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7 Things You Should Never Say to Patients or Caregivers

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love hope compassion In the best-selling book, “There is No Good Card for This: What to Do and Say When Life is Scary, Awful and Unfair to People you Love,” authors Emily McDowell and Kelsey Crowe say it’s not surprising that well-intentioned people often stumble as they try to express love, hope and compassion to patients and caregivers.

Sometimes, You Can’t Make Pain Go Away

Among the root causes of saying things that unintentionally range from superficial to stupid, according to the authors, is a cultural approach to ‘“healing” as getting over something, rather than learning to live with a loss. We are people who want to fix things … just make the pain go away. And sometimes, you just can’t. An “empathy tip” from a chapter titled, “Please Never Say This (Thanks),” recommends avoiding, in general, sunny-side-up phrases. Instead, try to sense how family and friends dealing with cancer, stroke or any illness, injury or health crisis might be feeling. Then try to respond simply and sincerely, whether in writing or verbally. As you think about meaningful things to say, or write, in response to a CaringBridge Journal entry, McDowell and Crowe advise biting your tonguefiguratively, of course!before allowing any of the following unhelpful statements to escape your lips or fingertips:

7 Things You Should Never Say…

  • “Everything happens for a reason.”
  • “This is God’s plan.”
  • “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
  • “At least it’s not cancer.”
  • “Just think positive thoughts.”
  • “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
  • “At least you have one healthy child.”
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a clunky expression of support, or if you’ve ever written or said something you wish you hadn’t said, please add to the list in the “Comment” section directly below.

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Comments

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Kelly Rose Apr 26, 2017 6:54pm
I have been told this one: "S/he will be in a better place after s/he dies." I do try to look at the intention. People mean well even if the words that come out appear insensitive.
Margie Underwood Apr 29, 2017 4:20pm
"This too shall pass" If ONE MORE PERSON had told me this when I was dealing with cancer....
Chandler Dann Apr 29, 2017 5:23pm
David, I'm so sorry to hear of your illness. I'd like to just mention that I've read Anita Moorjani's book about about her experience with Cancer, and how she was able to lick it. I also got a lot of useful information reading Dr. Bruce Lipton's book. I hope that you will be able to check these out, and that they help you, as they have helped others. I got both of them from the Amazon Kindle library. Good luck, my friend. I have been following your writings, for years, and certainly appreciated them for all of that time. (That cup of coffee is still available, and I'd love to see you drinking it with a nice long chat. Cheers, David. I know you'll do well.
skeeter Tower Apr 30, 2017 1:48pm
words are so hard to think of at times like this. i pray I won't offend, but i hope my heart is heard.
Ruth Barrow May 23, 2017 7:04pm
"Now if there is anything I can do to help, let me know." This is meaningless. Why don't you say, "I have nothing planned for Tuesday. If you like, I will stay with your patient and you can go to lunch and go shopping for awhile."
Phyllis Litman May 23, 2017 7:13pm
When you have a chronic 'hidden' illness, the last thing you want to hear is, "But you LOOK fine". That implies that there is nothing wrong with you, and you should be out dancing or dining.
Monica Hooker May 23, 2017 7:46pm
"But you can't be that sick....you look so good"..😢😫
Laura Bushinger May 23, 2017 7:52pm
She wouldn't want you to cry.... These words are comfortless and only said because someone is uncomfortable with your grief, pain and loss. A simple I'm so sorry is all that is needed if you feel at a loss to say something.
Annie May 23, 2017 8:40pm
my personal "trigger" or grind is the ol'.... " my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family". Im sorry for your loss".... 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...
Laurie McGregor Connor May 23, 2017 8:58pm
While these are awkward things people do say, I've always taken the approach that at least they are trying to say something. The silence is worse.
colleen wartelle May 23, 2017 9:12pm
What should you say in order to be of real comfort?
Theresa May 23, 2017 9:17pm
I know that people struggle with trying to figure out what to say and no matter what the blunder is, they usually mean well so I'm not trying to be critical. However, when I hear someone say "I'm sorry for your loss "I feel incredibly alone as that comment seems so distant and cold and lacking in compassion. That is just how I experience that . I don't know about anyone else.
Amy Hallowes May 23, 2017 9:18pm
Gotten all or most if these. Please don't. It hurts more than helps.
Mary Lewis Grow May 23, 2017 9:20pm
Never, never say, "I feel so sorry for you," or "I pity you." No one wants to be an object of pity! It's fine to say, "I really admire your strength" or "you're a great role model for how to face hard things" (assuming, of course, that this is true). Or say, "I hate it that you are having to go through this." If at a complete loss for what to say, it's also ok to confess that you want so much to find the right words, but it's proving hard to do.
Elaine Olson May 23, 2017 9:23pm
Upon the tragic loss of my dear husband, I heard three of the above comments. While none of them were helpful, or believable to me, it is difficult because the message senders are all people of strong religious faith. So, I kept that in mind. I believe people are trying to be helpful, and given that most of us never learned how to deal with death, I think it is best to not waste precious energy on such remarks when they do come our way.
Jane Sanders May 23, 2017 9:24pm
God needed another angel in heaven.
Mary Spletter May 23, 2017 9:25pm
What wonderful advice. And I hear it all the time. Thank you, Mary
Janet Mickelburg May 23, 2017 9:26pm
All seven things are very hurtful. They minimize what you are going through.
Jean Johnson May 23, 2017 9:28pm
The postings of Annie and Laurie reverberate with me, having suffered the loss of a seventeen-year-old daughter and two years ago my husband of fifty years. I have heard such a range of comments from well-meaning friends. The best are specific offers to help, and later, allowing one to talk about their loved one without forcing anything. The worst thing a friend ever said to me after my husband died was "well, we have our pity parties and then we get over it." Really? I have concluded the poor lady is just not very bright. No one understands the experience of losing a loved one until they themselves go through it. The best notes and conversations I have received expressed a memory of my daughter and my husband, as Annie says.
Debbie Depner May 23, 2017 9:30pm
I was diagnosed with bladder cancer.... My Mother in law told me after surgery " You look like HELL put some makeup on and pull yourself together ". My Husband said when I told him the news " What the F am I going to do with 3 kids". They are his kids?????
Ilse May 23, 2017 9:33pm
Annie, I think I have the wrong comments box. But if this gets to I want to repeat that more and more you sound like a scholar and a scientist. Very impressive. Love -- llse
Ilse May 23, 2017 9:35pm
Annie, I think I have the wrong comments box. But if this gets to I want to repeat that more and more you sound like a scholar and a scientist. Very impressive. Love -- llse P.S.It looks like you are getting the same message twice. Sorry.
Wanda Clay May 23, 2017 9:35pm
I have lost my husband and 5 years later, my 33 year old son. I have heard all of the comments above. Also the other one, I don't like to hear is "it will get better". When you don't know what to say, I have found out that a Hug and I Love you is very good. Sometimes people just need us to be with them. Yes, the one, call me if you need me, is so un needed. If you have ever gone thru death, you aren't going to call someone, because when you need to call them, you are so upset, you don't want to talk to anyone. Best things for anyone is to know that Jesus still Loves us.
Alice May 23, 2017 9:42pm
"You've got this!"
Jan Gibson May 23, 2017 9:43pm
A well meaning member of my church said, "You can always have another baby." This was after my daughter died of SIDS. Little did she know; I had my tubes tied the day after she was born.
MMC May 23, 2017 9:44pm
On revealing to a coworker that my husband was just diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, she said, "oh, I was sure my husband had that same cancer last year, it was so scary, but he just had pneumonia." I was too shocked -and still in shock over the diagnosis - to even mutter "um, that's not helping..."
Marlene May 23, 2017 9:50pm
Please never say " I know just how you feel." No you don't. Grief feels different for everyone. Never say "You had a miscarriage because the baby was deformed or something was wrong with it " Nice way to lay on the guilt and tell someone that they created an inferior child. Even if you have had a similar experience, don't say "Been there, done that!" And NEVER say, "It could have been worse."
Joyce Schultz May 23, 2017 9:51pm
I've had some people say, "Oh yes, my cousin had that......he didn't live very long or he only lived 2 weeks" Yikes! Please tell people not to talk about people dying with whatever disease they have....we are looking for "hope", not despair.
John Stuckless May 23, 2017 9:52pm
I know how you must feel. My support group got so sick of hearing that; every one of us. When we got together we made up retort (which we never used). "Exactly what God's gift lets you know how I feel". We would get together once a week. One night we were all crying and the restaurant offered to comp us. Another night, we were all laughing, and a friend of one of our members ask what was this fun group. Bill blurted out: "we're all recent widow and widowers." Didn't sit well with the husband of the friend who asked he question. The point is that there is no easy or normal way to deal with the loss of a loved one.
