5 Things to Say to Patients and Caregivers Besides ‘I’m So Sorry’

CaringBridge users confirm what Ryan O’Neal said to Ali MacGraw all those years ago: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” (Readers born after 1970 can catch “Love Story” on Netflix.)

While it’s a reflex to respond to news of a cancer diagnosis, stroke, illness, injury or any health crisis with an automatic, “I’m so sorry,” patients and caregivers on the receiving end of these words may wish for something less automatic and more hopeful.

‘I’m So Sorry’ Can Feel Discouraging

CaringBridge author Susan Miller, whose partner, Cyteria Knight, continues healing after a brain aneurysm and stroke, said, “I appreciate everyone’s comments, but when I read, ‘I’m so sorry,’ so many times, it can feel a little discouraging.”

(Here are 7 more things you should avoid saying to patients or caregivers.)

In general, messages that make patients and caregivers feel less isolated mean the most. That’s the essence of social support … helping people stay connected at a time they feel very disconnected from normal life.

5 Positive Expressions of Support That Aren’t ‘Sorry’

CaringBridge users came through with alternative comments that express support simply and effectively. Here are five ideas for what to say to a patient or caregiver:

1. “I wish things were going better.” OR “I wish this was not happening to you.”

These statements show that you care about their wellbeing and sincerely want them to experience the better parts of life. It won’t change their situation, but it will show your loved one that they have people on their side who are rooting for them and sending them positive vibes each day.

2. “This must be hard news for you to share.”

This shows you understand that not only is what they’re going through difficult, but that sharing it can be a challenge as well. The best thing you can do after saying this is simply listening. Hear their hard news and stay strong for them.

3. “When do you see yourself clear for coffee? Or wine?”

Asking your friend or family member to spend time with you is one of the simplest and kindest things you can do. This offers them a break from thinking or talking about being a patient or a caregiver. Honestly, a drink and some conversation is probably just what your loved one needs.

“Especially for someone who is caring for a sick loved one….offer help, to run errands, cook a meal, come in an clean up, laundry, or just spend time together. Practical supports that mean a lot and give the person a much-needed respite.”


As a cancer and later chemo-brain patient, I appreciated when someone would say “you inspire me.” “Let me know what I can do” or “I’m here for you,” while appreciated, were not as helpful as when people just “showed up” – whether that was by sending a card or a note, calling on the phone or delivering a meal or a gift – that made me feel like they were thinking of me and that I wasn’t alone. When you are struggling to get through your illness/treatment, you don’t have the emotional and physical energy to reach out or ask for help.”

Deb D.

4. “You are in my heart.”

Sometimes letting someone know you’re thinking of them can mean the world.

“Hope is important, but to say ‘you will beat this’ can provide false hope that makes it harder when a terminal prognosis has to be accepted and the end prepared for. I find the best comments to be ones that offer love and support without expressing a feeling of despair or false hope: ‘You are in my heart,’ ‘I am thinking of you and your family,’ ‘I am holding you in my prayers.’”


5. “I love you.”

When all is said and done, love is what’s left. In the toughest of times, these words can be the difference between your loved one feeling like their challenges are impossible and feeling like they can do anything. So share the love as honestly and as often as you can. You never know how long it’s been since someone’s heard those words.

Saying Something Is Always Better Than Nothing

The worst thing to write or say to patients and caregivers is nothing at all. So if an “I’m sorry” slips out, it’s OK. We’ve all been there. Hopefully, these five positive sayings can help you show your support in other ways and make a patient or caregivers day a little brighter.

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!

Patients, Caregivers – What Words Have Helped You? Comment Below!

We want to hear it from you! What have been the most helpful or comforting words in your care journey? Please feel free to share with the CaringBridge community and join us in helping patients and caregivers feel the love.

  • Marie Bossard

    When a friend was diagnosed with cancer, I asked her if she would like me to e-mail her funny or sweet videos on a regular basis. She agreed.
    Later, another friend was also diagnosed with cancer, I asked again and sent her my e-mails too.
    These two friends told me later that it helped them and they thanked me. Starting the day with a good laugh!!!!
    These videos were short and either very funny or sweet and I would send them every other day or so.
    On the other end, I remember another friend who, several years earlier, also had cancer and she was complaining about somebody who would e-mail her jokes, actually I am not sure this was when she was under treatment, it may have been before she was even diagnosed… So, in any case, make sure you ask and be ready to stop at the slightest hint that they are not welcome.
    Should anyone be interested, I will be happy to share my list! 🙂

  • Joan Laurie

    I am both a CareGiver of many family members and an R.N. who was in charge of children with bone cancer at a major Children’s Hospital ~ I totally disagree with this author. Saying “I am sorry” is perfectly acceptable … saying “This stinks” is a very odd thing to say to someone who is grieving ~ in my opinion.
    Listening & being there for someone is the most important thing that one can do ~ Saying “I love you” and letting the person know that you are there for him is the kindest way to show support.

  • Marnie

    Offers of prayers are the best! When my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and shortly after, I really didn’t get upset at comments of “ I am so sorry.” I do like your suggestions for other alternative comments too, however. I just think you need to extend Grace- people really don’t know what to say- particularly if they haven’t been through something similar in nature. But wow, did I totally appreciate the Caring Bridge site during this most difficult time in my life. It was wonderful to easily provide updates regarding my husband’s journey and to receive loving comments. I could read them when able, or when I needed a pick me up. It’s why I asked for donations in his memory, to CB , upon his passing. I have recommended CB to a few people facing similar circumstances. Can’t say enough about Caring Bridge!! I hope you find strength and hope during this most challenging time !

  • Becky Dumitru

    I have copies of all of Donna Lou Ritter’s beautiful and supportive posts. As she has left us now shortly before her birthday, she left us with lasting memories in her wonderfully written encouraging words. I miss her terribly but I have loving childhood recollections that make me smile. I love and miss you my sweet “Mary”. With my love, Mary also

  • Moshe Strugano

    Israeli lawyer Moshe Strugano, an expert in the “formation of offshore companies” like the way you present the article here. Really these are some magical words for patient

  • Cheryl Zwagerman

    You are tougher than you look!


    It’s tough today but hang in there!

  • gabriel flody

    I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in June 2016, I am in a wheelchair and have a lot of spasms. My wife was taking care of me and doing her best to find a solution to save my life Four months ago my wife came to see me and told me that she found out about a man named Dr. Peter Wise and that Dr. said he could help me of my situation, I was glad to hear that and allowed him to give it a try. three days later he came up with a herbal formula and said it was from Dr. Peter Wise, I was very happy and I started the medication and in 3 weeks I was able to walk without support and my spasms stopped and now I don’t feel any symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Thank you Dr. Peter Wise for this great healing. You can contact Dr. Peter Wise for your healing via peterwiseherbalcenter @ gmail. com

  • Mary Lewis Grow

    Never, never, never say “I pity you.” Someone said that to me when I was having cancer treatment, and I told the person that no one ever wants to be an object of pity. “I hate it that you’re going through this!” is a good phrase to use, in addition to the ones you suggested.

  • Westie Hurley

    Am so happy my Daughter got cured of ALS which almost make her disable and taken her life, please help me in thanking this clinic for their good work by healing ALS patient, they are so great and useful to the state, they are not here to cheat on sick people but ready to help the sick, my Daughter get herself back to feet after 4 Months of medication, here is their email if you need their help medicalhealthcarelab (ART)gmail(DOT)c.o.m

  • Westie Hurley

    that nice

  • Aura

    Especially for someone who is caring for a sick loved one….offer help, to run errands, cook a meal, come in an clean up, laundry, or just spend time together. Practical supports that mean a lot and give the person a much-needed respite.

  • Peggy jo Broadstreeto

    Love you girlfriend and prayers are for you to get well soon. We miss you

  • Cheryl Evry

    I have cared for my husband since his stroke four years ago. The most helpful thing is “can I come over this weekend?” or “can I come over on Tuesday?” Don’t leave it up to me. I’m toast. I can’t be your social secretary. This is ALWAYS the thing to do. It’s hard for us to get out and see people. Even if you come over and watch a movie, it’s a visit. And even if he sleeps through it, I’m still a human too, and I appreciate it for the both of us. Bring dinner and you are a goddess. Again, if he can’t eat it, I still need to be fed too (though bonus points if you ask what he can eat and provide one option, even if most times he isn’t up to it.)

  • Martha Goudey

    Okay, this is not politically correct and I apologize if this is offensive. But the best response I got when I shared my cancer diagnosis was from my sister in law. All she said (at first) was “Fuck.” Not conventional and in most cases certainly not recommended. But it was her, and a heartfelt expression of, “oh no, how could this happen,” and, it made me laugh, something very appreciated at that moment. Other than that, I needed to know people were praying for me. My other sister in law said, “I really feel you are going to beat this.” My son said, “Is it treatable? That’s what he needed to know. And, “I’m sorry you have to go through this.”

  • bev hannah

    I love you and we will be praying for you.

    Would you want me to list this on our church prayer chain.

    May I call (or visit)you through the week.

  • Deb D

    As a cancer and later chemo-brain patient, I appreciated when someone would say “you inspire me.” “Let me know what I can do” or “I’m here for you,” while appreciated, were not as helpful as when people just “showed up” – whether that was by sending a card or a note, calling on the phone or delivering a meal or a gift – that made me feel like they were thinking of me and that I wasn’t alone. When you are struggling to get through your illness/treatment, you don’t have the emotional and physical energy to reach out or ask for help.

