately and you shouldn’t encourage your loved one to hastily jump into something he or she doesn’t think he or she would be happy at. Your loved one who got in an accident still needs time to grieve. Then when he or she is emotionally ready, he or she can look for suitable employment. Otherwise trying to fix your loved one’s situation like that is like trying to tell someone with depression to just snap out of it. But it doesn’t work that way.

  • Kay Murtland

    At least she’s not suffering anymore/didn’t suffer very long. My mom started having back pain last June. It got worse and worse. She had back surgery in October to repair a fractured vertebrae. Just over a month later, she was gone. She had metastatic lung cancer. It’s still hard to believe that she is gone. I wish I could have had more time with her.

  • Pat Barnum

    She’s in a better place now! Someone said that to me when my sister died twenty years ago. I know they were trying to be helpful, but it isn’t helpful at all!

  • Annabelle

    My friend just died- we were tracking his journey on this site, and Caring Bridge sent an email that said “send xxx words of encouragement.” Really?! He’s dead- pretty sure there are no words that will bring him back. Not impressed or pleased. No need for these types of emails, thank you very little.

  • Joey

    I agree with Renee Jarde…Today I spent the day trying to find ways around what stresses me only to be judged by my mother saying when I am down it is hard on my brother and her. I was not down just a bit overwhelmed apparently speaking up gets them upset because I may stop doing what I am doing and he would have to stepup. he sleeps all day I am not allowed to say anything that seems judgmental when its just a fact. hes quit his job a third time and I feel tapped living here. But God does not give more than. I am going to keep my mouth shut but I am also going to find something of a plan for me.

  • MamaBear

    My sister compared my husband’s death to breaking up with her first long term boyfriend. Um, no. You choose to leave him, you didn’t spend years caring for him as cancer slowly killed him, you were not left alone to raise his four pre-teen children.
    Two years later and I still can’t believe how clueless she was. Her wedding two months after his death was torture!

  • Connie Vazquez

    If a person knows me personally, I hate it when he/she says “I’m sorry for your loss.” I didn’t lose a wallet, a phone…I lost my son. If you know my son’s name, say it. For example, “I’m so sorry about Franky, etc.”
    Or how about “God wanted another angel in Heaven.” Don’t get me wrong. I am a Christian. I’ve been in church all of my life. I believe God does things for a reason. And I have suffered the loss of a child. But I don’t believe that God, with all the people living in Heaven already, would take my child because He needed another Angel in Heaven.

  • Christine Mason

    You’ll be fine

  • Gayle Epling

    When someone loses a child and the say “he/she was my ONLY child”. It’s not like that those of us with more than one child would say, “I hate it that he/she died, but I do have another one”. It’s the most ignorant statement ever.

  • Renee jardy

    God doesn’t give you more than u can handle. So does this mean if ur strong God will keep giving you things because you can handle it????? Or does it mean God is giving this to you because he knows you are strong and can take it- so the stronger u t the more shit u will get?!? If so let me be weak and then maybe I wont get any of this!!! And Am I supposed to believe my God who loves me so”gave” this to me because he loves me???

  • Linda Lou Miller

    I was shocked at things people said when my mom died. Like, well, at least she went fast..it’s better that way.
    Well,now you can get on with your life now that you don’t have to care for your mom…like my life would ever be the same without her.
    It could be worse-Really???
    It was not meant to be..
    Everyone dies it’s a part of life so you need to only think of the good times and move on. This was only have hours of her passing…
    Don’t cry. Tears won’t bring her back she’d want you to be happy and smiling. Can I at least have her funeral first?
    I wish I could say these we’re just a few of them but the list was long and shocking. The best part however is that now I know what not to say and do since I have been on the receiving end of it.

  • Jane Fatino

    Having lost my son, people would comment that they could not live if something happened to their child. The inference being that they cared more for their child than I did.

  • Joy

    It could be worse! My father says this all the time and it always rubs me the wrong way. It minimizes the situation and stomps on my feelings. I’d love to hear him say something like “I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It must be hard.” Validates my feelings.