Stephen Marcus May 23, 2017 9:52pm
If you are on the receiving end of the stupid comment, try to be kind and remember the person is just trying to be kind and it's not easy to find the right words. I have seen more family at a wake make the people visiting the deceased be comforted by the family than the other way around. As a society, we don't deal with death and terminal illness well and truly do not know the right words to say. Sometimes the family has to just let it go and know the person's intentions were good but the didn't know the right words to say.
joseph m. newcomer May 23, 2017 9:56pm
No. Sh** happens. Assuming that there IS a reason, good or bad, makes no sense. To call pain and suffering "God's plan" is to demean every representation of a loving God that has ever been proposed. And centuries of deep thinking about predestination only lead to logical paradoxes. That which does not kill you can leave you crippled for life. This is a silly phrase. What if it IS cancer? And why is death by cancer worse than other kinds of deaths? My wife died of cancer, and her passing was gentle; she was never in pain. Positive thoughts? Give me a break! When the oncology team says, "Go home and try to enjoy what time you have left", positive thoughts are not high on the list. God, if you believe in Her, is omnipotent, and can do anything. Including giving someone more than they can handle. Really? I was a "healthy child" until my congenital heart defect caught up with me at age 42. If modern medicine were not where it is, I would not have survived for a year. I am now 70. My sister was born with a defective metabolism, was not expected to live two years. She died at age 52 of ovarian cancer. Not only are these phrases insensitive, they do not even make sense. Insensitive and nonsensical is a really bad combination.
Carol McCandless May 23, 2017 9:56pm
10 years ago I had a major hemorrhagic stroke that left me totally paralyzed on my left side after brain surgery to remove a blood clot the size of an apricot. My brain surgeon told me that he felt I could make a complete recovery. I have worked very hard over the past years, and with physical therapy, I have regained a great deal of my mobility. However, I have not made a complete recovery, and still have limitations . I have had to develop a completely new lifestyle because I can no longer do the things that I enjoyed such as playing the piano, singing , playing golf, gardening, cooking etc However, I have developed a new range of interests that I find very fulfilling. People are amazed that I have made such a good recovery. I like to encourage people to never give up , because you never know what you can accomplish if you keep trying. My life is very different now, but it is wonderful. I find people are very helpful and kind, and I am very grateful for all the people who have blessed me with their prayers.
Scott May 23, 2017 9:58pm
. i try usually say oh man that sucks and if i have been through same situation say i know same thing hapoened to me. and then say i know there nothing ill say that can make anything better but if need anything let me know. And i mean anything and if its a guy friend i say except a BJ and if its a girlfriend i say and i mean anything except for the laundry.
Sandy Atkinson May 23, 2017 9:58pm
I am a hospice volunteer, and I still think about the time years ago an acquaintance from work got cancer. This was the first time I had been exposed to someone who was actually dying. When she got so sick that she had to quit work, several of us went to visit her one night after work. The first thing I said was, "Hi, Dorothy, how are you?" She looked terrible and was extremely weak. What a dumb question to ask. I never forgot it.
Donna Gagne May 23, 2017 10:03pm
Never say I know how you feel
Mia May 23, 2017 10:08pm
After being diagnosed with breast cancer and then having a double mastectomy, someone said to me, "Don't you have the attitude of gratitude?" Really??? I still don't know what that means.
Peggy Trachtenberg May 23, 2017 10:10pm
We all eventually experience huge up close losses which is part of being mortal. We should keep in mind that the effort is being made to say something comforting - it might not always work for the recipient. We all come from different backgrounds, cultures and religions and even countries. Focus on the effort and intention rather than the words. I believe in human kindness.
Joan May 23, 2017 10:11pm
I have told several people that have said to me " I don't know what to say" , that it's not the words spoken, it's the acknowledgement that this, sad, or horrible thing has happened. To not say anything, and go on as if you haven't just lost one of the most important people in your world, is a far harder thing for me to deal with. Knowing that the person is willing to speak with you even if they say " I can't understand what you are going through, but I do want you to know I care", seems far better to me.
Marla H May 23, 2017 10:11pm
Please call me if you need anything. Yes I have said it and I have had it said to me. What a stupid statement. However , I meant well and so did the people saying that to me so it was all ok. We all struggle during these times.
Jane Good May 23, 2017 10:13pm
When I was 26 years old I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a complete hysterectomy and underwent extensive chemotherapy. More than once I was told "Just, remember. There are others who are much worse off than you." SERIOUSLY??? I was supposed to take comfort in the fact that others were suffering more than me????
Ed May 23, 2017 10:16pm
The obvious point is that you have to tailor what you say to the person you are trying to comfort. What will comfort a person of faith differs from what will comfort an atheist.
Michele May 23, 2017 10:18pm
I appreciate any kind words that a person gives to me when I am facing a difficult loss of a loved one. I know that it isn't easy to comfort someone when their loved one passes. I therefore know that whatever kind words they offer, they mean them from the heart. Not everyone is great with words, and the situation at hand might make them uncomfortable. They mean well, and the fact that they even try, shows their love!!!❤❤
Marty Brown May 23, 2017 10:18pm
I know how you feel. :>(
Pam Blackwood May 23, 2017 10:19pm
I don't know what I would do if it was my father.
Dale May 23, 2017 10:20pm
While sitting Shiva for my Dad, a friend kept telling me "it will get easier". I told her with expletives and a loud voice to get out of my apartment. It's 15 years later and I still grieve and miss my Dad who was my best friend.
Deanna May 23, 2017 10:22pm
Things I've had said while dealing with a chronic auto immune disease: We will invite you when you get better ! ( my thought , let me decide if i feel I have the energy or not , not you ! ) I lost a lot of weight over a period of several months 117 down to 92 lbs .. someone I knew said " girl put on some weight " rather than ask me if I was doing ok . Another : " wow , I've never seen you with wrinkles on your face before" ! Never mind I was fighting for my life and this was the least of my concerns !
Andy Mirdik May 23, 2017 10:24pm
Ok I agree there are many comments given, how about posting what one SHOULD say. I was the caregiver for my wife for 23 years. She passed on Feb. 5, 2016 and I've heard all the nice meaning but not very helpful comments.
Phyllis Garris May 23, 2017 10:24pm
After being diagnosed with breast cancer and having a mastectomy a couple years ago, I am glad people take the time to say anything; what they say is not always important; what is important that they care enough to say anything. Many of the comments above would not bother me in the least. Let us not be so critical and be thankful we have friends who care. God made each of us different so what bothers one person may be the best thing to someone else. "Let their be peace on earth and let it begin with me".
Tricie Young- lost a son in 1973. And I do have 2 relatives on Caring Bridge. May 23, 2017 10:25pm
Don't say - You can have another child after having lost one
Heather Thornburg May 23, 2017 10:26pm
What would you recommend to put in a sympathy card when you did not know the person or family well? I see to avoid, "Sorry for your loss." I like being specific with what I can do, like bringing a meal, etc. What if your not in a position to truly offer something except your words. What do you write?
Randy May 23, 2017 10:30pm
Laurie Mcgregor Connor is spot on. As I recovered from injuries sustained when I was hit by a truck while cycling, friends did not know how to engage me. I was in a coma for about a week and took several years to revover from the effects of a TBI. They didn't know how to act around me or what to say as I worked through physical therapy and recovery. Many of the people I considered close friends virtually abandoned me. I hold no grudges and now see many of them again. They just didn't know what to say or act around me. It was new territory for all of us. There's nothing you can say that is PC.
Nancy Olson May 23, 2017 10:36pm
I have been and am a caregiver. My youngest son had two cancers. First when he was 8. The second when he was 13. He will soon be 30! Then caregiver for my mother who had dementia. She passed 6 years ago. I miss her every day. The end of this September will be 4 years since my husband finished chemo and an autologous stem cell transplant. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson's a few years before. Now we are learning how the cancer and chemo effected his Parkinson's. Your list of 7 things are clear reminders as we did hear many of them. We were told our son's first cancer was one in a million. His second. He was the only one to have two different cancers. After the treatment he received during his first cancer. People said we would have better odds winning the lottery. By the time my husband was fighting cancer, people were telling me how they admired me. How strong I was. How they could never do what I am doing. How they could never be with their spouse all the time. All I could do was smile and try my best not to look at them with an expression of shock. My thoughts were How could they not? I also heard the saying, "God never gives you more than you can handle." During my son's second cancer I remember hearing how Mother Theresa had added, "But God why do you trust me so much?" I am not a conceited person. But this struck me in a strange way. I agree with many of the comments I've read below. In my experiences, I found looking into the persons eyes, you can feel what they are trying to say. And hang onto those moments. When we were asked what someone could do to help, all we could ask for is to keep us in their prayers. Each prayer would hold us together when times were rough. The Cancer-coaster and even the dementia-coaster are journeys with more twists and turns then most people can imagine. No amount of sharing is felt or understood unless you are experiencing it directly. The hardest thing is too many are on these and other similar journeys. As I wrote above, when presented with any written or vocal expression, may your heart listen to the caring behind the words. May your heart gather the strength you need to keep going. And no matter what may you know you are NOT ALONE in your journey. Reach out, there are others who do understand.