    Not feeling up to taking care of the people and pets whom I usually cared for was the hardest part for me. It would have been such a relief for someone to stop by to take my dog for a walk or do some laundry or other relatively small task that I ended up pushing myself to do instead of taking care of myself.

    The worst thing is to say things that make someone feel dismissed or afraid – “you’ll beat this”, “you’ll be fine” felt to me both untrue and dismissive of the struggle I was going through. So many people would respond to my news by telling me about someone else they new who had cancer or sharing some horrible story about someone else’s cancer. Maybe people think they are giving you hope or trying to tell you that they understand but those responses made me feel incredibly alone and terrified.

  • Mary E Smith

    My husband has had several serious illnesses. So many people have been so kind and helpful. Each have been very comforting in their own way. The one that stands out for me was when I called my pastor once when my husband got very ill when we were out of town were these words. “ Thanks for letting me know, would you like prayer right now over the phone?” That has been several years ago and many more illnesses have followed but I will always remember those words that were so comforting. Also, having friends ask permission to put me or my loved ones on their prayer chains have always been a great comfort. Others sharing their faith helps activate my faith at a time of great concern or sorrow.

  • Jill Toth

    Don’t ever say “I understand “ unless you have been through the same thing!! I recently underwent surgery for breast cancer and reconstruction. My body rejected the implants and I had yet another surgery to remove the implants. I was quite depressed and I just wanted to scream when anyone said to me “I understand.”

  • S Nelson

    When can I come over.?I just want to see you. I love you.

  • Olivia

    I have been a caregiver for my husband with Stage 4 cancer for 2.5 years. It has been very hard to have people ask, “Let me know if there is anything I can do.” Like others have said, it puts the responsibility on me to initiate and organize help. I just can’t do that. And I also like it when someone offers a specific form of help…I can bring dinner next Tuesday, I can come over tomorrow to help around the house, etc.
    The words “I am sorry” can be a mixed bag. It is very nice to offer sympathy/empathy, but “I am sorry” can come across as overly sympathetic, or can suggest a feeling of hopelessness, and often are accompanied by anguished facial expressions and stressed tone of voice. This can make me feel worse than I already do. Hope is important, but to say “you will beat this” can provide false hope that makes it harder when a terminal prognosis has to be accepted and the end prepared for. I find the best comments to be ones that offer love and support without expressing a feeling of despair or false hope: “You are in my heart”, “I am thinking of you and your family”, “I am holding you in my prayers”.

  • Minette

    I have a problem with “I’m sorry”….and then the person goes into a story of “I was just so devastated when that happened to me “…it’s like the need to comfort had transferred to me. What I do like is someone thoughtfully listening, pouring a hand on my arm or giving me a hug, and then saying I’m so very sorry…and leaving it there.

  • Gretchen

    I have no problem with “I’m sorry.” I hate “let me know if there is anything I can do” because it puts the responsibility of asking for something on me when I am sad and stressed. Prayers are nice. Please don’t tell me about your losses at this hard time for me. That can come later. The worst thing to say is nothing at all. Acknowledging the loss or hard time is always appreciated.

  • Linda Gilbert

    Recently my hubby suddenly died although he had health problems for many years. I would agree with not assuming you know how your friend is feeling during care giving times or following a loved one’s death. I didn’t want people to speak negative comments especially about all the firsts…It’s your first ___________ with out your loved one…I know that is so hard.” I preferred faith words and because I am a hugger, those big ole hugs were so welcome with a whispered, I love you or I care. Their loving touch is gone and so missed. I am participating in Grief Share (which is really wonderful) and they suggest letting people know what you need. (A grief letter) I wasn’t comfortable writing a letter, but it did give me permission to tell people what I needed in any given situation. I think part of the problem, is culturally we don’t want to talk about death, most of the time.

  • Elaine Huttenstine

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned, “I’m praying for you.” I’m guessing that’s not “politically correct” but prayer is the most powerful force in this universe and those words have brought great comfort to me many times.

  • Ralph S Brown Jr.

    Frankly, I do not see the problem with something like “I am so sorry about that.” I find it comforting if someone says it to me, at least. I would prefer it to be said to me than any of the above. Obviously a lot depends on how the problem is raised and how bad it is.

  • Sunti Deale

    There’s always hope. Don’t be discouraged!

  • Becky

    You are not alone.

  • Debra Dunn

    You’ll beat this.

  • Trish

    This whole society lives on automatic responses . everyone stop doing that. Sometimes just a big old hug is enough.

  • Kathy

    As someone who has gone through this saying “let me know what I can do for you” while nice it is unhelpful. It puts the responsibility on the person who is struggling. I agree that it is better to make specific offers…I can bring dinner tomorrow or I’m heading to the store what can I get you.

    I never once went to someone who said “let me know…” and actually asked for help. No one wants to have to ask.

  • Julie King

    Thank you for the insightful comments! Sometimes the sufferer – and the caregiver – can be paralyz d by open ended questions. I find it helpful to make suggestions, “i’m going to the market today, what can I pick up for you?”, or ‘I will be gassing up and washing my car today. Could I do that for you, too?”

  • Stevonn Fecher Krueger

    I agree with all the people who say that there is nothing wrong with saying- I’m sorry.

  • Katie Gilfeather

    “I am sorry you are having to go through this- I am here for you and I love you.”

  • Anne Leonardi

    How about adding to any of those comments, “and I’ll pray for you “. It is my experience that most people appreciate a sincere offer to pray.

  • Michaela M

    I have always appreciated hearing “Let me know if there’s anything I can do”

  • Amy Weisman

    I just lost a loved one. I so appreciate the suggestions of what to say. Those who said things other than I’m sorry made me feel much better and supported.

  • mary christopher


  • B phillips

    I am here and available for you.
    How can I pray for YOU specifically in this situation?
    Here s my phone number.

  • Francis E. Elliott

    Oh No When Did You Find this Out. Follow with sending a card and a note.

  • J Shef

    And don’t forget to keep in touch during a long illness or situation. My husband has a TBILISI. He has had his brain injury since 2008. He does quite well with it. However, he is not the same person he was before his accident. After a few years the friends who were with you in the beginning seem to fade away.

    Don’t forget to ask about the caregiver and the patient. Illnesses evolve. We need to know you still care and “ want to spend time with us”.

  • Mary E McGannon

    Thank you for your suggestions. I appreciate them.

  • Lori Heinz

    Thank you for these suggestions. Sometimes I am totally lost for words. This helps! 🙂

  • Barbara fedder

    It’s not only health it could be a person who’s in a bad financial disaster .u could say I love u and ur so smart there will be a light at the end of ur dark tunnel or
    This to shall pass ,ur strong I love u

  • Lynda Obershaw

    “That SUCKS!”

  • Lois Kruse

    For me being in my 4th battle of nsclc hearing, “Oh no not again.” Or “When will this end?” Has been difficult because I am feeling it will probably end when I am no longer here. I do believe that anything is usually said with love but it isn’t always easy to find the right words

  • Elizabeth Edwards

    As a nurse with 44 years experience and a professor for many years, I read these comments with interest. I teach therapeutic communication skills and it helps to know what people find meaningful in these situations. Because so much of our work is about seeking meaning, we need to be able to seek clarity from the people for whom we care.

    I would never say “you must be ……..” feeling or thinking a certain way. That phrase places an expectation on the person to meet MY expectation of how they should be feeling. Better to say “what is life like for you now” or ” what is most important for you to happen today?”. Sometimes I will ask what would help right now. Children(And sometimes adults!) respond well to ” If you had 3 wishes, what would they be?” Learn to be comfortable with silence and the peace of your presence.

    Also, I tell my students that it’s ok to say that you are sorry that something (awful, bad, sad, terrifying) has happened. The day that you can’t feel that way for another human being is the day that you need a break to care for yourself.

    Finally, I do not believe personally in a Judeo-Christian tradition I.e. God but I am more than willing to pray with patients and their families regardless of their faith if doing so brings them comfort and peace. All the gods are one.

  • Evelyn Robinson

    I’m here for you.

  • Alison K.

    When my husband passed away suddenly, I was really comforted when people said ‘I am sorry for your loss’. I’m not sure why people are offended by this. What mattered to me was that there was some acknowledgement of what happened, and that they cared enough to say something. I also felt cared for when people said ‘in my thoughts and prayers’. For me, it was just the acknowledgement and taking the time and thought to say anything at all. I’ve read a lot recently of people being upset at the words that are being said, when I am sure that anyone who says something like that has all good intentions, and that is what I took away from any statement like that, the thoughtful intention behind it. Words are really difficult at a time like that. People seem to react differently, but for me it is the thoughtfulness and caring behind any of that, and ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ and ‘in my thoughts and prayers’ were welcome statements.

  • L. Scott

    Don’t agree as a cancer survivor. The kndest things people said to me:
    Are you in pain?
    I don’t know what it is going to take to help you on this journey, but count me in as part of the team that is commited to helping.

    Or a simple “I’m here”

    I had one friend ask me when I was free gor coffee or wine and it felt dismissive in regards to my condition and what it took for me to leave the house.

    Just my experience and prospective

  • Barbara Magie-Dahmen

    You must be going through hell.