  • Peggy Sparks

    Also don’t say, “now it’s time for OUR medicine” or “time for OUR bath”, or any “Our” references. Don’t talk ‘baby’ talk to sick people.

  • Pam White

    “I know just how you feel.” No person knows just how another person feels. This comment is usually followed by their own hard luck story, taking focus off the person you are supposedly trying to comfort. Someone actually had the nerve to say they understood exactly what I felt when I was widowed, because they had lost their dog. I don’t deny that the loss if a pet is painful, but don’t tell me me you equal this with the loss of my best friend and husband of 36 years. Instead, say, “I’m so sorry you are experiencing this. I’m available to listen when you feel like talking about your feelings.”

  • Judy James

    You’ve had a good life!

  • Cheri Kalcich

    “Take care of yourself “ is the hardest thing to hear. I want to say that I will if you come and stay with my______ so I can take care of me

  • Susan A .

    Telling me I am lucky that I at least “Still Have my Dad” even though the Alzheimer’s has taken everything away from him and he is just a shell of the man I know. I truly don’t have my dad anymore, just someone who looks like him. I feel as though I am not able to grieve in any significant way because he is still physically present. I also understand that people don’t know what to say so I try to educate them and let the know that I am really emotional right now and more sensitive than normal. So there may be times that I seem angry or sad at something said to me when I know it was meant with a good heart. So I try to let them know why what they said made me feel bad. Sometimes it truly is insensitivity but mostly I know the people who say things to me really do care and it is nice to know they are thinking of me.

  • LINDA W.

    My 95 year old father has a 45 year old female “caregiver”. He has given her thousands of dollars to take care of her daughters teeth! and she has his car to drive around in (with his permission) and has put her on his insurance. She doesn’t own a car of her own. He thinks he’s in love with her, and has asked her to marry him several times. He has given her his bank debit card. My older sister is the executor or his estate, but she does nothing, including watching his bank account. I believe my father has some dementia, and he has broken his ankle and is in a re-hab place. He denies things he has said, and repeats himself. Is there anything I can do. I feel she is taking advantage of him.

  • Duane & Toni

    Just letting you know you are in our thoughts and prayers. ???

  • Debbie Isaacs

    My experience with loss: some people are unintentionally hurtful by their comments or worse, no expressions at all. I cringe at my own inane attempts at consolations and only hope people will forgive my feeble comments as I forgive others. It’s a rare gift when someone is able to convey the right message at the right moment to one who is suffering. I continue to pray that I can learn that gift!

  • Cathy Reichel

    The Liberty Prayer Thursday Noon conference call is praying for God’s mighty hand of healing and restoration for Sam. We are so thankful for his life and service to our country and the many people he has helped.

  • Paula M Erickson

    My Mother-In-Law said to me, after the stillbirth of our son, (32 weeks), “At least you still have two healthy children,” like my stillborn son didn’t matter. I wanted to throw the hospital phone across the room, I was so angry!

  • Donna

    I lost both of my parents in a very short period of time. I had someone say to me I don’t know what I’d do if I lost one of my children. I was so livid I just wanted to hang up on the person. I couldn’t even face her the next time I saw her. I physically had to avoid her for months. It just seemed so insensitive. Because she didn’t lose her children. She could have just said I’m so sorry for your loss. If there’s anything I can do please let me know. Anything that wasn’t about her.

  • barbara meints

    Thinking of you and Anne, You both are in my prayers every day. Best of LUCK to you. LOVE Barb and Al. ♥♥


    Linda L. I feel your pain. I’m a first timer too but thankfully don’t have to work. Be honest, I don’t know HOW I could do both! And you’re right. The ‘Just Do’s and You Shoulds’ don’t have a clue what you’re going through. All any of us can do is ‘the next RIGHT thing’ IMHO. And it’s up to us to determine what that is. Sometimes we’ll wish things had turned out different, but I’m betting all in that however things turn out, I’ll know I was faithful to myself and my partner. And I think I can live with that. Best of my love and best of luck to you.