Janet OHUCHI May 23, 2017 10:40pm
So true. How about: "We don't know why God does these things."
Carolyn Gwynn May 23, 2017 10:42pm
More comments... about comments that WERE appreciated would be helpful
Diana Lieberman May 23, 2017 10:44pm
Do not say anything that blames the victim, such as: "I guess she didn't catch it soon enough."
Melanie May 23, 2017 10:46pm
I am a woman with stage 4 cancer. I hate it when people say, You don’t look sick.. Recently a friend, said, “It may not be cancer, but alot of people suffer, not just you.” Have you tried (some adjunct therapy..shark oil, etc). This makes me feel that these people don’t think I am doing the right thing. I am senstive to these comments and they can upset me. I get sick of them. I was scolded by a friend for putting updating my illness on Facebook. I do this because I don’t want to explain over and over again what new has happened to me. There is alot of movement with my disease.
Melanie May 23, 2017 10:50pm
I was scolded for updating my illness on Facebook. I have stage 4 cancer and things are constanly changing. A friend told me that, “it may not be cancer, but alot of people suffer”. That I embarrass her when I tell people I have cancer. All these comments from the same woman. I had to end our 30 plus years of friendship. This person contantly minimized my disease and I chose to not have her in my life anymore.
Sandy May 23, 2017 10:52pm
When the hospice coordinator (who you think would have more sense) responded to me when I said "I'm taking my daughter home" she said, "yes she will really be going home soon."
Hal Laser May 23, 2017 10:58pm
Unfortunately, the expressions of compassion, sympathy and empathy are too often dressed up as cliche phrases like, "it is what it is". This phrase is so totally dismissal, as if the illness is static and doesn't change from year to year, day to day, perhaps hour to hour. Oh, really, the medical community isn't quite sure about the true prognosis of the disease, but "it is what it is". There is very little comfort to be drawn from that expression. Also, don't say, " if you feel as good as you look, you must be doing ok ". I am sometimes tempted to say, " if I'd look the way I feel, I wouldn't want to appear in public ". Please don't assume that there's a direct correlation between a person's appearance and their state of health, or emotional condition. If you want to demonstrate "caring", allow the person to tell their story, and listen.
Judith Bedard May 23, 2017 11:00pm
Someone said to us after our son went to Glory; "Maybe God was saving him from something far worse!" Far worse?? Than a 21 year old A student in college, wanting to graduate in wildlife biology after a lifetime of loving nature and God's creatures? We praise God we know where he is and will see him again, but the loss, even after 32 years is still fresh sometimes.
Mary Blankenship May 23, 2017 11:05pm
You missed an important one. "I know just how you feel." It is maddening when someone who has their spouse or family whole and healthy says that to you.
wayne nechy May 23, 2017 11:12pm
lve heard everyone of those cliche ass comments my entire life about one crisis or sickness or bad situation my whole life.just stick to the truth and say what you feel in your heart. fuck the dumb shit keep it 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.
Marie Longo May 23, 2017 11:22pm
Yes, I've heard almost all of those,and didn't appreciate any of them. It felt too superficial, like some one was trying to give my pain a quick brush off. These experiences have taught me to be more careful with my words to others that are goung through tough times.
Lila Cohen May 23, 2017 11:23pm
I'm always honest in my remarks about the person who has died and remember a positive thing the person did or said that I will always remember them by and then give the living person a hard reassuring hug and give them an opportunity to talk.
Debra Kelley May 23, 2017 11:33pm
I was with you until the phrase "health journey." "Journey" in a health context is trite, banal and insulting. Better luck next time.
Susan Lloyd May 23, 2017 11:57pm
God only gives (fill in the blank) to special parents. "I could never do what you do"
Maria Rincon Noriega May 24, 2017 12:11am
I would like to add. Never say someone with Cancer gave up. I heard this with my mom & she did not give up. No one ever needs to hear that.
Car Clifton May 24, 2017 12:19am
Instead of "I'm sorry for your loss," how about honoring the person by including them in your comment. For example, "I'm so sorry you have lost your father (or mother, or son, or sister, or Bob or Gail or little Zack). Then follow with something like, "Even though you had your dad for 52 years, it's never enough." or, "I think of your mom so often, and it seems she always makes me laugh. What a sweetheart!" or "I remember when Gail was my babysitter, she told me the best bedtime stories!" When trying to convey your empathy with how scared, worried, confused, they are, instead of saying, "I know how you feel," say something that conveys your pain, such as "My heart is heavy for you." or "I'm so sorry." If you feel comfortable with adding "warm" words, how about "My heart is heavy for you, my friend", or "I'm so sorry, buddy."
Elayne Sikelianos May 24, 2017 12:38am
Thank you so much ~~ i will try & re-post as i know so many who need to read these! Each one, teach one!
Joe Maple May 24, 2017 1:02am
Never say:"All things work together for good, so we know good will come from this...."
Kat Bybee May 24, 2017 1:09am
As someone who is dealing with a chronic condition, I have heard a lot of them at times...I try to use humor. But it is not always easy. I turned one that I noticed someone else is bothered by into a personal motto, when I read it rephrased like this: "This too, shall pass; it may pass like a kidney stone, but it WILL pass!"
Kat Bybee May 24, 2017 1:21am
I think the worst was when I lost my mother and one of her friends proceeded to tell me (after her memorial service) that God only takes the very best. (Are you kidding me??!!)
Anna Brown May 24, 2017 1:35am
Look on the bright side.
Susan Ryan May 24, 2017 2:16am
Please, please, please, don't share horror stories of other people you know who have suffered. I would rather hear a comment about the weather or a sports team. Better: "I am praying for you," or a comment about something positive ("So glad your appetite is better!" "I hope tomorrow is better!" "I'm praying you get some good rest" "I'm glad the doctors are figuring things out") or just "I'm so sorry you're going through this! Hugs!" My husband was so sick we couldn't get a lot of visitors, so he and I eagerly soaked in every comment even if they weren't said perfectly. We just knew people loved us, and we encouraged them to click the "heart" as if it were "waving through the window." When he passed away, I asked people over and over again to post memories of him, and I would read them over and over. Sharing memories is the best - whether someone is sick or someone has lost a loved one.
Susan May 24, 2017 2:24am
Another one that wasn't helpful: "Good luck!" - our oncologist's favorite phrase : (
Toni May 24, 2017 3:21am
I can't stand when I am grieving the loss of a loved one and someone says "they're not in pain anymore" or "you had a lot of good years together". I think that people feel obligated to say something, anything. Personally, I would prefer a touch or hug to words that are cliche. Just let me cry, no one and no words can ease the pain of losing a loved one.
Heather May 24, 2017 4:29am
God works miracles every day. You never know....
Elizabeth May 24, 2017 4:35am
Add to these to the list : If you have to have cancer this is a good one. Cancer is never a "good one". I understand what you're going through. I know you're going to be okay. Don't worry, Your hair will all come back. And never say - you really look cute bald. More could be added and there must be a pill for that. ❤️
Sue J May 24, 2017 5:42am
As evidenced by the " need" to have this discussion, we all have a difficult time expressing our caring . Our friends are well meaning and struggling with what or how to say it. They are grieving too. Perhaps we need to remember not to be judgmental or critical, but rather appreciate their sentiment and affection. It is a difficult time for everyone concerned.
Nancy Morrow May 24, 2017 5:47am
Just be a listener. Allow a person who is in whatever situation, to express their feelings. We really do not know what they are feeling or handling their loss or illness. Everyone copes in different ways, some want to talk about their issue, some don't. If you stop and listen, you will find the words that person wants to hear. Pray for the Lord to give you the words of wisdom to comfort that person.
Sandy May 24, 2017 5:53am
I lost my son to suicide 20 months ago and what not to say is so true. People mean well but that list is very accurate as to what not to say. I love hearing "how are you doing." Or, "I think of your son Danny often." The pain never goes away, it is about learning to live with a loss. I love it when someone reminds me of a fun time or cute story involving my son. Our Compassionate Friends support group is helpful. We meet every month.
Allison May 24, 2017 5:56am
Hey, how about being positive and giving ideas about what people should say! God is in control by the way! God Bless!