  • Karen Burns

    I honestly don’t know what I’d say but I’d try to be as positive as possible. I’d hold her hand and smile. Maybe stroke her hair and tell her that I’m praying for her to get better fast because I miss her.

  • Tom Grattan

    Words seem insufficient, I need to give
    you a hug.

  • Shari B.

    I know this is hard, and you need to put a brave face on a lot, but please remember that it’s OK to NOT BE OK and have your own support system while you’re supporting others. I’m always here. If you want to vent, need advice, or just take a break and binge on Netflix (we don’t even have to talk), I’m here. I love you.

  • Alan W Hodgson

    May I suggest that “Circumstances alter cases. I once visited a father in the private waiting-room of a military hospital, who’s 12year-old daughter had died within a few hours of contracting Spinal meningitis. He was sitting by himself holding a New Testament open at psalm 23. I came in behind him, he looked up, I touched his shoulder with one hand and sat down on the opposite side of the small table at which he was sitting. We sat in silence. I prayed in silence and after about 30mins. he looked up at me and I felt that my purpose in visiting him had been satisfied. I stood to leave, we shook hands in silence and I left him to be at peace in his thoughts and his New Testament.
    A couple of days later he appeared at my office door and thanked me for visiting him, not asking him any questions nor making any comments. Silence carried with it much more than any words that I might have said., because he took from it what he needed, known only to God and my friend himself.

  • merry jane orwig

    I totally disagree with you about the I’m sorry. Ihave had two different kinds of cancer and I think that is the kindest thing is to say you are sorry not some light this stinks or reference to someone who survived or made it through. Thing to do is to pray for the person and say I am sorry and to tell them God is with you in everything.

  • Zahra

    Thank you! This phrase is not heard enough. Caregivers give up a lot in order to help another. Thank you is great to hear. It was not heard by me until after 30 years had passed, but it still meant a lot because I knew that my endeavors had been recognized by others.

  • Beverly Moss

    I had a car accident and the first thing people should not say is there anything you need .I’m not gonna say yes if your gonna do just do it.can I bring something just bring it.

  • Lory

    I was spending most of my time at the hospital with my daughter who was very ill and no one could figure out what was wrong with her. A friend called and offered to stop at Panera for soup and came to the hospital to sit and eat soup with me. It wasn’t a big thing but showed such care and love. I will never forget it. Thank you Val.

  • Sandy Bingaman

    Thank you for these suggestions! There never seems to be any comforting words in my brain at these difficult times.

  • Liza

    I think those 5 things to say seem better. For a child, I would like to say, ” Feel better please, I would like to play with you”. For adult, I would like to say” I would like to talk to you when you feel better please “

  • Robert Campbell

    The most important thing to me was the follow up; continued contact, however brief . As you have just done,

  • Mary Edwards

    I see nothing wrong with someone saying they are sorry that my husband is dealing with a very serious heart problem. He has an implanted heart pump so it doesn’t get much more problematic or serious than this. Our new normal changes from day to day and life can be very discouraging at times. No matter what words are offered unless it’s “I know just how you feel” I find comfort in the fact that even though someone might be uncomfortable with talking to me about my husband’s struggles they set this aside to let me know they care. Anything that comes from the heart is what matters to me and makes me feel less alone. Unless someone has little kids, no transportation etc. there isn’t much a caregiver needs from someone that isn’t a close friend. We get tired of going over details and more than a short heartfelt remark from someone not close to me makes me think they are fishing for details which I live with every minute of every day of our “new normal” lives. I’ll save my extra time for coffee (or a beer) with a close friend that I don’t have to explain anything to and who I know is sorry without her having to say anything at all.

  • Diane Beaudoin

    You are doing such a good job.
    I admire you. You are a role model for others.
    You inspire me.
    You are amazing.

  • Tyler

    While saying “I’m so sorry” or “So sorry about that” can be discouraging to most or to some. A hug is better and a whisper “I love you”, “He or she is with God now” again who says…no one, its spectulation and making them feel its all good, when it’s not. or maybe “They’re in heaven now” one again who says…no one, just spectulation, maybe they weren’t accept into God’s kingdom. Again a hug is best.

  • Jo

    Kevin – know that we all love you and this really stinks. I know it’s hard for you and your family to share this, but know we are behind you 100%. Prayers keep going daily. — marv and jo

  • E.Monroe

    Things that helped me a cancer survivor was that friends and family texted me with words of comfort and support. For ex: I’m thinking of you and praying for you.
    Can I support you by going to treatment with you? If not can I drive you? A friend offered to just massage my hands and feet with lotion . There are a lot of little things that helped me but I would be writing on this for hours ?

  • Stephen Harvey

    I just lost my father this week at 84. As the eldest of 6 siblings, I felt enormous responsibility to be strong for them, and my Mum. He was due to undergo a hip operation in December but developed a number of infections. During the hospital scans to asses the severity of his hip, they discovered a fractured pelvis. His agony led to be bed ridden and total immobile, compounding his ability to fight the infections. He called me about four weeks ago to say, that if the operation was to proceed he didn’t want to be resuscitated (DNR) in NHS terms. He said he had learnt there were other complications besides the infections. I knew what he was trying to say, and I just didn’t know quite what to say. The hospital Dr called me to say they were putting him into Palliative Care. Over the past two weeks, my wife, sons and myself to see him, which pleased him so much. Being there was just so important, I didn’t ask how he was feeling as it was obvious being under Palliative Care. I asked if he need a drink of water, was he in any discomfort, as he seemed to be lying awkwardly. He was heavily sedated and was on pain killers as the hospital advised their role was to make him comfortable. It was so difficult seeing healthy father lose half of his body weight in 4 weeks. On Sunday the Drs said he wouldn’t make more than 24 hours, so we all mustered the courage to say goodbye, my boys didn’t know quite what to say to their Grandad. But they gave him a warm and compassionate huge, snd kissed his forehead. I hugged him, gave him a kiss, whispered good bye, and said I love you. I was not close to my Dad as we had battles over many years, but He was a Dad to 3 sisters and 2 brothers. As I whispered those last words, he whispered back “look after your Mum and the girls”. Those were his last words. I was so glad I said good bye, it was the only words I could think of and to say I loved him. He didn’t leave us until this Wednesday, but all my siblings, their children and grand children were there for him and my Mum who was a rock through out this sad occasion. My Dad knew he was leaving us before Christmas, and told her too, which was tough, but helped her too. She was with him to the end, as he went to a more peaceful place.

  • Beth Fuhr

    It depends. Sometimes just saying “there are no words” maybe followed by I love you.

  • Bruce Wiltshire

    Responding with encouraging words and helps from the heart brings healing through the journey. Love heals!

  • Sally Salter

    I agree with Nick Hall. I don’t want anyone to tell me my daughter is in a better place or that at least she’s not in pain now, and I REALLY don’t want someone to say “thoughts and prayers.” Our beautiful daughter just died Friday, January 4, after two and a half terrible years with stage IV cancer. We are heartbroken. What has helped me most is when people write and share a memory of her or tell us about characteristics they loved about her or what a difference she made to their life.

  • Nick Hall

    Also, never say, “They are in a better place now”. I heard this a number of times when my wife died and I wanted to say, “Oh really, you think being dead is better than being with her husband”.

    And never say something like, “They are with God now, or in heaven now, or in Jesus’s hands or
    with Abraham, or Buddha is protecting them now, or any other religious phrase unless you know their inner most religious beliefs, and your comment supports THEIR beliefs (not yours).

    I could not believe the number of people who thought their personal religious beliefs were somehow magically embedded in the sprite of my dead wife.

    I am sorry, is good.
    We will miss her is good.
    She was a wonderful person is good.
    Hundreds of nice things can be said. But stay away from the above, please, it is too hurtful to us.

  • Tammy Surface

    I find that sometimes a hug is better than any words.

  • Jean Prinz

    When my husband was in hospice my believing friends asked me what they could pray for. Since it certainly couldn’t hurt and it would make them feel better, we concluded that praying for an easy passing would be the best choice. That was a wish that really did comfort me and it told me that they loved me.

  • Rita Banker

    Thank you for these tips I have used them twice already and it even felt better saying it stinks.

  • Stephanie

    I say that I’m not a praying person, but “I’m holding you tightly in my heart

  • Candy Bishop

    when I was diagnosed with cancer, it seemed as if I received a million comments of ‘my thoughts and prayers are with you’. While I really appreciated hearing from friends and family, it seemed like such a canned and pityresponse, that I didn’t even want to tell people. What I really appreciated were offers of help, and just having people visit for a chat. But pity really made things worse and more depressing for me, after always being such a strong independent woman.

  • Joanne Hense

    I am walking with you..how about a date for lunch?? Get your calendar and let me know what works for you..

  • Jane Geske

    “This is so hard for you!”, while caring for my invalid husband

  • Debbie Drill

    The most meaningful comments to me in writing were when someone recalled happy memories or stories of my loved one. Those really stuck with me and brought me some happiness.

  • jules

    Rotten deal! I’ll do whatever I can to support you…. even clean your bathroom. Really!