    I’m a beginner caregiver… my biggest pet peeves are: “just put her in a home”, “just take her bank accounts away”, “just do this…”

    NO!! She is independent and will not be happy. She will lose her dignity. I do not feel she is ready to be just “thrown in a home”. I’m still trying to figure things out in my own way. Seeking advice from trusted sources. For me, this is a process and I’m only at the point of evaluating everything and figuring out what is BEST for her (all while working a full time job) .

    The one suggesting this has not faced this and is quick to give his opinion on the situation without understanding the feelings of the one being cared for. His parents have everything planned. Whereas, my mom does not.


    “Here’s what you should do”….As stated to a caregiver this can imply there is a simple answer to the problem(s) the caregiver is experiencing and can come across as an insult to his/her intelligence. This is especially the case when the person offering the solution has little or no practical experience in dealing with the issues expressed. Better: Have you considered ‘X’ to help you get through this? (Opens the conversation to a ‘Why?’ response or a simple ‘No’ – and let it be at that.)

  • Jennifer

    “If anyone can beat cancer, he/she can.” I realize the person saying this is trying to be positive. Unfortunately, it implies that cancer can always be beaten if you’re strong enough and try hard enough, and anyone who wasn’t able to beat their cancer has failed.

  • Barbara Dawson


  • Genie and Daniel

    To our son Danny jr, Julie, Caitlin and Danny A.
    We have you in our thoughts and prayers, you’re a warrior, but we’re always here to lean on if you need us, we’re together in this journey. We’re so proud of you how you’ve been handling this difficult time, and you’re loved.

  • Norton

    Saying nothing. That’s a great one. I can remember when people walked across the street to avoid speaking to me after my daughter died.

    Others who’ve lost a child have reported the same thing.

    How can people be so callous?

  • Penny McCatrney

    As a caregiver, I just so appreciate unsolicited medical advise. NOT! sometimes I just want to scream. You don’t know our situation, what we are going through, and what real medical people are telling us. Back off

  • Bruce Wilson

    One irritating narrative is hearing about someone else who has a case similar to yours. I don’t care a poop about Aunt Bess’ operation. I don’e even know Aunt Bess. Keep the attention on the patient and not yourself or another.

  • Candi Mc

    I’m afraid there is a lot in these posts that are rather confusing. Obviously, some people react to certain words of “comfort” completely different than others. For instance, I remember being told, many years ago, “Never say ‘I know how you feel’. Always say, ‘I understand’ instead.” Yet here, I keep seeing people say,” Never say’ I understand'”. “I understand” is simply a way people are trying to tell you they “understand” you are going through a very difficult situation or circumstance. It does not mean they know how you feel.
    As far as speaking with one who have recently lost a loved one, the most common complaint that I hear is that people are afraid to ask them how they are doing. Some times they WANT to talk about their recent loss, and having those around them “tip toeing”, fearful of saying anything, can be very hurtful. As if nothing has happened, and their loved one was not important enough for others to remember. When I am talking to someone who has recently suffered a loss, I wait until there is an appropriate time to just ask, “So how are YOU doing?’ I let them set the stage for the rest of the conversation. If they want to talk about their loved one, I listen. If they want to talk about something else, off we go. Having lost more then my fair share of close friends and loved ones, the way I respond to someone asking about how I am differs, literally, from day to day.
    Many people in desperate circumstances, be that their own health crisis or dealing with a loved one’s, actually do find comfort when reminded there is a God, and He knows everything that is happening to them. Thinking that life is pointless, that their suffering is for nothing, and there is no order in the “Universe” can plunge those who are already suffering into a very dark place. When reminded that not only God, but other like believers, love them despite what they feel life has dealt them, it can be like a light at the end of the tunnel. After all, if you see a house on fire at 3 o’clock in the morning , are you going to go pound on the door and do whatever you can to wake any possible inhabitants? Or are you going to just pass on by, fearful you might annoy the people inside for waking them up in the middle of the night? Those of us who believe in God have a responsibility to NOT ignore those who could be perishing. Not just physically but spiritually as well. To say, “Do not offer the gift of eternal life to a person who could be dying. That’s so insensitive!”, is actually kind of ridiculous.
    The condolence, “they’re in a better place” should be reserved for people who are grieving their pets…unless you KNOW the deceased is, in fact, in a better place. And the person you are consoling is of a like frame of mind. When my father took his own life many years ago, a friend of mine was afraid to approach the subject with me because she believes that suicide victims all go to Hell. I suppose she was trying to be sensitive in that way, because everyone has their own beliefs. I did not hold that against her, after all, she was just trying to be sensitive.
    And I guess that’s what I am really trying to say, here. I realize this is a site where people are going to voice their pet peeves. But if everyone who read these remarks took every single one to heart, no one would ever say anything to anyone suffering for fear of offending them. When ignoring them is the worst thing we can do.
    Be there for them. Really BE THERE. Listen, it’s not always necessary to talk. By listening, you can learn what they need, both physically and emotionally, and can respond in the proper manner. The physical needs, like baby sitting, grocery shopping, meal preparation, and other day to day needs of the person you are trying to help, go a really long way in showing them that you REALLY do care. If you can help, do so. If you cannot, don’t make excuses about why you can’t do this or that. It puts them in a really awkward position. But if you ask what you can do, you might want to be specific about what you CAN do, giving them an opportunity to say, “Thank you, that would be so nice”, instead of putting them on the spot so they have to say, “A nice meatloaf on Thursday would be GREAT!”