TJ May 24, 2017 5:59am
We have gotten all of the above but this one stands out as the worst, "God doesn’t give you more than you can handle". My wife passed about 2 months ago after about 7 years of suffering and is at peace now. We were definitely given way more than what we could handle. I have talked to several pastors and they disagree with that one as well.
Rosemary H May 24, 2017 6:09am
The best gesture I get out of all of these comments is "a hug and say I love you." Does anyone have anything better than that? I'd like to know, please.
Jenny Coss May 24, 2017 6:23am
The one I always struggled with is people wanting to tell you stories about themselves, their family or people they know who had the same surgery or condition that you have. These stories always involved either people who sailed right through and were out dancing two days later (figuratively) or, people who had the worst possible experience with lots of complications, infections, etc. These are NOT the stories I want to hear when going through my own situation. In fact, I don't want to hear anyone else's experiences, unless I ask.
Steven Lopez May 24, 2017 6:29am
What can I do to help? (just do something) My thoughts and prayers are with you. (a mindless response as we feel we must say something) Everything will be okay.-->Similar to "I know how you feel". How are we today? (Do not treat grown-ups like children) You look great. (nice try to lift up ones spirit)
Debbie S May 24, 2017 6:45am
- At least you had him in your life this long - you're lucky you had someone who loved you so much
Isabel Purpura May 24, 2017 6:52am
What seems insensitive to me is when I'm describing my son's illness and someone says to me, "Well couldn't you tell he was sick?" or "Why didn't you take him to the doctor sooner?" or something like, "Well you knew he was gaining weight." Really, blame the parents, that didn't help. I was already feeling guilty enough as it was that I didn't see his heart failure coming. Not even the doctors say it coming!
Pam Wexler May 24, 2017 7:05am
Debbie Depner......My neck got hot when I read your post. Choosing NOT to focus on the insensitivity ( that borders on cruelty) from the closest people to you. I just want to encourage you by saying that there sensitive, loving souls out there who would embrace your challenge with you. I know it takes energy to find them and that may be in short supply. I am praying, (truly praying) that you will find the support that you need and deserve to have the strength to go through any recommended treatment, restore hope and LIVE! Been there, my friend.
Mick May 24, 2017 7:12am
Thank you so much for writing this article. I used to cringe every time someone would say, one of these sayings. ( I know they meant well, but it did not help)
Carol Winner May 24, 2017 7:13am
When my son died from cancer a "friend " said "Well it wasn't as if you didn't know he was going to die " .
Jan May 24, 2017 7:18am
I lost my beautiful daughter, Heidi, to leukemia.....everyone of the "7 Things You Should Never Say" were said to me.....
Jody Biddle May 24, 2017 7:21am
"I know exactly how you feel." No one knows exactly how another person feels so this is not a helpful comment.
Phil Wagner May 24, 2017 7:27am
Excellent information. It would also be helpful to give us 7 things we could say . We would appreciate it. Thank You.
Patti Moran May 24, 2017 7:30am
The worst thing someone can say to me is God doesn't give you more than you can handle. I lost 2 children to cancer a husband to cancer,a son-in-law to a car accident.My son-in-law was married to one of my daughters and they had 2 small children.I took custody of my 2grandsons.
Beth Johnson May 24, 2017 7:35am
"How are you feeling?" REALLY? Now, that's a stupid question
Pat Laudicina May 24, 2017 7:39am
When our daughter was in a coma with a traumatic brain injury one of the things that hurt our hearts was "be grateful she didn't die". Or while a sister stood and watched her beloved home burn to the ground along with 30 years of memories, "at least no one died"
Mary Anne Cook May 24, 2017 7:39am
I know how you feel.
jay clark May 24, 2017 7:41am
A friend to my wife, "It'll be easier for you to die than me. You go to church".
Donna May 24, 2017 7:42am
Dear Folks: Please suggest what to say. Many of us are at a loss as to the right things to say to a person who has lost loved one or is dealing with a terminal illness.
Pat Laudicina May 24, 2017 7:43am
"It will be harder for me to lose my mother as I had her s0 much longer". I was 22 and my beloved mother just died at 47.
Delmar Hager May 24, 2017 7:44am
I have always found the simply saying: 'I love you and I am praying for you' is usually the encouragement they need.
Maria Pimentel-Gannon May 24, 2017 8:00am
Another statement need not be said: "Well, at least she didn't suffer long." Or "At least she was older / lived a long life." Or "At least you had her for many years."
Nancy Mullen May 24, 2017 8:00am
Both of our children died as adults, they had cystic fibrosis. People have said, OMG I can't imaging losing one- but two! How can you possibly go on? Another neighbor & friend who avoided us for over a year- when I stopped by her house said, I'm sorry, I can't look you in the eye anymore without imagining losing one of my own kids; It's too painful for me!
DC Book Angel May 24, 2017 8:02am
I, for one, have felt it more personally positive from those who say or write "Our thoughts and prayers are with you" or "I am so sorry this is happening" if it comes with all of the other good things people have mentioned and from people for whom I know it is true. And the memories shared in a note are a real help (even the goofy ones). The best are the people who try to understand that recovery from loss (or anything else) is not instant and check back in over time with a simple "Thinking of you, how are you?". But yes, all seven are regular responses, plus the idiot questions looking for a cause, "Did he ever smoke?" "Did she get an annual mammogram?" and my personal pet peeve, "Well you know a lot of people so this kind of thing is to be expected."
S harrell May 24, 2017 8:14am
This just why some people don't visit the sick and bereaved. Be helpful. Offer suggestions as to how to handle rather than " you're making it worse"
Bill May 24, 2017 8:15am
So agree 2 things to say: I am so sorry I you you
wendy Goodman May 24, 2017 8:16am
I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT AGREE! ever single comment above is positive, REALITY... ive had cancer 2 times, my ONLY son is combat army, death is inevitable. EVERTHING has a purpose..even a GOOD one in BAD circumstances. There is a holy plan. one will be stronger, idk about the cancer comment, but NOBODY WANTS CANCER... positive thoughts, people, music and scripture HEALS!!!.. AND GOD ALLOWS (DOESNT SEND) TRIALS. AS FAR AS HEALTHY ANYONE, ITS A BLESSING TO BE COUNTED!... IVE SEEN THESE PHRASES ON OTHER SITES AND IM CALLING IT OUT NOW. CARING BRIDGE IS A WONDERFUL SITE, BUT PLEASE DONT FALL FOR THE "TENDER OFFENSES" FROM THE GENERATION WHO HAS BEEN GIVEN EVERYTHING AND CANNOT HANDLE THE TRUTHS OF LIFE (JUST BECAUSE THEY DONT FEEL OR UNDERSTAND THEM) WHEN TRIALS HIT. TRIALS, LIKE RAIN FALL ON EVERY. SINGLE.PERSON. ID LOVE TO HAVE HAD SOMEONE SAY ANY OF THESE THINGS TO ME..AT ANYTIME. INSTEAD OF "NOTHING" BECUASE THEY DONT KNOW WHAT TO SAY....SAY ANYTHING... JUST NOT NOTHING!
David Ditter May 24, 2017 8:16am
Just let me know if there's anything I can do for you.
Kathy Hall May 24, 2017 8:29am
Things that I have found helpful are "I'm so sorry you're having to go through this" and a sincere hug. T
Elizabeth May 24, 2017 8:39am
I have had several friends with cancer. Most of them were given by well-meaning people different diets, pills and teas. Eating sensibly is wise, and they are finding in medical research that some plants have the ability to attack cancer cells, but it is not useful to have a lot of special diets brought to the patient. One friend had a disgusting soup brought to her, as if the chemo wasn't making her sick enough. We did laugh about it though. Maybe that was the purpose. My husband has dementia and gets weary of folks telling him they lose their keys too...as though there isn't really anything wrong.
Linda Davies May 24, 2017 8:42am
Having walked the "Grief Journey" more times than I care to think about, ( I have lost my entire family barring my brother), 5 in total, I concur with you all about these well meaning comments from folks who stumble over the old cliche's when the really don't know what else to say. I just take it all as well meant and with a pinch do salt. They are uncomfortable and just trying to be kind. What does one say after all?
Mary Ann Bethea May 24, 2017 8:49am
He was such a good father, God took him on Father's day. (The pastor at my brother's funeral actually said that.) God needed a new angel
sandra May 24, 2017 9:03am
God works all things for good..........
Pat Cole May 24, 2017 9:11am
I had wonderful responses after my husband's death. They came from people who loved my husband dearly. And God was with me and comforted me every step of the way. But the one thing that people often said was "Are you hanging in there?" or a similar phrase that indicated "hanging in there." I know they meant well, so I was not offended or hurt. But I always countered with, "I am not hanging in there. I am living victoriously because God is with me and helping me through my grief." And I would say it with a smile. Of course I grieve. But there are many more times of refreshing from the Lord so I am not downcast. That doesn't make me Superwoman. It makes me a child of the Lord who offers the best support and comfort than any human can. Our trust in His love and strength and faithfulness in the time of sadness is the best antidote for taking umbrage at any careless remark from others.