  • Marilyn Morris

    I have worked with people for many years, i.e. the American Cancer Society, crippled children, nursing, etc. I do not think there is necessarily an absolute when dealing with people. I think we must “listen with our heart” and say what we think will best assist each person in dealing with their situation. Each person has a distinct personality and we must use our best judgement and show them that our caring and compassion, but not pity, but rather love, caring and an attempt at understanding. A sincere apology when needed is never incorrect if you are wrong. Try to treat them as a normal person, for that is what they want the most. Listen to the things that they are not saying as well as the things they are. Be patient and kind even when they are angry or show emotion that you may not deem proper. Remember, they sometimes do not realize what they say.

  • Sarah

    These are all insightful comments and suggestions. As a caregiver of my husband with liver cancer the most comforting are those that call – just to let us know they love us, share stories of what is going on in their life and using words that validate the difficulties of this trial. For both of us. The worst are those that don’t call (say nothing), those that try to draw correlation with some relative that had some other form of cancer, those that just inquire on how he is doing, and not me. We have one couple that was very close to us that has never reached out to me – and only him since he was diagnosed 2 years ago. Cancer and other life threatening diseases affect the spouse and families in very deep ways and sometimes far more than the patient.

  • Barbara Newman

    Don’t agree that saying nothing is always the worst thing. Depending on the recipient and/or the situation, sometimes a genuine hug or hand grasp will suffice. Other suggestions: “Nothing I can say will make you feel better “; “You know how I felt about…”; anything short and sincere, even if it’s trite. Recipient will know you mean well even if you say something inappropriate.
    I’ve been widowed and I’ve lost both parents, but no doubt, many people will disagree with my comments. Bottom line: There is no appropriate cookie cutter answer. What’s essential is that one shows respect by his or her presence.

  • Keith

    Those of us who are caregivers or cancer fighters might be better served not to get too hung up on the semantics of people’s reactions to our situation. Though a lot of things friends and coworkers say might have insulting effects, the intent is probably never to insult or to downplay our cancer situations. My wife and I decided early on that, regardless of what others say, we need to always “hear” “We care deeply about you,” regardless of what is actually said.

    But it’s also important to know your audience. Proclaiming that God is in control or that you’re praying for us helps if you know we’re religious. But it doesn’t help if we’re not. Wait to see if we open the religion door first before you decide to walk through. If we don’t, it’s best to avoid insert your own religious beliefs where they may not be welcome.

  • Chris Milsom

    When I was a caregiver (widow now) during one of my husband’s hospitalizations, I was staying at the hospital with him all the time. He was being kept sedated to let his brain rest after a very bad seizure. While with the good nursing care he was getting, I didn’t really NEED any help, I was really moved when a nurse friend who lives about 45 minutes away called and said “give me a reason you don’t want me to come”. Of course, I had no good reason to say no. She came. Her presence calmed me and allowed me to scoot home for a bit without worry. It was a great gift. Just showing up in words and actions was and continues to be the best thing anyone can do for me. For my part, learning that “just saying yes” is also the best gift I can give to my friends and family who are grieving too.

  • Gina

    Whenever people say “I’m sorry” I always reply “don’t be, it’s not your fault”. Unless you are to blame it is a futile statement. If you have a heart, let it speak with sincerity.

  • Charlotte Jennings

    You are in my thoughts and prayer. GOD is always in complete control, his HOLY will be done.

  • Jean Merritt

    I realize people do not know what to say. But consoling me on the death of my husband, bringing up what happened to your family member or the disease they had relative to my husband is not comforting. I have stood by with people telling me their whole family history of Alzheimer’s, which is of what my husband died from, and having to listen to that just drains me more. I hope that others can console me with these five steps listed above

  • Kim Grussing

    I’ll be praying for you

  • Cassie Helton

    This ain’t right, you should have help from other family members to take care of your Mom. It’s not right that you are shouldering this all by yourself! I am the sole caregiver for my Mom & when I hear this comment, it validates my feelings of anger & frustration but @ the same time helps me carry on.

  • Nancy Kelley

    “How can I help?”, “You are in my prayers.” and/or “May I come by for a visit and bring food?”

  • Sean F Alexander

    As a patient I rather hear this sucks than this stinks! I also have beginning to tell people how I feel about them….

  • M. Dybeck

    After just listening for as long as she wanted to tell me about the trials she was going through, I asked questions, hugged her, and said “the one thing that is positive about all of this is that you know the Lord, and you know He is giving you the strength to get through this”. She looked at me and was silent for a second. Then said ” yes”.

  • jane McMullen

    Instead if saying you would like to help and what can you do, it is better to say I would like to bring you lunch or make you dinner or do an errand. When you make it specific, it is easier to accept the help or offer. Just saying do you need anything, most responses will be no because we are not going to say specifically what we would like. If your friend says no to your first specific offer, keep coming up with different things you are willing to do to make their life easier and eventually they will accept the help.

  • Shirley

    “This isn’t your fault “
    In a world that constantly tells us positive thinking will change everything and that we get what we “attract “ this made a huge difference.

  • First NameScott Last NameMoore

    I am with you in this. We can make through this together….

  • Elizabeth Sue Lattavo

    I would rather a person say nothing than say the wrong thing. I’m so sorry works fine for me; “I wish this wasn’t happening to you” sounds to me like pity, and I HATE pity.

  • Teresa Findlay

    Wow I sure appreciate the insight to these words. I can certainly see how they might affect the person having the difficulty. These different phrases made an impact on me Thank you.

  • Steven P. Barrett

    Anything but the kind of words you’d expect to find included in a sympathy card. Unless the person coming to visit me in the hospital knows I’m no fan of to begin with, there’s little or no point in making any announcement or description about their feelings towards my stroke as I was laying in a very uncomfortable mechanical bed that seemed more intent on devouring me in toto, lock stock n’ barrel viz a viz that single blood clot which eventually took three weeks out of my life — for starters — on my way to recovery. We all know who our “life’s personal detractors, phonies, double-talkers, cynics and other malefactors and wishers of nothing but bad times ahead. And let’s face it, the longer you live and the more you’ve lived in the public eye and done much to help or hinder the particular society you came from or represented, you’re going to run into lots of people you’ll be sorrier you met and helped along the way than those sincere souls who really feel sorry for your sudden serious illness like a stroke or heart attack. Sorry is one of those contemporary “lazy words” meant to convey a slew of positive feelings so as to cover the fanny of he person offering them to the person who was suddenly whalloped by a brain attack (as in my case) or heart attack. Throughout all my life, I fully expected my odds of having “the big one” as the actor Red Foxx portraying Fred Sampson in the old sitcom “Sanford and Son. ” Poor Fred Sanford was always afraid of having The Big One and he wouldn’t make it into Heaven because of something he did or didn’t do “down here” and had the sin or fault “taken care of in time” with God. When you have that level of a “big one” at the age Foxx was portraying in the lead role he played, there’d be precious time for making things right with God. My strokes, especially the two TIAs and much bigger Ischemic stroke I had over last year’s Christmas weekend, mercifully took their time in letting me “straighten my act up” or at least get my face and hands before the careful eyes of any doctor or expert in handling stroke cases, especially during their crucial onset hours.
    When you run into somebody who’s confused, dazed, unable to make contact with a loved one, or just feeling completely isolated during a moment of greatest dire immediate need of attention, perhaps the greatest statement you can make is to nod, take the individual to a seat and never take your eyes off that person, especially his or her face or wherever the person is experiencing the greatest pain. Never take your eyes off that person and until you get the one you’re caring for into the hands of a professional in charge of handling patients needing immediate attention for heart and other vascular-related “accidents” or “attacks. Even if you say nothing or just offer pleasant but distracting comments about the local sports scene or a politician you’re following or the progress of a given company or agency that’s just opened its doors in your community — you’re performing a far more valuable service than you could possibly imagine.
    Avoid the controversial matter. Avoid personal finances and expensive repairs that’ll most likely be delayed because of the sudden serious illness to the individual most affected, especially if its a small child or adult facing what in all likelihood could be the final illness. Be honest, but not so liberal with your honest and “tough love” that you lose sight of the compassion you need most of all to share for the person you’re trying to bring comfort to.
    We all know we’re “not getting out of here alive.” And for a while a little “gallow’s humor” does wonders for getting us all to laugh at death and the ultimate power of the Evil One through whom death entered the world. But c’mon, let’s keep this humor in perspective and save the best for the wake if there has to be one. In fact, the more genteel and positive compassion we demonstrate towards the one we want to bring immediate necessary care to, the more likely we may never have to make plans for holding a wake any time in the near future.
    Just being there, just being the ailing adult or child’s silent sentinel and hand-holder means more than you could ever realize possible. And never forget to follow up your compassion with a caring visit to his or her room at at least the hall nurses’ orderly station to inquire about the person who you shared a portion of your time with in solidarity against the darker forces of uncertainty and unrelenting doubt.
    Offer what you can do and follow through. That’s pretty simple and easy to say. But it’s not as easy as it sounds or reads. After all, it’s only human that you’d like to do something a little extra special to put the ailing person at ease, but let’s be honest with ourselves — somethings are just beyond the reach of even the most sincere and/or powerful companion/advocate during the key moments of any stroke, heart attack or unavoidable surgery where the risk of dismemberment or death is a strong possibility. The last thing we need to do is to hit the person we’re trying to comfort with a lot of potentially frightening information which could likely lead to a much worse outcome. Remember the Hippocratic Oath’s crucial phrase about bringing no further suffering to the patient applies to the concerned lay companion whom the person suffering from a major heath crisis has entrusted their very lives to. “First, do no harm.” This also requires watching what we say, how we say it and when we say it and to whom our words are directed to about whom our lives have been entrusted to.