  • Pam

    When someone says “they know”
    unless they truly have experienced the same circumstances they don’t know.

  • Celeste Gantz

    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.

    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

    What is helpful to say?

  • Rose Williams

    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

    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

    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

    This is a delicate topic for sure.

  • Mary L. Galbreath

    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 friends…to HELP us accept…these circumstances…support us….love us….when we need Love the most…when all hope is lost. GOD does……grant us GRACE…to behave…and achieve….what will help the most. Pray for God’s Grace.

  • E Tuyahov

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Is anyone training early stage Alzheimers patients for how different the world will seem later and how to cope?

  • Sherry Bogdon

    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

    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

    # 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

    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

    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.

    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

    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.

    We thought you were healthy because you don’t look sick.(I have stage four lung cancer).

  • Deidre Bohan

    God has given you this challenge (my child died of SIDS) to prepare you for your later life …

  • Roberta Dusek

    You can always adopt.

  • Lois Dershem

    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

    “Oh, stage one. That’s not so bad. You’ll be FINE!”
    “It’s like you never had cancer really, right?”
    “I mean it’s just a hysterectomy and those are done every day.”
    “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

    “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

    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

    Following my husband’s death: ” He’s in a better place.”
    Are you kidding????

  • D L Harvey

    “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 patient…so 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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    She’s in a better place.
    At least he’s not in pain anymore.
    God wanted her more.

  • Valerie

    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

    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.

    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

    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

    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

    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

    …arrive with ears to listen, shoulders to cry on, arms to hold….but mostly with heart

  • Diane

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Never say, “I never let myself get depressed,” or ” we’ll get you through this,”

  • MD Smith

    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

    That pretty much sums it up.

  • Catherine

    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

    I can’t think of anyone best suited to handle this.

  • Frank and Judy Graham

    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

    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

    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

    Never say “i know how you feel” unless you have been through the same experience

  • Stephanie

    “I know how you feel” is another statement that can be received negatively

  • Linda Moon

    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

    Thanks for the good advice! I’ve found your website tremendously useful…..

  • Lita Marishak

    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

    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.

    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.

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    About the loss of a sibling: “But you weren’t all that close, were you?”

  • Shaun Webb

    Here, read this book!
    Unreal comment at a time of crisis from one older sister to a younger one.

  • bobby weaver

    just shut up and listen

  • V. Black

    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 situation……in 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

    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

    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

    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

    Nice article. In chaplaincy courses, we are told to be careful while visiting ill persons. However, some people do not understand this.