Beverely Thomes May 24, 2017 9:27am
I feel like people need me to reassure them by saying I feel as good as I look. I am learning to be kind to myself and that means choosing loving people to be around when ever possible.
Cindy May 24, 2017 9:32am
As my child is battling leukemia, a "friend" sent me an email telling me I needed a certain supplement for him, worded in a way meant to make me feel guilty if I didn't get it, and she is a representative and sells it and would love for me to buy some from her! Really! If it's so great and you are so concerned, why not offer to give it to him. The nerve of people trying to take advantage of me to make money as I am taking care of my son.
Barbara King May 24, 2017 9:33am
thank you for this; some people don't know what to say, others try to be encouraging and think they are and just don't realize; sometimes it's so easy to just say something and say the wrong thing
Jill Blythe May 24, 2017 9:34am
My sister was a severe diabetic from childhood. This was 40 years ago before even the good advancements of today. She lost a leg, eyesight, was on dialysis for years, had two kidney transplants and other surgeries. People would say the God never gives you more than you can handle phrase. She would try to laugh and say well I wish he didn't trust me so much! She died in her mid forties after years and years of difficulties. Still miss her kind sweet words and great advice!!
Cindi May 24, 2017 9:42am
I have read through most of these and most of the comments are what NOT to say. Please give us some tips of WHAT to say! Thank you!
Jeanette May 24, 2017 9:45am
I'm with Laurie in that I try to give people the benefit of the doubt for at least trying. Sometimes we really don't know what to say and a cliche flies out of our mouth before we can catch it. In moments of grief I have treasured the friends who said, "I'm so sorry" and nothing else, and wrapped their arms around me, because what I needed was their presence, and sometimes permission to cry. What I truly don't appreciate and can't find a valid excuse for is when someone compares my pain to a worse case scenario. "Think about (insert name) and how much she's suffering." I always want to say, "But I'm not going through what she's going through. I'm going through this, and it stinks."
Catherine May 24, 2017 9:49am
After my husband died from cancer, these were the top two comments that I never expected to hear from two different friends. I just busted out laughing when they said the following: 1) "Since you didn't have children, I can't imagine how you are going to fill your time." (My response was that I will continue to do all the same things I already do: work, volunteer, keep a home, have friends over for dinner, visit family, etc.) 2) "You're not grieving correctly." (A Hospice counselor gave me the most amazing advice: "Your grief is as unique as you are. Don't ever let anyone tell you how to grieve.")
Pat Fuller May 24, 2017 9:50am
I heard many of these after a breast cancer diagnosis. One that is not on that list is blaming the 'sick' person for their 'illness'. Such as; "Have you had many mammograms? You know, I read where they actually can cause breast cancer." Sigh . . .
Beth Bishop May 24, 2017 9:56am
So, WHAT are the seven things one CAN say?
Anita McClanahan May 24, 2017 10:23am
How about a REPLACEMENT LIST... WHAT TO SAY???
Dorothy Brar May 24, 2017 10:40am
Doctors' favorite when discussing "odds" with a patient: We all deal with risk; I could get hit by a truck tomorrow.
Jenny May 24, 2017 10:40am
We went thru several years of tragic things happening, and I coined these statements "nice-isms". When I was around people who were NOT saying nice-isms, I made a point to mention how unhelpful and annoying they were, to hopefully prevent any more of them! One such statement was the vague "is there anything I can do?", usually by people who didn't live nearby. Instead of saying this, a person can offer something specific... like "can I come over next Saturday to help you pack?" OR "I'd like to bring you dinner on Tuesday, OK?" OR is it OK if I come over one day next week with cookies, and we can talk?".
Brenda Lisa Hubbs May 24, 2017 10:41am
Things you should never say to someone trying to support you. "These are 7 things not to say." Instead, say, "These are 7 things to say that are helpful"...
john w dineen May 24, 2017 11:01am
Also don't say: "I know how you feel."
Jackie Mashore May 24, 2017 11:12am
I have not seen a comment about mental illness. We have two adult children with a mental illness. Serious behavioral disorders have the same effect as a death- the old person is gone and in their place is a quite different and ill individual. It creates a grief that is 'ambiguous loss'. The stigma attached to this type of serious illness in our society leaves individuals with no clue of how to respond. I've forgiven countless well-intentioned comments. By far the worst response to these illnesses is silence and failure to acknowledge our experience. Suggestions: get educated about the illness; continue to be a loving, caring, compassionate friend/neighbor; be brave and ignore the stigma; bring a casserole! Acknowledge the challenge and exhaustion of caring for an adult child who is critically ill in the same way one would reach out and support in any situation with a critical chronic illness. Don't be afraid to be present.
linda freeman May 24, 2017 11:15am
I have had breast cancer. So many people, almost all, told me they would pray for me. I wonder if they really did. However, not one of these people offered help to me. I live alone, no family and could have used some help in going to the grocery store and bringing the groceries up the steps and taking me to chemo and back and other doctors appointments. It seemed the people who were going to pray for me just wanted to sound like they were God fearing believers. I may sound cynical and probably am somewhat at this point. Just remember that prayer is excellent but so is some hands on help.
Ev May 24, 2017 11:27am
When my 91 year old mother died, I realized that no matter their age, 'it's always too soon to say good-bye' to someone you love. So that is what I sometimes say or write when someone loses a parent. Perhaps some might find that insensitive too, I don't know.
Lynn Sites May 24, 2017 11:57am
My father died in a Catholic hospital. A nun told me God needed someone to mow his grass. 47 yrs ago and I have never forgotten nor ceased to think that was about the worst thing for someone, let alone a nun to say 😔
Paula Gohde May 24, 2017 12:04pm
A cousin lost her son and his wife in a horrible accident. When I saw her at the funeral, I blurted out "I can't imagine losing a child," and she answered "I hope you never do." We hugged & cried, and talked. It was the right thing to say.
Linda Van Kirk May 24, 2017 12:34pm
At the age of 26, diagnosed with cervical cancer, hysterectomy followed, along with comments, you can always adopt, once they do cut into you,air gets in & the cancer spreads.Hives followed due to the stress. Several months later, was hit by a car, er room missed my broken neck. My gynecologist called me at home after he received the x-rays, told me not to move my neck & get to the hospital immediately for a neck collar. Lost my ovaries due to adhesions and tumor on the "good" ovary was found during surgery to remove the adhesions. At age 50, was hit sitting at a stoplight. She had been up all night, on too many pills, never hit the brakes. ER missed 6 of the 7 broken ribs, brain injury that led to chronic pain, vertigo, speech and memory problems. The additional damage was found by another doctor & physical therapist. My husband had to be shown the x-rays of all the damage incurred for him to believe it. Violent boughts of vertigo, vomiting, ability to stand, walk, lay down, memory issues, speech, PT followed and continues to this day. I'm now 66. Several drug interactions followed by extreme weight loss. I'm 5'3" tall, was 125, went to 85lbs. A wonderful doctor took the time to look at everything & I have been able to reach 110 lbs. A lifelong friend said I should "sell my diet secret"! Another friend said how great it would be to get the $ from the lawsuit. What a joke. I have been receiving anywhere from 14 to 24 injections from pain management doctor for over 16 yrs. Due to steroids along with pain meds in shots, developed adrenal insufficiency & tumor. Will be on hydrocortisone meds & the injections the rest of my life. People who have not experienced chronic pain have no conception how one's life is affected. Because I look "normal", assumptions & various accusations are made by those you thought would NEVER do so. Why on earth would I do to someone else what has happened to me? I no longer have contact with them. Because I wasn't given the care necessary, injuries missed, my rib cage is barely "connected" & have broken ribs 3 more times since 2001. As I age, comebacks are more difficult. I must sleep, all 2-3 hrs at a time, with my head elevated, only on my left side since. I am very grateful for those who have taken the time to ask questions, know how much I hate taking pain meds to be able to partially function on my own & desperately try to maintain my independence. I stopped trying to explain my situation to "friends & family" that don't nor want to understand. It's really very tedious, tiring and frustrating from my point of view. A smile, laugh, any act of kindness are the greatest gifts & hope I have received, many from strangers and some wonderful health care professionals that take the time to see me as a whole person & treat me as such. The best thing anyone can do to help those who have lost a loved one, human or animal, suffers from a disease, emotional issues, any chronic condition is to simply communicate. Ask how they can help & actually make the effort to do so. Sympathy, in my case, is not needed or necessary, smiles, good memories, laughter, listening and being treated with the respect you would hope to receive is! I hope this gives some answers and understanding to those truly looking. Just take the time to think about what you're going to say before it leaves your mouth, what you would need or want to hear yourself. The hurtful words stay forever and can't be taken back.