  • Betty Ann Hunt

    I agree whole heartedly with discouraging the empty offers of help. I went through 2 separate brain surgeries. I have a wonderful husband that took great care of me. I really didn’t want to think let alone make requests of someone.
    Having visitors come and just sit was all I really wanted. I was not good at carrying on a conversation but just having someone present really was appreciated.
    When my Godfather was enduring his final days, I simply sent him a card to let him know I was thinking of him. This brought him a great deal of joy. We were able to get together and play one of his favourite games which meant a lot to both of us.

  • ccl

    I think the best thing people have done for us is tell us they are thinking of us, praying for us. What I absolutely cannot stand is “what’s the prognosis”? I always say, we are hoping for the best.

  • Linda Levy

    I prefer to say “I’m so sorry you have to go through this,” and then, if it’s someone I’m close to, “but I’ll be right here beside you. ” Then, of course, you actually do all that entails.


    Having gone through this I simply say “God bless you”

  • Mills

    I always say Hope things get better soon & end it
    With Lots a Prayers ?

  • Patricia Samuels

    It’s been encouraging for folks to say specifically WHICH Prayer Group will be praying for me/my Caregiver. Therefore, can visualize them & thank each 1, when seeing them next time.

  • Leonard Olson

    I have pulmonary fibrosis and I am getting progressively weaker. My sister Margaret has come up with the best comment. “Give me a list of things you need to be done.” Then, like clockwork, she shows up for a few hours every Saturday morning and takes care of what I need help with. I don’t have to beg and she knows exactly what I need. I still get to feel useful because I either make breakfast or go out and get doughnuts & coffee for us so it also becomes a social visit too. Becoming a “useless old man” is my greatest fear & I get to feel good about the exchange too.

  • elaine larsen

    Its nice to have suggestions for people on what to say and what not to say. As you know Michael is terminal and as more time passes more and more people have dropped out of site. They just dont know what to say or to do but a card or a five minute phone call would mean so much.

  • Karen Phelps

    “Words aren’t sufficient at this time.” “How devastating!” “I admire your strength and courage.”
    My favorite, from a friend on a European tour: “I pray for you each time I enter a church.”
    “You two have gone through so much—and now to have to face this new problem!” “How hard this must be for you!”

  • ron spears

    Read Philippians 3:8

  • Lisa

    I so agree with this!! Although I know they mean well, I really don’t like when people say ‘I’m sorry,’ or ‘let me know if theres anything I can do’. My advice: Do something!! Can be anything! Sometimes the smallest gestures are the best! Just doing something really gives the impression that you truly are there to help and do anything! I’ve been through 5 family deaths in 5 years and truly appreciated when people did something—got my mail, made meals, took care of the dog, did wash, mowed lawn/weeded, got groceries, offer their professional services for free—driving, financial advice/help, hair/nails…you get the picture! Just do something, dont just say you’ll be there—be there!! And, don’t forget about the survivors after. The months that follow a death are the hardest..the firsts are the worst! Be there—remember your life may go on as usual but it’s a ‘new norm’ for the survivor, one that’s going to take alot of time to adjust to.

  • Been There

    How about: “With all that’s going on, what are you finding is hardest to keep up with?” and then do it for them.

  • Shira

    When it wasn’t me but someone else I thought offering my services was what I could do. Now that it’s us, I have been blessed to have friends, neighbors and people who have come out of the woodwork to teach me what kindness and compassion is in difficult times like these. It’s the hugs and virtual hugs and blessings I get as quick what’s apps or sms’s That tell me they are there without requiring a response. They are the organizing of meals and visits without my being involved. It’s little plates of fruit for the Sabbath or bags of veggies for a hospital day. It’s the reminders that “God loves you, and so do I”. It’s reminding me that we are not alone and are not being left alone even though it sometimes it may feel that way- suddenly and unexpectantly, friends are there with the name and number of someone who can fill in those forms, or heads the department. It’s making the phone call to be connected. It’s not being afraid to see how you look after chemo treatments but finding the hope in having increased energy.
    I thank all my wonderful friends who teach me daily how to give and what to say.

  • Kathy Stevens

    When my husband was in the hospital waiting to be transferred to hospice, I was playing “How Great Thou Art “ on my phone while he slept and I cried. The nurse came in and quietly did a few things and then came over to me, leaned over and gave me the biggest hug. I sobbed and sobbed and she just held me never saying a word and then she left. It was so powerful and I will never forget it. It was what I needed at the moment. We had the most amazing friends who brought in meals, visited us, and loved us through those days. It wasn’t about what they said or didn’t say, what they did or didn’t do. They all handled it differently because they have different gifts and strengths, but all of them made us feel loved and cared for and they blessed us through the most painful time of our lives. Don’t get hung up on what is the right or wrong thing to say or do. If it is being done in love, it will be received as such.

  • Hope Parker

    This is a terrible thing that is happening to you and your family. It’s just not fair and very difficult to go through these things. Please feel free to call me or text or come by if you need to talk or just need a hug.

  • Cheryl Pokorny

    How about “You’ve got this”.

  • Vicki

    I’m there for you.
    You can get through this.
    The Lord gives you strength .
    I’ll be praying for you. Would you like to pray?

  • Sher

    You’re a natural born fighter! You’ll get through this! I’m here to help!

  • Maria

    It’s so good to see you

  • Peggy

    My cousin died in May. She had cancer of the esophagus and been fighting it for three years. Then there was nothing else to do but have hospice. I made a point of visiting her at least once and week (phone calls between). When she wasn’t driving I visited her and suggested we go for a pedicure. You would have thought I had given her the world. What a happy afternoon we had and she was so proud of her pretty toes.

  • Nina Dodd

    It is not uncommon for people to cut themselves off from someone that is going through a bad time as they don’t know what to say so they simply ignore them. That is the worst thing you can do as it makes the person feel even more isolated. They need your friendship and support and simply staying in touch with them is invaluable. They are still the same person they were before their particular tragedy struck them. They need to know they are cared about.

  • Mary Jo Lawrence

    Hi Pam and Tom,
    Hope the treatments are going well and that your spunk is winning out. Just thinking of you and wanted to let you know.
    Mary Jo and Mike . PS- Tom have any theory as to why the NATS are less than stellar?

  • CarolRhyner

    May who ever reads this have a good day and hopefully a better day tomorrow

  • Sherry

    When you say “let me know if I can help, or let me know if I can do anything” is only adding one more thing on the hurting person’s list of things to do. Instead, think of something specific you are willing to do and state what you plan to do and when or how often. Anything from taking the trash can to the street and back to grocery shopping, cleaning, babysitting, cooking, etc.

  • Susan Butcher

    Laugh with them. Give hugs. Don’t say anything, just be there.

  • Susan Butcher

    1. Ask what you can do to help. 2. Say I will call you on (specific day ) and then do it. 3. Show up with coffee and a treat.

  • Emily

    I am a single mother with three kids. I also have CML a type of chronic leukemia. I also work full time as an insurance agent, and perform stand up comedy as energy permits. I have good days and bad, mostly good….but when the bad days hit, they can hit hard. I don’t want thoughts and prayers. I want someone to come mow my lawn, or feed my family. Maybe fold the mountain of laundry on my couch. Take my kids out and make memories with them, while their mother just rests. Doing instead of saying. Also, make me laugh. I try to deal with my own pain by making fun of my situation and bringing levity to others. It helps me to heal. (Wow, this went off on a tangent….sorry folks.) Lip service doesn’t do anyone any good. Thoughts and prayers are dust in the wind. SHOW them you want to help.

  • Linda Rushing

    Instead of saying I’m praying for you… tell specific pray!! Praying asking God to give you peace and encouragement ! Better still ask how or what I can pray for you!

  • Jeanine Conforti Carter

    I saw a young woman crying in the parking lot as I left a restaurant yesterday. I asked if she could use a hug–she came right over and said, I would like that so much. She went on to share, “My mother is in Minnesota and has just learned there are no more medical alternatives for her 4th stage cancer. So she said to me just now, ” so I am going to just have to let it consume, me!” And she cried even more sadly and with such pain showing in her countenance and her whole body. I had never met this sweet young lady and the only words I felt I could honestly share with love and care were, “I will pray for you and for your mother. She stopped praying and said that her mother had asked for prayers and that she would tell her I would be praying. Sometimes, just saying I’m sorry for your sadness is said through my sharing with someone in need “I will pray for you and your intentions at this time.”

  • John Pell

    That is really great advice on saying something other than “I’m sorry.” Honestly, I had never looked at in that light. Thanks for sharing!

  • Leslie A Hopkins

    Let me know if i can do anything to help.
    Hugs and prayers.

  • LuAnn Ott0

    Thank you. Sometimes, an off the cuff remark will bring on a smile and lighten the moment. A smile is a gift from the heart.

  • S benn

    “I wish you peace”
    “I wish you strength”
    “My thoughts/ prayers are with you”

  • Judes Kingsbury

    You are in my heart!

  • marlene janse van rensburg

    i Pray for God s grace to endure this path as a family. Be blessed.

  • Barbara Jean

    This stinks! Do you want me to come?

  • Merilyn Schnell

    Hello Rayanne, I hope you are having a good day today., not as much pain.
    I thoughts and prayers are continually with you. God is holding you in His Hands and quieting your Doctors ass they care for you.