  • JAn

    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

    “Well, you look good…”

  • Liz

    It could be worse. It really isnt that bad.

    And “aaah you poor chook”. I am not a chicken!!

  • Mary Jane

    God needed another angel in heaven

  • Peggy

    Well, it isn’t like your ( adult) daughter lived with you and you saw her every day.

  • Patti Moran

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Another one. I think i like your wig better than your own hair

  • cheri sutherland

    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

    I think just listening is sufficient most of the time & maybe saying ,Im sorry you are going through this

  • Karen Hoff

    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

    You say what not to say–how about what would be good to say?????

  • Maureen Friend

    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

    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

    I’ll add something you should never say to anyone under any circumstances: “You should just get over it.”

  • Paula Russell

    “I know how you feel” (no matter your own experience, everyone ‘feels’ sorrow & pain in different ways.

  • Jana Gray

    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

    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

    How about “Maybe she would not have grown up to be a good woman.”

  • Jayanta Banerjee

    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

    The gift of silence accompanied with compassionate listening is good.

  • Kia

    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

    How about, “I know how hard this is for you” or “I understand how you feel”.

  • Terri Rogoski

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Some comments make me cry, really; I’m 70 and learning with your article. Thank you

  • Ann Sechrist

    I know how you feel

  • Jill Thomsen

    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

    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

    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.

    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

    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 up…like “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

    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

    How are things going ? or how are you ? If one has to ask that question the answer is no doubt obvious.

  • Bonnie Bailey

    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

    “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

    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 (seriously…one 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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Things to say:
    I’m so sorry.
    How can I help?
    What do you need?
    I’m here for you.

  • Norma Powell

    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

    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

    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

    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

    How about when your parent is in a casket and people say… “oh he looks so good.”

  • MPearson

    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

    There are others worse off than you are. Not helpful when you are really hurting.

  • Alan

    “Now you’re the man of the family.” Said to me when I was 4 after my father died at age 29.

  • Lizzie

    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

    “You’re too young to be a widow”

    Of course the widow completely agrees! Not helpful.

  • dupre cochran


  • Joan

    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

    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

    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

    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

    “It’s just hair” (said numerous times to my wife when she was bald from chemo)

  • Debbie Whitlock

    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

    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

    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

    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

    “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

    N. Robinson — Amen! Well said!

  • Connie McDougall

    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

    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 grieve…it’s ok to not cheer them up immediately”.

  • Donna Holdcroft

    Sometimes it is best just to listen and be there.

  • Beverly Little Thunder

    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

    “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

    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

    This is so true… just listen or just be there. Do not give advice…

  • Jan Nichols

    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

    i’m glad i’m not you
    welcome to the widow’s club

  • Cheri Rinderknecht

    Yes Good advice

  • Carol Elmendorf

    God doesn’t give you what you can handle….he helps you handle what you are given!! We lost our grandson at 20 days old..one thing I know….it 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

    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

    “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

    You know there are people who have it a lot worse than you.

  • Joann Parker

    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

    That doesn’t leave much to say. ?

  • Dan Anderson

    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.

    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.

    I know just how you feel.

  • William Griffith

    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.

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    I have heard them all!

  • N.Robinson

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    ‘Things could aways be worse.”

  • Tamm Surface

    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

    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.

  • Wilma

    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

    Helen Eastlack, what you wrote is exactly the reason I’m not religious. You use God to punish and not to help.

  • M.b.

    “They’re in a better place.”

    “At least they’re not in pain anymore.”

  • Dave

    It would be nice to know of some things that are proper and helpful.

  • Pamela B

    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

    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

    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

    “You’ll be (or you are) a much stronger person because of this experience.”

  • Anne

    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

    “So easy a caveman can do it!” Not sure where I heard that one but it’s DEFINITELY not the right response 😉

  • Susan

    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

    Another is if you have lung cancer – did you smoke? Doesn’t matter – no one deserves any form of cancer !!

  • Joy

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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 intent…to 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

    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

    God needed him / her in heaven more than you need them here on earth.