Margie Shubin May 24, 2017 12:34pm
I get it but then it isn't from the heart. Our society has become so PC that you have to be afraid to say anything. This is one of the problems with our society. I guess I just won't say anything at all. I do try not to say things that may make things worse but it has gotten out of hand.
Nancy Bryan May 24, 2017 12:37pm
I've been recipient of "0h you'll get over it. I had cancer surgery too, it's not a big deal."
Marilyn Lowry May 24, 2017 12:39pm
"Your Mother/Father lived a long life" Yes, they did, but whether they lived to be 80 or 180, it doesn't make you miss them any less. You will never see them or talk to them on this earth again, and the length of their life does not make it any easier to bear.
Duane Erhard May 24, 2017 1:13pm
My dear wife of 44+ years passed away a little over a year ago. During the 99 day's from diagnosis to her passing, she/we received many, many card's, note's, e-mails, phone calls, posts on Caring Bridge (Nancy Erhard) and visit's. Flower's, meal's, hotel point's, airline mile's, and transportation all came our way, and thousands of dollar's were donated to the charities of her choice in her memory. Hundred's showed for her visitation and hundred's more showed for her Memorial service. When I think of all those wonderful people and their gracious gestures of love, I'm reminded that they were a testament to the love of my life and the impact she had on each of them. What a gift! To this day, I often don't know what to say, even to some of our very best friends when we meet. So, how could I ever stand in judgment of an awkward expression of kindness, given from the heart in a moment when they too were experiencing a loss? Be kind to them and to yourself and listen to their hearts.
Kami Fehlig May 24, 2017 1:16pm
I have lost a sister and husband to suicide. I have been told almost every comment on the list. That said, some of the things people shared below, I have said. This has been very helpful for me to realize that I too, have said things (well-meaning) that were not well received. I obviously do NOT want to hurt anyone with my comments. I will be more careful with my words in the future!
A'Lexa Hawkins May 24, 2017 1:25pm
This is a very helpful thread of comments. I'm reading it because I am one of those people who DO care and DON'T know what to say. I've said "I'm praying for you" and meant it and did pray, often. I've said "What can I do to help?" not to be vague but because it was a real question. I didn't know what to do to help, and I wanted to contribute in some meaningful way. I didnt' want to be the 1000th casserole when the person couldn't hold down anything, or the intruder when the person felt like they had to entertain. This is hard stuff. But a little grace -- on all sides -- goes a long way. Any other suggestions of what TO do would be great.
Sherry May 24, 2017 1:26pm
When my baby died I was told by many, "oh be thankful she wasn't a child, be glad she was only a baby". WOW! The second best is "don't worry, honey, you can have another". I know people mean well but sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all, just a hug or a hand squeeze or "I'm sorry". When these things are said though, you have to keep in mind, they mean well and really don't know what to say.
A'Lexa Hawkins May 24, 2017 1:43pm
Oh...I'll also add two things. 1. I've noticed listening works every time. Be there to be a good listener. Don't make the person feel rushed or like they are boring you in any way. The greatest gift I got when my sister died was two friends who came over and let me talk. I didn't realize how much I needed to talk. 2. when you do comment, I've found people are somewhat contrary. If you say positive things like 'this will get better' it's almost a reflex to say or think the opposite '(you just don't understand how bad it is.') So... when I comment, which I try to not to do too much, I might say something like "No wonder you feel like you do. This is really hard." And they start to counter with "...yea, but things will get better."
Dinisha Anna Millman v. Outten May 24, 2017 2:22pm
I don't remember using any of the above phrases, at least, not for years, but have lost a friend lately, and I don't know why.
Susan Banach May 24, 2017 2:28pm
How about adding " You shouldn't feel that way."
Betsy Grimes May 24, 2017 2:31pm
Following the death of my son: "Why are you (STILL) so sad?" And no kidding: "You're in hell, you're in hell, you're in hell!"
Catherine Lynch May 24, 2017 2:32pm
Eleven days after my son died suddenly, I called a Compassionate Friends hotline. I was in utter anguish. The man told me that his son had died ten years ago and he is "just starting to get used to the horrible pain". That did not help me. I wanted some hope of lessened pain, somehow. Then, thinking of ten more years of the pain I was experiencing, was beyond horrible. The truth is, as years go by, it does get better, never the same, always a painful place in my heart, but I can be happy again. It has been 21 years.
Sandy Hummel May 24, 2017 3:18pm
Please don't say, "I know how you feel". As human beings, we want to be empathetic. But honestly, no one truly knows how another person "feels". If at a loss for words, perhaps a better thing to say is "what can I do for you?"
Andy Mirdik May 24, 2017 4:06pm
Ok, I have read ALL the posts and came to the following decision: (for me) I truly believe that any comment we perceive as good,bad,insensitive,rude, inappropriate, on and on ad nausium, all of them are made by most people who are rather nervous or uncomfortable and really don't know what to say, but yet feel a need to SAY SOMETHING. From now on I will take what they say in kindness and honestly thank them for their concern and caring; receiving this comments graciously, without judgment of the contents. My late wife was THE most accepting and unjudgmental person I have ever known. She truly accepted everyone-and I mean everyone-without exception. What a remarkable and rare attitude. She accepted her final days with the same attitude. Never "why me" or "it's not fair." Not in a fatalistic way, just absolute acceptance! Sorry for the length of this, but this forum has truly help me to better understand without being negative.
Jeanne Struble May 24, 2017 4:17pm
I have lost my husband, both of my parents, two brothers and one sister-in-law in the past 10 years. Yes....I too have heard all of the above statements but you know what? At least friends, relatives and neighbors honored my loved one and me by coming to see me at such a sad time. It is easy to get tongue tied at times like this and for most of the people who told us what they dislike - very few told us what they did like or appreciate. I forgive everyone who may have said something that didn't sound just right to me BUT they came, they gave me hugs, sent cards, brought food to my home, moved snow in some cases and everyone of them have been a blessing to me. I'll never forget the one person who said "I am so hopeful that your fond memories of your loved one, the fun times and the love you shared is a great source of comfort to you at this time." Enough said!
Elaine Simon May 24, 2017 4:34pm
Sometimes just a hug helps
Shirley Dentler May 24, 2017 5:18pm
The CaringBridge website was great for me when I had breast cancer. It was a form of encouragement and I appreciated all the prayers, etc. posted. Also, when my daughter-in-law had a website it was a great place to go to look up her progress without making phone calls everyday. She had a long recovery period from a bone marrow transplant. She is still in recovery but doing great. Also, it is a great place to make a little donation to this website.
Bonnie Blomberg May 24, 2017 6:39pm
I have read all the comments. I am deeply moved by all the caring/wonderful things people have said here --(God) please help us all to be caring, loving beings -- to be present with those we love (in times of trial) and love all. Love first, speak second.
jsmyth May 24, 2017 7:40pm
I know how you feel How are you - really (after you've said fine)
Laura J Endsley-Tobin May 24, 2017 8:51pm
As a Stage IV cancer fighter/survivor, I agree somewhat with this "list", in my darker days, this stuff would drive me crazy, but guess what, "God does have a plan" and "God doesn't give you more than you can handle". If you are talking to a believer, bringing faith into the conversation is mandatory. Please don't tell people not to bring him up. Alternatively, "you look so good considering what you are going through" is hurtful to ME. It might not be hurtful to my friend. Be careful when laying this out there like that. It's hard enough to try to deal with it inside. People say what is in their heart, they don't know what to say and how to say it, because there are NO WORDS sometimes.
Emily McCall May 24, 2017 9:19pm
As a psychotherapist , I know one of the WORST things you can say to someone grieving a loss or an impending loss is "If you cry it's because you're just feeling sorry for yourself!" I don't know who the moron was who came up with that, but loss is loss and the longer the relationship, the deeper the grief and sadness.
Mary Ann Petro May 24, 2017 10:53pm
Someone said to me (I have 2 serious diseases) that their family member could never have cancer as they are a good Christian person and people are praying for them.
Lauri Ann May 24, 2017 11:13pm
I've said, how are you? When I know how they are.... I always feel silly after I say it!
Sophie Elena May 25, 2017 6:01am
Hello, I respect your choice to your opinion, and I disagree that 3 of the above statements are unhelpful and 'should' not be said. The very fact you chose to use 'should' suggests, from my counselling training, that you think your position is 'the' correct one, and therefore right for everyone. I accept you may not find these statements helpful, and I hold a different viewpoint, and that is right for me. Kind blessings to you, Sophie X
Me May 25, 2017 6:48am
I've come to learn that if I don't want "insensitive" comments that it's best for me to suck it up, lean on God and not drag other people into my personal drama.