  • A hurting wife

    Have enough courage to be kind. My husband and I were recently separated. A few weeks after this painful time, I found myself with him and his family at my mother-in-laws funeral. While talking to some family friends, they mentioned my new address, and I realized they did not know my husband left me, so I had to tell them, as briefly as possible. The look on their face was of shock, and then they looked for a quick exit as if I were contagious. Haven’t heard from the since. This just added to my grief of losing a great mother-in-law and to the rejection and pain of the separation.

  • Susan

    “I will be praying for you.”

  • Kathy Vanery

    Last year December I was told I had mild emphysema-Copd. I was shocked, I had only had minor breathing problems at times. However I had smoked for 17 years when I was very young and had quit over 38 years ago, when I developed asthma. I always heard your lungs were cleared 5 years after you quit smoking, but they don’t tell you the damage is already done! Mild is not mild, I am on oxygen all the time.my son purchased herbal remedy for emphysema from solution health herbal clinic ,which i used for 6 weeks and am totally Emphysema free ,all thanks to solution health herbal clinic, solution health herbal clinic also cure all type of disease in humans life..please Stop smoking! It will kill you. Contact solution health herbal clinic details E-mail: (solutionsherbalclinic@gmail.com)

  • Jane bb

    As my husband continues a slow difficult recovery from a serious accident a friend who had been through this said to me “remember this is a marathon not a sprint. Cards are wonderful and now visits are so appreciated. People who took our daughter and I out for a meal. People who heard our pain and supported us were also there to laugh with us. Laughing always reduces my stress.

  • A grieving mom

    Please don’t make empty offers to help. My son was in the hospital dying and a friend offered to watch my other children so I could be at the hospital. Whenever I reached out to her to babysit she would make it impossible to work out (ie: you have to drive the kids to my house an hour and a half away, they can’t come until after 9:00 but you have to pick them up by 3:00, and the hospital was an hour and a half from her house.) She never watched my kids once.
    A relative offered to babysit but then called on the day of to say she had a sore back and wanted to try another time.
    Another friend offered to babysit and then never reached out once during the 3 months my son was hospitalized. She completely fell off the face of the earth until my son died. Then she called and spent the whole time stressing out because she didn’t think her 6 year old son was showing enough empathy or grief towards my family.
    Please just don’t make offers to help if you truly can’t or don’t want to do it. The extra stress and hurt it causes are not needed.

  • Suzanne Vidal

    Do. Don’t ask. One of the nicest things a friend did for my mom, when she was home with hospice, was called and said “if you’re free on Thursday night, we’re coming over with pizza and wine”. She was so happy and looked forward to it. It was the highlight of the week and it made life feel normal. We all had a great time. I was there for 2 months and whenever something like this happened it was always great. If it’s not a good time to be there, they’ll tell you. Pop over. Bring a cake or something. Everyone there will appreciate it. Really

  • Dan Williams

    To F Margo Hornback – I am sorry if someone’s expression of “I’m praying for you” seems selfish, I would hope that everyone expressing that phrase truly had the sufferer’s best interests at heart. Most Believers I know found peace through Jesus Christ during their own times of pain and struggle, and since it worked so well for them, they genuinely and sincerely want the same peace for the sufferer they are speaking with at that time. I would hope all Believers (me especially) are sincere when they express that sentiment, and not merely trying to placate themselves.

  • Patricia

    After my cancer diagnosis, I heard so many times “How ARE you?” combined with a stricken look. I felt at a loss for an answer. Then someone called and asked “How are you today?” and actually listened to my answer. What a difference!

  • Barbara

    I’m here for you…
    You are not alone…
    My heart hurts hearing this news…
    Offer something specific you can do to help. PLEASE never say, “let me know if there’s anything I can do for you…” It puts all the pressure back on the person suffering to reach out and ask for help–which no one likes to do. I also don’t know what someone is comfortable doing, so if you really want to help, pick something you can do and offer a specific time (i.e. “I’d like to make dinner for your family. What night helps you the most?” Or, “I’m on my way to the grocery store, can I pick anything up for you?”)

  • Miriam

    I know it is not easy, but you are a warrior and you will be able to make it.

  • Cindy

    It’s ok, God and I are here for you????

  • Wendell

    Know that I am here for you during this tough time. If there is anything that I can do for you, please let me know.

  • Linda jones

    I’m here for you
    Your a very strong n position e person, you can do this
    Can I take your kids to a movie ?
    Skating, to the arcade, bowling, etc.
    We are praying for you and family. God will bring all of you through this.
    You are strong and beautiful

  • Jay Driesen

    Especially so is this true when our vulnerable elders are locked up against their will, all the while state parties doing this, violate IA 235B.19(7) by ignoring the mandated Emergency Order provision of Iowa law. Our vulnerable elders have civil rights in any of our dealings with them. Their civil rights of the complete Due Process package and the rights of “Life, Liberty and Happiness” do not cease when elders become vulnerable. Neither are the estates of our vulnerable elders up for grabs. Additionally, local and private guardians are lawfully to be preferred to a state sponsored guardian and especially so the Office of Substitute Decision Maker (OSDM), which is still attempting to seize estates and Trusts even though laws for OSDM have changed during the 2018 Session. Far too many of our states vulnerable elders have been Isolated, Medicated and their Estates taken. Since 2014, Iowa has numerous new laws to protect our elderly….let’s use them. Any questions….feel free to contact us.
    Iowa Legislative Liaison National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse

  • Steven P. Barrett

    No pity parties for the stricken. They won’t disagree if you have that look (“Boy, you gotta stop standing before on-rushing Amtrak trains. There’s only so many of these encounters your docs can pull you out of the boneyard.”
    Make sure you know your intended recipient of pikkerupper humor first. Strokes can gob-smack humor, too. But if you know somebody who had a great sense of humor, however earthy or non-earthy, don’t let it get hijacked by the morose wet and soggy witch of the bogs, always seeing the most to slobber when picking up one’s’ chin with humor and grit will do far more to bring the temporarily stricken back to the land of the “Back from the ….” well, we won’t go there, right? RIGHT! Keep it light and respectful. You can’t go wrong.

  • Jane L Grudt

    Drop off a frozen main course meal single serving. Sit with the loved one for 2-3 hours so they can rest. Take them to an appointment whether a haircut, dialysis, … do something instead of “let me know if I can help.” Going out for coffee or lunch is good but do be more specific like do you have time right now for lunch or how about this Thursday, etc.

  • Linda Brink

    How about, “ How does this make you feel?”.

  • Tam

    Please don’t say, “call me if you need something.” I think most people sincerely wanted me to call for almost anything I needed, but it put the burden on me to reach out, and I was almost catatonic from the death of my mother. In my father’s case , he wanted to appear ok, so he would say, he was ok and didn’t need anything. Instead , just do something! Take dinner over, walk their dog for them, invite them over to watch tv, offer to grab a couple of things for them at the grocery. Helping fill the most basic of needs without being asked, is really supportive. I had a friend who would say, “I’m running errands this afternoon. Want to ride along?” It was perfect.

  • Laurie Pullins

    I’m recovering from major back surgery and down for the count. And can’t drive for two weeks. I’ve appreciated those who have said, “call me if you need anything” or “I’ll be over Tuesday to do anything you need me to do around the house and then we’ll go to lunch if you feel up to it.” I have to have bandages changed every day so I’ve appreciated those who said, “Let me know if you need someone to come change your bandage.” I also have to walk every day but can’t do it alone. I’ve asked friends to come walk with me and they are happy to do so. Bringing food and flowers do wonders! And a pharmacy friend brought laxatives to help me get “moving again” after a week. Humble yourself because people want to help you!

  • Joe B Gemmill

    You can ASK if the person if they are OK with a prayer. They may be at the angry stage and that my include God. Been there. Pushing your faith on someone tends to be a put-off, not a comfort, but asking gently may show an open heart. (stage 4 non-Hodgkins, agressive…survivor)

  • F Margo Hornback

    PLEASE, if you don’t go to church with the hurting one, keep your expressions of faith to yourself. That’s all about you, and nothing to do with me. It’s about as useful or comforting as asking what someone did to get their disease or illness. Thank you for caring enough to censor yourselves.

  • Gayla D

    This stinks! Let’s pray about this.

  • Mary Heaton

    it all depends on the individual — sometimes just sitting in silence holding someone’s hand also is comforting — or sending a card in the mail is wonderful too — so many wonderful cards to choose from these days too —- blank card saying thinking of you or here’s a hug or whatever —- i love to send cards so that’s what i do —

  • Joe McCarty

    Avoid platitudes such as “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger” and “It’s God’s will.” God does not inflict evil onto anyone, but He will provide the strength and courage to deal with it.

  • Bill Pearce

    I have said after the person has shared, “and that’s no fun.”

  • Geri

    When my sweet sister was diagnosed ALS a friend sent me a card that said “If I could I’d send you a million hugs”. That stuck with me.

  • Geri

    When my sweet sister was diagnosed ALS a friend sent me a card that said “If I could I send you a million hugs”. That stuck with me.

  • Bill Miller

    Hi Brent this is Bill Miller. I’m still in Texas, but I’m leaving on Sunday morning to go home and to be home on the 28th of May. Hopefully when I get home and get settled a little bit I can stop and see you. How are you still living in Wyoming where I was once before.? Some of the information we are getting sounds positive for you, and that’s really good. God is good all the time. I’m sure people have said that but it really is true. You are on my prayer list hope to see you soon.