  • G Mack

    I know exactly how you feel! Is probably the most inaccurate and unsympathetic comment ever….

  • Debby Whetzel

    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

    She/He is in a better place now.

  • Gemma

    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.

    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

    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

    You’ll always have his memory.

  • Y

    You don’t look like you have cancer.

  • Judi

    She’s in a better place.

  • Dan Larson

    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

    “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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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.

    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

    “I wish the casket was open, I never got to see him.”

  • diane

    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

    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

    – when you see other people problems, your’s will seem easier to accept

  • Kate Stone

    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

    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

    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

    Your still young…you’ll find someone else.

  • Yvette Nachmias-Baeu

    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

    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

    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

    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

    At least he didn’t have children when he died at 19

  • George Stewart

    “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

    Sometimes, be quiet and just listen. You don’t have to open your trap.

  • AJS

    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

    And never say, “God must have wanted another angel.”

  • Denise

    A DOCTOR said to me “Too bad you don’t have Hodgkins lymphoma (instead of non-Hodgkins), because Hodgkins is completely curable.”

  • Sandi Bowen

    You might still get better! Even doctors can be wrong!

  • Barbara

    “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

    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

    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

    You can have more children.
    Heaven needed another angel.
    She’s in a better place.

  • Susan Johnson

    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

    Don’t say “Let me know if there’s anything I can do”.

  • vanessa

    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

    Not everybody dies from….

  • Duckie

    “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

    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

    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

    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

    “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

    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

    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 children…so yes…I am still blessed so much more than some people I know…so I don’t think you can say not to tell someone these things… these comment s and the Lord got me through it all…so 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 words…it doesn’t matter … you just HAVE TO BELIEVE AND GIVE IT TO HIM…He will make everything ok…

  • Martha Bryan

    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

    Empathy never starts with the words “at least it’s not as bad as”

  • Diann Miller

    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, http://www.griefandtraumahealing.com. I hope this is helpful for someone, take care of yourselves and those around you.

  • Throckmorton

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    You’re looking so much better.
    She knows what I mean.

  • Sandra

    “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

    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

    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.

    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

    I had my brother-in-law say to me ‘ I’m glad it’s you not me.. ‘ so unbelievably insensitive!

  • Debbie Moore

    it is written no one lives forever

  • Jessie's daughter

    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

    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

    Don’t ever say:
    “God wanted him/her more. “

  • Alice

    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

    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


    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

    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

    wow, it is nice,????

  • Jana Lopez

    “I’m sorry to hear that” said with no emotion at all…

  • Deb Sprau

    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

    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

    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

    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

    “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.

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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! ❤️


    “You don’t look sick.”

  • Shirley Wallace-McCray

    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

    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.


  • DavidReno

    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.


  • Lynn

    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

    May I add to the above list? “He/She’s in a better place”

  • Sue

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    I know how you feel..
    (anything said before )but
    use words that say I care about you, I support you.

  • Thomas Cleveland

    “So..How’s it going / How are you?” People asking me at my mom’s, dad’s, and brother’s funerals.

  • Debra

    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

    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

    Would love some guidance on what ARE some good things to say…..

  • Mary Anne

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    To the mother of a stillborn or miscarried child, don’t say “You can have other children.” This child is irreplaceable,

  • JC Smith

    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

    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

    Never say “I know how you feel”

  • Tracie Acosta

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Well at least she had a long life.
    She’s not in pain anymore

    These two comments can be hurtful.

  • Anne

    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

    I apologize for posting the same thing twice. I didn’t think it posted the first time.

  • Eliecia Progar

    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

    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

    Look at the good side.. You get to go see Mom before I do…

  • Sandra Dickerson

    At least he died young before you had a chance to really love him.

  • Judy sSilva

    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

    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

    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

    I’ve said, how are you? When I know how they are…. I always feel silly after I say it!

  • Mary Ann Petro

    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

    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

    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

    I know how you feel
    How are you – really (after you’ve said fine)

  • Bonnie Blomberg

    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

    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

    Sometimes just a hug helps

  • Jeanne Struble

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    How about adding ” You shouldn’t feel that way.”