Judy sSilva May 25, 2017 7:11am
You are not the only one dealing with this... that DOESN'T HELP. You are not the only one, but you are special to me and I hate that this has happened to you.
Sandra Dickerson May 25, 2017 7:21am
At least he died young before you had a chance to really love him.
Paul Douglas Anderson May 25, 2017 7:50am
Look at the good side.. You get to go see Mom before I do...
Eliecia Progar May 25, 2017 10:05am
I have been a registered nurse all my life and I hear people say these kind of things all the time. I know everyone has good intentions but if anyone actually sat down and thought these statements through, they would never say them again. The part of these statements that is the most hurtful and inappropriate, in my opinion, is ..... that we have a God that is cruel and intentionally dishes out hardship. This could not be any further from the truth. First and foremost, all the maladies of mankind are a product of the human condition. Not servings dished out by "god" And people do encounter things that they can't handle, that does kill them, and are far far worse than cancer. I have had to stand by the side of precious family members that have lost their battles against illness and injury. I have lost countless friends in the same manner. This goes without saying I have cried over the bedsides of many, many patients in 25 years of nursing. Sometimes its best to just say "I'm sorry" and nothing more. Just be there to lend a shoulder, hand a kleenex, make a call, do a small chore. There doesn't always need to be a comment. Offer assistance "if needed" (it always isn't) keep an open ear. Allow people to hurt. It's warranted and needed in certain times.
Eliecia Progar May 25, 2017 10:21am
I have been a registered nurse for 25 years and have heard people use all of these expressions countless times. I am sure that everyone has good intentions. If anyone sat down and actually thought these statements through, they would never say them again. The part of the statements that I personally find to be the most hurtful and inappropriate, is that God dishes out servings of pain and misery upon people. This could not be further from the truth. All the maladies of mankind are a product of the human condition. Our kind and merciful God does not dish tragedy upon us. People do have things happen to them that they can't handle, that does kill them, that breaks them and makes them weaker and are far far worse than cancer. I have stood by precious, much loved family and friends that have lost their battles to illness and injury. I have cried over the bedsides of countless patients that have lost their battles too. Most times there is little to say. Leave it at "I'm sorry" offer a kleenex, make a call, do a small favor or chore. Make yourself available "if" help is requested. Sometimes it isn't. Make your presence known but not intrusive. Allow people room to grieve and be emotional. It is warranted and necessary in these situations. Never say something, or make an offer if you don't really mean it. Be kind
Eliecia Progar May 25, 2017 10:29am
I apologize for posting the same thing twice. I didn't think it posted the first time.
Anne May 25, 2017 11:27am
I find it important to remember that when another human being is suffering that there is absolutely nothing I can say or do that will make that person's situation and ensuing pain go away. It's important for me to remember that I am not their God and that any real and meaningful comfort must come from Him. As a human being like those I come across and care for that are in crisis, I try to remember that my role is not as "fixer" or as "healer" but rather as a calm and extremely loving presence.
Maryann Guhl May 25, 2017 12:38pm
Well at least she had a long life. She's not in pain anymore These two comments can be hurtful.
Ruthann Cowell May 25, 2017 1:13pm
I knew I would never be able to stay on my feet if anyone said something "stupid" at my husband's visitation. I am am 55 years old, my husband was 60, and we, as a team, fought a 2 year battle against leukemia. He had a stem cell transplant which depleted his immune system and a nasty pneumonia claimed his life very quickly and with little warning. I wrote this out and placed it by a nice bouquet of flowers, hoping people waiting in the visitation line would read it and take it to heart. No one said anything stupid, but many people thanked me for being brave enough to share it, and commented how they never know what to say. Several took pictures of it, including a Hospice Care nurse friend. She asked if she could share it with nurses, families and patients, alike. I offer it up for anyone to copy and share at their loved ones wake, visitation, gathering, and if it will save one broken heart more hurt, I will be forever grateful. Please don’t tell me “he is in a better place”. Don’t tell me “he is no longer in pain”. That doesn’t make sense to me right now. I am grieving. I want him back by my side. Tell me how much he meant to you, tell me how much you will miss him, tell me how your heart is breaking. My heart, my home, my life are empty and I don’t know how to go on. If you want to comfort me, meet me where I am.
Ruthann Cowell May 25, 2017 1:24pm
The wisest words came from a fellow widow. This particularly insightful woman told me she had been in "those shoes. Not your shoes, but those shoes." She went on to explain she was not in my marriage, so she does not know how I feel, but she knew what it was like to be in her marriage, and thus, the shoes of a widow. It's comforting to know others have made it through, and chances are, I will to. If you don't know what to say, a hug and I'm so sorry. A mother/father is very hard to lose. You had a good one. That hits the right place for me.
Laurie May 25, 2017 3:12pm
I would also encourage people not to talk about retirement. Some of us have incurable cancer and our life expectancies vary. I hope and pray that I am alive when they find a cure. I don't let myself think about retirement and when that discussions comes up, it makes me sad.
Lynne Clemente May 25, 2017 3:20pm
Read many of these comments. When my Dad passed away at the young age of 63, I was in shock and frankly don't remember most comments. But I do remember people relating fond memories of him which was so comforting. But what to say at a friend's wake when you don't know the deceased? Please comment.
Marilyn D Mitchell May 25, 2017 4:50pm
I have survived cancer and other life threatening medical issues and have been widowed twice. I found all communication comforting. No one else is going through your circumstances, so they are doing their best to show they care. The ones who simply ignore your hurt are the ones who pile on more hurt for me. If they truely care, they would say SOMETHING, even if it is a trite and overused phrase.
Tracie Acosta May 25, 2017 5:29pm
While this is extremely helpful in knowing what not to say and very wise, perhaps a next great post would be 7 positive or good things to say. I think often it is so hard to know what to say out of fear of saying something wrong or hurtful, and therefore we remain silent or even avoid the situation so as not to be uncomfortable. 😞 I often find myself silent and listen yet just wanting to hold and comfort with a hug.
Mary Hacker May 25, 2017 7:03pm
Never say "I know how you feel"
John C Smith May 26, 2017 7:50am
After all the "TERRIBLE" things that really well meaning people say, trying hard to be helpful, that ARE SO TERRIBLY WRONG, I think the best thing is to avoid them and leave the person alone to grieve by themselves, cause God knows, i wouldn't want to say the WRONG THING. So from now on, they can just suffer alone, rather than risk becoming the butt of their sarcastic comments!!!!!!!!
JC Smith May 26, 2017 7:55am
Sounds like the best thing to do is to leave them alone and let them grieve the best they can rather than risk the harsh critism for having saif=d the "WRONG" thing!!!! After all the "TERRIBLE" things that really well meaning people say, trying hard to be helpful, that ARE SO TERRIBLY WRONG, I think the best thing is to avoid them and leave the person alone to grieve by themselves, cause God knows, i wouldn't want to say the WRONG THING. So from now on, they can just suffer alone, rather than risk becoming the butt of their sarcastic comments!!!!!!!!
Jo Hempstead May 26, 2017 8:00am
To the mother of a stillborn or miscarried child, don't say "You can have other children." This child is irreplaceable,
Sandy Iverson May 26, 2017 9:02am
After many years the comment I remember after losing a baby at birth was, "Well, at least you never knew him" The other was, "Be glad you have other children". You do know your baby when you have carried him for 8 months and of course I was glad to have other children but we felt a terrible loss for the little boy we didn't get to bring home. Again, I know people meant to be helpful but I think a simple I'm sorry would have been sufficient
Betty May 26, 2017 9:03am
The one i dislike the most in this day and age is I googled ..... Just because you can find information on google does NOT make it true or good information
Gary Zimmerman May 26, 2017 5:14pm
I have to say, I'm a little saddened by this article and most of the responses. Right now, I'm the one in our lives who may soon be gone and to me, I completely understand that people don't know what to say; nor is there anything they can say that will make it all better for anyone. When a person takes a moment of their day to simply express the fact that me and my family mean something to them means the world to us. If you can't appreciate that and prefer to critique their words, then I think those caring souls may have simply wasted their time. For me, any word of encouragement or thoughtfulness has meaning; even if it's silence out of respect for our time and the knowledge that there's nothing that can take the pain away. A wise person once told me, it's not about me, they can't help me; it's about them expressing their love, care, compassion, or whatever. Personally, I don't evaluate the words, I accept and appreciate the effort. It may help us all to remember that whether we like it or not, life goes on and every person we encounter has their own issues, their own challenges, their own losses to deal with. That they take a moment to set that all aside for me, my family, or you should be appreciated -- in my humble opinion
Janet May 26, 2017 7:43pm
I not only am undergoing chemo for breast cancer but then my husband died with brain cancer. I've been told: You are strong so this will pass; Pull yourself up by your bootstraps...others have done it; Call me if you need me; Make up your mind to be above this hurdle; I know exactly how you feel; Let me tell you about what happened to me. Those comments are just a fraction of what I've been told.