  • Hanna

    Would you like me to massage your feet ?
    I’m with you in this, let me vacuum your room.
    I will be bringing over dinner tonite.
    I’m holding you in my heart and prayers.

  • Margo Geller

    I love “this stinks!” There is nothing more powerful then stating a difficult truth with nonverbal signs of love and compassion. Maintain eye contact and then give them a hug.

  • Dan Williams

    I have endured two autologous bone marrow transplants, so I know about the pain many of you are suffering. What we do about our attitude when the pain is occurring is critically important. In other words, there are only two reactions: why is this happening to me, or what good can come of this? If you choose the latter approach, that’s what we believers call surrendering. God, or the universe if you prefer, will either heal you, and life will go back to normal (or a new normal), or it won’t. You cannot control how long or how deep the pain is anymore than you can understand why it has occurred in the first place. By accepting your pain, whether it is temporary or permanent, you are surrendering and accepting your dilemma. We believers know that God uses ALL situations for good. You might be the object of the pain and suffering, but others around you are being impacted and that is most often for a greater good. Perhaps your pain is making them change their attitude, take stock of their life, or at minimum be more sympathetic to others? No one knows for certain. Believers have just accepted that there is a plan, not just random chaos, and that we cannot know the plan because we’re not a supernatural being,. Accepting the plan (as much as we don’t like it) and trusting that good is coming from it, one way or the other, is at the core of our belief. I apologize if a believer doesn’t ask you next time if it’s okay to pray for you, then says a prayer with you in that moment. I agree saying I am praying for you is an easy excuse, and frankly, doesn’t allow you (as a non-believer I presume) to experience for yourself the “power” that one might feel in the moment of praying. Even if you don’t believe in the “God” this person is praying to on your behalf, I am certain a moment or two of peaceful, selfless meditation cannot be a bad thing. Thank you for your posting, and I hope my comments are helpful in some small way!

  • Julie in DC

    Something a friend said when I received my cancer diagnosis: “We’ll get through this.” So simple, helpful and loving.

  • Ellen Lebowitz

    I wish you didn’t have to go through this. But you’re strong and I know you will come through this successfully.

  • Marion Heinz

    The other day I ran into Friend who had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The first words out of my mouth as we were hugging were ” what the heck.” She responded immediately with, “I know. Right?” We are both Christians but those words she didnt need at that moment. They will come later.

  • linda

    Don’t say, “I know so and so who had that and blah, blah blah”. We all know someone who had something but it’s about ME not so and so. Right now I don’t care about so and so

  • Jts

    I personally really object to anyone who says “I am praying for you”. It is so easy to say and then do nothing, I come from a family of people who pray and am worn out by their inability to give any practical help beyond “praying”. It might work for believers, but even then, many of us could be feeling “Why has god let this happen to me!?”. I respectfully suggest being very careful with the offer of prayer. It might make the offeror feel better, but not guaranteed to be positively received nor be helpful support to the person suffering.

  • T H

    A friend was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. We were going to be away from him for an extended period of time. Every couple weeks we sent a card wishing him well. When we got together again in the fall, his wife said it was something he looked forward to and always made his day when he got them. During the winter a couple other friends and I would take him out for lunch. Not only was it good for him, but it gave his wife a break as well.

  • Jane

    Can I help?

  • Karen

    I was in college (35 yrs ago) when my father became terminally ill & died. I just appreciated anyone who asked about him or how I was doing. Very few adults did (friends of my parents, parents of my friends — maybe only 4 or 5!) and about as many kids/my own friends showed concern. Everyone was probably feeling for us, and I knew it might have been uncomfortable for them to ask, but those who did made it seem like a natural question, and that they weren’t afraid of listening to my answer. Many people on the outside might think we’d rather not be thinking or talking about our situation, but (in my case anyway, especially at my age), I felt isolated & wanted people to show they cared that I was going through a difficult time — not pretend it wasn’t happening. I didn’t expect them to fix anything, or even offer to help. It just felt better to know that someone cared, and was willing to put themselves out there to let me know. (Now that we have communities like Caring Bridge, people probably feel more comfortable expressing concern, but I encourage everyone to connect with patients & caregivers in person from time to time (drop off flowers, a book, a poem, prayer, or friendly photo ), and not just type words.

  • Judy Welles

    When I told a close, long-time friend about my cancer diagnosis, her immediate response was “Oh, SHIT!” That has remained my favorite response. Probably my second favorite would be “I’m coming over with dinner tomorrow.” I haven’t read all the comments, and YMMV tremendously, but among my friends anything resembling “Let go and let God” would not be welcomed.

  • Mary

    I generally try to help in a small way then add “thank you for trusting me enough to let me help you.” Once that connection is made with anyone, I think those in need are more willing to open up to others. Many people find it difficult and vulnerable to ask for and receive assistance. It is a brave move to let go and receive. It is a skill which God asks us to do with him every day. As the saying goes… Let go and let God.

  • Helen Moritz

    I am
    Here for you if you need me for anything and I will continue praying for you my friend. Just remember I love you and will be beside you all
    The way.

  • Sr. Paul Mary Janssens

    Know that you are in my prayers!

  • Lonnie

    “I’m here for you all the way” is good ????

  • nydia barardo

    I like to let them know I’m praying for them. I also like to say God is still on His throne.
    And, thank you for keeping us posted.?

  • Dolores

    In my group of increasingly aging women the most caring first comment is “Well, shit!” Followed by “Do you want chocolate or butterscotch on your sundae?”

  • Sharon

    I’m praying for you.


    Just let them know you love and support them. Keep in touch! Just check-in, and let them know you’re thinking about them, support them, and are willing to help, in whatever capacity.
    Since I was diagnosed with Stage 4 MBCc, a lot of my ‘friends’ have not even called/spoke to me. Not sure if they’re scared, or don’ t know what to say, but saying nothing really hurts more than saying the “wrong thing”.

  • Linda V.

    I think keeping with the present is always good…”How are you feeling right now?” Is an important way to start. And then just careful listening.

  • Matthew MacGregor

    Would you like a red, blue or black pen to check this box off your list?

  • Lisa Collins

    At times hardship people asked me how they could help. In the moment, I could never think of anything. It meant so much to me when a friend organized meals for us. For a week, someone would arrive with a fresh dinner and return for dishes two days later. We didn’t have to coordinate anything. Another friend called and said, you are driving a lot to doctors. Is there a day I can detail your car for you? The next time we got in our now clean car, it really brought us joy. We remain filled with gratitude to our friends.

  • Sheryl Dillon-Jones

    Encouragement is always the best choice. I always tell people, I will pray for them and sometimes am able to ask if we can pray on the spot which results in positive words for healing and strength. Also, if I say I’m sorry I say I am sorry you have to go through this and with Cancer and some common diseases that are very challenging I usually know someone who has beat it and I tell them of their success story without revealing too much info or names to protect their identity. Hope is a Master Key when it comes to healing

  • Sandee Kosmo

    I would add:
    I’m pulling for you.
    Hang in there.
    God bless.
    Love you so much.

  • Teresa McElhinny

    Platitudes will slip out. Sometimes there just are no words, and I think that’s a good thing to say. “There are no words.” I also agree with Elaine McVety and others that the caregiver (or patient if able) doesn’t have the wherewithal right away to delegate things different people can do to help, and at critical times those things could change anyway. So don’t think it isn’t appreciated if your “let me know how I can help” isn’t met with a concrete answer. But just communicating a desire to be present and helpful means a lot. Hugs are always good IMO.

  • Judith Martinez

    I’m here for you, whatever I can do to help you through this I will!

  • Caroline Wood

    Thank you! I’m very glad to have permission to say That sucks!!

  • Deborah Alborell

    Some years ago a woman I hadn’t seen in a long time responded to my query “How are you doing?” by telling me the story of how her aged dad (who had been given the wrong medication for depression) had shot her mother and then himself. I had no words so just put out my arms. She came into them for a hug and had a nice cry. It was a special moment for both of us.

  • Meg

    I agree with the people that said the following is not a good thing to say: what can I do to help? That’s too open-ended for the family going through what’s happening. Please just tell them what you are going to do, then do it when it is a good time for them…. too hard to come up with more decisions during a rough time….

  • Elaine McVety

    I read all of the comments below. A point that many made is, don’t ask what you can do. Instead, say, I will bring supper on . . . People in crisis do not always have the ability to make decisions; in fact, they are making too many (treatment plans, funeral plans, etc.) and their brains often can’t handle anymore. Studies have shown that each decision made, makes the next one harder. Instead, make the suggestions, or, if you know something needs to be done, just do it. The person who offered his driveway for the critically ill brother’s car did the perfect thing.

  • Elaine McVety

    This is terrible news for you, and I wish I could do something to help. If you want or need to talk, I will listen. If you want to just sit, I will sit. If a hug helps, I will give it. I am here for you.

  • Stan Peterson

    How about “I’m going to be praying for you.” assuming the person would appreciate this spiritual dimension. Of course, then you do pray for that person.

  • Doug

    “This stinks”–that’s better than saying “I’m sorry?” Really?

  • Felicia Hamlin

    I am here for you, this song made me think about you, i think about you often. We have been condtioned to say “I am sorry”, but there are many things we can tell those who are experiencing tough times.