  • Dinisha Anna Millman v. Outten

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    “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

    I’ve been recipient of “0h you’ll get over it. I had cancer surgery too, it’s not a big deal.”

  • Margie Shubin

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Also don’t say: “I know how you feel.”

  • Brenda Lisa Hubbs

    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

    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

    Doctors’ favorite when discussing “odds” with a patient:
    We all deal with risk; I could get hit by a truck tomorrow.

  • Anita McClanahan


  • Beth Bishop

    So, WHAT are the seven things one CAN say?

  • Pat Fuller

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    God works all things for good……….

  • Mary Ann Bethea

    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

    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

    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 too…as though there isn’t really anything wrong.

  • Kathy Hall

    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

    Just let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.

  • wendy Goodman


  • Bill

    So agree
    2 things to say:
    I am so sorry
    I you you

  • S harrell

    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

    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

    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

    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

    I have always found the simply saying: ‘I love you and I am praying for you’ is usually the encouragement they need.

  • Pat Laudicina

    “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

    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

    A friend to my wife, “It’ll be easier for you to die than me. You go to church”.

  • Mary Anne Cook

    I know how you feel.

  • Pat Laudicina

    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

    “How are you feeling?” REALLY? Now, that’s a stupid question

  • Patti Moran

    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

    Excellent information.
    It would also be helpful to give us 7 things we could say . We would appreciate it.
    Thank You.

  • Jody Biddle

    “I know exactly how you feel.” No one knows exactly how another person feels so this is not a helpful comment.

  • Jan

    I lost my beautiful daughter, Heidi, to leukemia…..everyone of the “7 Things You Should Never Say” were said to me…..

  • Carol Winner

    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

    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

    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

    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

    – At least you had him in your life this long – you’re lucky you had someone who loved you so much

  • Steven Lopez

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Hey, how about being positive and giving ideas about what people should say! God is in control by the way!
    God Bless!

  • Sandy

    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

    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

    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

    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

    God works miracles every day. You never know….

  • Toni

    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

    Another one that wasn’t helpful: “Good luck!” – our oncologist’s favorite phrase : (

  • Susan Ryan

    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

    Look on the bright side.

  • Kat Bybee

    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

    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

    Never say:”All things work together for good, so we know good will come from this….”

  • Elayne Sikelianos

    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

    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

    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

    God only gives (fill in the blank) to special parents.
    “I could never do what you do”

  • Debra Kelley

    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

    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

    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

    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 real.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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Do not say anything that blames the victim, such as: “I guess she didn’t catch it soon enough.”

  • Carolyn Gwynn

    More comments…
    about comments that WERE appreciated would be helpful

  • Janet OHUCHI

    So true. How about:

    “We don’t know why God does these things.”

  • Nancy Olson

    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

    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

    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.

    Don’t say – You can have another child after having lost one

  • Phyllis Garris

    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

    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

    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

    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

    I don’t know what I would do if it was my father.

  • Marty Brown

    I know how you feel. :>(

  • Michele

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Never say I know how you feel

  • Sandy Atkinson

    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

    . 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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    “You’ve got this!”

  • Wanda Clay

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    All seven things are very hurtful. They minimize what you are going through.

  • Mary Spletter

    What wonderful advice. And I hear it all the time. Thank you, Mary

  • Jane Sanders

    God needed another angel in heaven.

  • Elaine Olson

    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

    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

    Gotten all or most if these. Please don’t. It hurts more than helps.

  • Theresa

    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

    What should you say in order to be of real comfort?

  • Laurie McGregor Connor

    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

    my personal “trigger” or grind is the ol’…. ” my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family”. Im sorry for your loss”…. GHHHHH…..it 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

    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

    “But you can’t be that sick….you look so good”..????????

  • Phyllis Litman

    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

    “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

    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

    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

    “This too shall pass”

    If ONE MORE PERSON had told me this when I was dealing with cancer….

  • Kelly Rose

    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.