Mary Anne May 27, 2017 8:06pm
Please, focus on the intention, not on the words. People are not trying to be cruel or hurtful when they say these things, but doing their best to say what they think may help. Each of us has different ways of expressing ourselves and each of us interprets what others say differently, so why be judgmental? Why make people hesitant to say anything at all in case it's the "wrong" thing? BTW, I once expressed my sympathy (as best I could) to the grieving parents of a teen-age son who died after a long illness, and their response to me was "This is God's plan."
N J Ferreira May 28, 2017 8:09pm
Would love some guidance on what ARE some good things to say.....
Kimberly May 29, 2017 4:12am
My father passed away in 2002. Before the wake, my mom told me that if someone asks if there's anything they can do, she will take them up on their offer. When the first person expressed their kind sympathoes to us, they continued with the, if there's anything....before they completed their sentiment, my mom responded with , yes, my windows are due for a washing and my garage needs to be painted. About two weeks after my dad's funeral, the windows were washed and the garage fully painted. My mom passed away in 2015. As it was in 2002, caring and kindness were overflowing from people. A few comments gave me pause - did they really just say that? It's awkward for both people. Not just with the loss of my parents - I've been on both sides. Whatever someone says or does, it will not change the loss. If they fumble with words, my opinion is they want to help, provide comfort. Whether someone attends the wake and/or services, sends a card, flowers, preps some meals - count your blessings that no gesture of kindness is too small. If the words aren't 'perfect', remember the intention and gesture were out of love and kindness.
Debra May 29, 2017 2:31pm
I have lost many people, 1998 my father to cancer, 2002 nana to dementia (the amazing woman who raised me),2007 my husband in an ATV accident and 2009 (4 days before our 6th wedding anniversary, he was buried on that day) and lastly my step father to a massive heart attack (who I had to do CPR on). I have heard many varieties of the phrases above and other variations. For me the worse was from a friend who I knew since grade school who was supposed to me my dearest friend looked at me not even 12 hours after my husband died and told me that I was a good looking woman and I will find some else HOLY SMOKES! . I work in health care and I have admitted many people into the hospital and when you get to social history and you find out they are widowed I always ask when or how long and if it is recent the patient often offers when they passed and how long they were married. I only know them for 30 + minutes I always reach out and touch their hand make direct eye contact and say I am so very sorry. Depending on the situation and the patient I tell them for me the first year completely sucked and after that slowly things changed and got better and I also preface that by we all grieve and heal in our own way and our own time, remember that there is no recipe or timeline for this. For me sometimes no comment at all is very comforting, a gentle touch, holding a hand, a hug, a soft and comforting smile as you are deeply hoping the person you are with can feel what is truly in your heart.
Thomas Cleveland May 29, 2017 4:57pm
"So..How's it going / How are you?" People asking me at my mom's, dad's, and brother's funerals.
malinda cannon rn May 30, 2017 8:40am
I know how you feel.. (anything said before )but use words that say I care about you, I support you.
Bev Kreps May 30, 2017 6:02pm
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, a friend asked what I had done to get cancer. Hmmmm! I responded that I was just the unfortunate eighth woman since about 1 in 8 American women deal with this.
Tommie Coke Jun 02, 2017 3:23pm
Only two responses applied to me. It did give me lots of "what not to say" to terminally ill and those left behind. But it was more directed to Do you have a similar blog geared to people with illnesses that are not terminal? Personally, I suffer from fibromyalgia, along with arthritis, and some of the same things are said to me. "You look great; you must be getting better." When they ask how I am doing, am I to say, "fine" and let it go at that? My family is most guilty of pushing me to walk, to go on a picnic and to do other things that are outside my ability THAT DAY. As a home-alone person, my only interaction is with bus drivers and volunteers. Does anyone help me with laundry, with putting a sheet on a top bunk, carrying my garbage to the collection box? And, yes, I ask. This sounds like a pity party but it is just frustration at not finding help like this site.
Eugene Wessling Jun 02, 2017 11:06pm
Whenever there is trouble or tragedy everyone should help everyone relate to and get in touch with Almighty God. He/She is the perfect love, solace & source of strength. One of the primary weaknesses of our current society is the fact that we are afraid to come to Him/Her for love and help. He/She is the source of everything in our lives.
Amy Conroy Jun 03, 2017 7:01pm
Upon learning of my cancer diagnosis, someone said, "My grandmother had the exact same thing. She was dead in under three months." I still have no idea how that was supposed to be helpful.
Mrs Joanne E Yarad Jun 04, 2017 11:58pm
I have to disagree with one off your of your comments regards"Think the Word Positive". From the moment when my husband came from the Doctor's surgery & was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma, we looked at one another & agreed that we would wake up each morning & our first word would be "Think Positive". 5 years later after being in remission for those 5 years, he was diagnosed with Burkitt's Lymphoma - not much was known re Burkitt's back in 2007 & after some pretty horrible treatment, although not in pain we passed away, just going on for 71. Each day we would think "Positive" the first time around, we told the nurses & staff that our word was Positive thinking - out here in Australia, our nurses told us that the result that they had from patients who thought Positive - most of them left hospital - WELL.
Daphne chapman Jun 06, 2017 7:15am
My sister died in a tragic car accident. Many people at the time would say " she's in a better place". This wasn't helpful at all. She was 17 and full of life. We wanted her here.
Sue Jun 07, 2017 5:38pm
This is very true and helpful to anyone who has a loved one who has cancer or any other terrible disease. We need to be careful what we say to them while letting them know how much we love them.
Cheryl Jackson Baker Jun 07, 2017 7:35pm
May I add to the above list? "He/She's in a better place"
Lynn Jun 08, 2017 2:33pm
Someone said to my daughter after her sister died, "How does it feel to be an only child?" Of course it wasn't meant to be hurtful, but when I heard the words, I was shocked. There have been many other inappropriate comments from others as well. Sadly, people don't realize the impact of their words at the time they say them. As time has moved on, I have been able to understand what their words were meant to say.
DavidReno Jun 10, 2017 10:17pm
I have found when you share grief it diminishes and when you share joy it increases. I am not sure why this is so, but I have found it is. DavidReno
Charles Kirke Jun 19, 2017 12:15pm
After some years of informal study of bereavement I can add the following to the list above, additional and not in any way replacing it: “I know how you feel”. NEVER NEVER NEVER EVER SAY THAT “At least you have…” or “At least you are…” ANY PHRASE STARTING WITH 'AT LEAST' “Pull yourself together and think of others.” “You have to be strong for the sake of other members of the family.” “You are strong enough to cope.” “You must look ahead and think of the future”. “You are still young enough to marry again/have more children” etc. “You have cheered up a lot lately”. “It takes time, but you will get over it.” Our capacity as human beings - even caring human beings - to be crass and harmful to the bereaved is extraordinary. It is better to be there than to talk this rubbish, even if you think it is true at the time. Be there. Be there. One additional point - adjustment to situations that bring grief take a long time, and that means years. Even after people think that they are 'over it' we are ALL subject to what I have called 'grief ambushes' where with no warning the grief is re-triggered. People can think that they are some sort of freak if the grief returns: you're not - you're a normal person reacting to personal loss in the normal way. Charles
Shirley Wallace-McCray Jun 27, 2017 2:19pm
I just lost my father to Pancreatic cancer. We received the diagnosis just 20 days before he passed away. I was his caregiver and I will be the first to say that that role is both a blessing and a curse. I cannot explain the pain that is felt watching your super hero get weak and die. I am left blessed with the amazing memories of his life, yet cursed with the memories of his last days. I try to take it day-by-day and accept the roller coaster of emotions that I am having. I think that the best way someone can help anyone going through this is just to admit that they are not sure what to say or do to comfort you, but that they are there for you no matter what.
SUE D ELLIS Jul 09, 2017 12:00am
"You don't look sick."
Colleen Simon Jul 19, 2017 12:46am
My daughter has been through life-threatening illnesses: Wegener's disease, end-stage renal failure, kidney transplant, stage 4 Burkitt lymphoma and leukemia. What I've gotten tired of hearing: "I don't know how you've gotten through it! I never could!" Yes, you would get through it!! Do you mean there's something you wouldn't do for your child if they had a life-threatening illness??? 😳 I have to mention that having a CaringBridge page for my daughter has been a lifesaver for me and my family, so THANK YOU, CARINGBRIDGE!! And, my daughter is doing well! ❤️