  • Peggy

    How about a simple, “I don’t know what to say, except to let you know that my heart is with you.”

  • Debby Whetzel

    If I want to say sorry that’s what I want to say. Suggesting what could be said is fine. It’s always hard to know what to say, but sorry has always been good. I have had cancer and sorry was good to hear.

  • Barb Brumfield

    Thanks for the heads up. It is hard to know what to say during those hard times.

  • Margaret Weller

    Thank you so much for this guidance. Sometimes I find myself tripping over to offer loving support but can get it so wrong.
    With my love,

  • Julie

    Anything I can do to help make you day/s better?

  • Elaine

    What can I do for you? Have a few suggestions ready like “get some books? Do an errand? Bring food? Drive u to an appointment?”

  • Robert Mason

    I am praying for X healing and your peace and comfort during this time of trial

  • Kathleen DeRosa

    Let’s pray together

  • Cherrie

    Friends and family sometimes say if you need anything call and when you do, a thousand and one excuses are given. If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. Sometimes a hug is all that’s needed.

  • Chris

    Give me a reason not to come : to visit you, to help you in the yard, stay with _____ while you run errands or get some exercise, etc.
    I found as a caregiver that when my friends put it that way it was easier for me to accept their help.

  • jane

    I was about to have surgery a few years ago and I had mentioned this to someone I had recently met in physical therapy. A few days before she asked me where I was having the the operation and what day and time. I asked her if she worked in that hospital and wanted to keep an eye out for me. I never forget her response: “No!” She said, putting a reassuring arm around my shoulder. ” I just want you to know that I will be praying for you at that time! That’s all I can do. But I will do it” It was as if the universe had sent an angel to watch over me. PS…The surgery was a success! 🙂

  • MED

    How can I help?

  • Rich DeMeyer

    An excellent book on this topic is “Don’t Sing Songs To A Heavy Heart” by Kenneth C. Baugh, Ph. D. Another book by Haugk is Cancer Now What? Taking action, finding hope, and navigating the journey ahead. Both are available through Stephen Ministeries.


    A seventh response:
    This must be a very difficult time for you. I want you to know that I will be praying for healing and peace for you [and in the case of a caregiver, name and relationship of the patient to the caregiver].

  • Lorna Dobson

    “I hope you’ll receive the kind of support you need on this journey. I’ll pray for you now and in the days ahead even if I cannot be of physical help to you.”

  • Joanna Rice

    Well this wasn’t in the plan

  • Bobbie A.

    How about something like “Is there anything I can do to help you?” or “How can I be of help to you?”

  • Mary

    I don’t have words to express how much I hurt for and with you. That said, I stand with you and will do all I can to help you through this.

    One way to help is to send notes, jokes, stories – anything that will distract my friend for a few moments and help him/her laugh. Laughter is good medicine.

  • Ann Jenkins

    Im here for you always! <3

  • susan c. briggs

    I’m here with you.

    What can I do to help you.

  • Cynthia Cavanaugh

    You’ve got this and prayers for you always ,

  • Sally Ericksen

    It’s not always helpful to say “I’m praying for you.” Be sure the person you’re addressing shares your belief system.

  • Cathy Ennon

    Thank you for showing us all how to be strong and courageous in the face of difficult times. You are a master teacher!

  • Lesa Lackey

    Happy Anniversary Diane !!

  • Lesa Lackey

    “I wish you didn’t have to go through all this”.

  • P Smoot

    Wishing for you excellent care and a speedy return to some normalcy.

  • Michelle

    Happy Anniversary Diane.. You are blessed to have a wonderful husband and have been married for 47 years.

  • Diane

    I don’t like when someone says , if there is anything I can do let me know! No I won’t, just do something nice. Whether it’s a note, a call, a meal, or dessert. I’d would like anything. I feel so alone a lot. My husband has had bladder cancer for 2 years with all the ups and downs. It’s very had to be a caregiver, but I do it because he’s my love, my life and he’d do it for me. We’ve married for 47 years May 1!

  • Dave Wolffe

    When you want to talk about your … I am there to listen.
    I’m here for you.
    I had Bladder Cancer and knowing others were there and kept in touch consistently was a really positive thing for me.

  • Barb Cukauskas

    What can I do to help you? Today, tomorrow. How about I cook Sunday dinner? 5 o’clock delivery ok?

  • Pamela

    Many are awesome alternative responses to “I’m sorry”. As a former Hospice R.N. of many years as well as a Christian, I would advise to be very careful to preach “have faith – God can heal you.” This was said to my mother decades ago, who had the faith of Job. and yet continued in a very long, and painful cancer until her death. The added pain of thinking her faith wasn’t enough for God to heal her added to her devastation.

  • Pat Kurt

    Use your own gifts to help the recipient. I like the visit if possible, phone call, card, give a ride, recipe and day/time for a meal, offer to take recipient out for meal, coffee, flowers, chore ie. mow lawn, shovel snow, water plants, pet care, run errands etc!

  • Robert Shafer / April 28, 2018 10:05am

    Look to our Great God of forgiveness and healing. He loves you and can heal you. I will pray for you.

  • styler

    A friend’s husband is in the late stages of a very long battle with cancer. She is his caregiver and prefers not to leave the house. I told her to call me any time of the day or night. I invite myself over and bring her lunch. I purchase hair color and dye her hair. I help her organize her medical supplies. I sit with him and hold his hand. And I let her know I pray for her strength and peace.

  • k bartholomew

    How about an envelope full of coupons for picking up a prescription, a ride to the doctor or hairdresser, an offer for a massage, a gentle hug, making a favorite recipe, delivering, takeout, taking care of pets, mowing the lawn for a month, a fresh cut flowers, grocery shopping, paying an electric bill or providing gas money? These practical gifts are priceless. And don’t forget the caregivers.

  • Elizabeth Whatley

    Is there anything I can do to help?

  • Elizabeth Whatley

    I will be praying for you and your family.

  • Hank

    We worry too much about what to say because we can’t tolerate our seeming helplessness. Worst case, we abandon someone as a result
    Show up. The words will follow. Or no words. Shared silence is deep sharing too.

  • Jehanne Marchesi

    As a 90 year old invalid (bone trouble) what I really appreciate are long phone calls or visits that keep me in touch with my world. Also e-mails and advice on or loan of books, since reading is a fantastic help in the inevitable solitude of being housebound.The offer of running errands – those that a busy family finds it dificult to add to their daily life – is also so very welcome. The need to keep in touch is very important.

  • maria Moniz

    Suggest ways to help and ask them which they prefer…action can be better than words!

  • JWNewby

    1. You know I will always be there for you.
    2. This may sound like a cliche, but I’m serious – if you need help with anything please allow me to assist you.
    3. I’ll be praying for you.

  • Rita Burfeind

    “Don’t worry, everything is going to be all right” can be a comment that grates. Sure, maybe eventually it will be true, but how does the speaker know it will be all right. It shows insensitivity to what the person with diagnosis is going through.

  • dianne degnan

    Is there something I can do for you?

  • Valerie Paul

    To all the well-meaning people who offer to pray… please be sure the person you’re talking to is a person of faith. Hard as it may be for you to understand, for those of us who are not believers, an offer of prayers may be more annoying than helpful. A casserole or a ride or just a hug would be more helpful. (But feel free to keep us in your prayers anyway!)

  • Sharlene

    “Be it unto you, according to your faith.”

  • Rhoda S. Little

    Thank you for these suggestions. Expressions of sincere caring and love for the person and family always need sensitive words.

  • Tammy Salstrand

    My husband always says, “I will pray for you.” The recipient always responds with a “thank you.”

  • Kelley Hughes

    If you are visiting members of your workplace or congregation, a few other expressions of support might be:
    * We miss seeing you.
    * Your absence is deeply felt.
    *Your work has meant so much to us.

  • Marianne SIMMS

    Good Advise!

  • Teresa DiServio

    I like to tell those recently diagnosed with end-stage cancer that they can be in control of their health, and to provide hope, I give the example of my Mother. My Mom was diagnosed at age 71 with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and told she wouldn’t live for more than 6 months. Not long after that, the doctors and well-meaning Hospice care workers were trying to prepare us (her children) for her death, and said she’d never walk again. She eventually told them to leave her house and she ended up not only walking again, but also lived for another 9+ years! Her determination was her secret I believe… she never gave up or gave in.

  • Robin Wiley

    I have followed the healing of four friends on CaringBridge, two recovered two did not. I have been a caregiver in some form all my life (professional and amateur statis)There was a point in my life where I was consumed by caregiving. I was caring for my Mother had dementia along with a long history of mental illness and diabetes, my son whom was having emotional problems associated with Autism and I was going through menpause. My son’s English teacher came up tp me one day and said, “You took time for yourself” I was taken aback. She was not only a teacher, but a friend who had just lost her husband to cancer. Her statement was heart felt, she was recognising an important point. I took time for myself which is the last thing most caregivers do. She was saying this in a very comforting and supportive way. Only another caregiver can really apriciate the selfless act of taking the time to washing and blow dry your hair or put on some lipstick. Loosing yourself in the caregiving world is so easy, everyone comes before you. Having someone recognise you through all the trappings of caregiving is empowering. So when you see a caregiver reassure them they are still a person first who happens to be a caregiver.

  • M.A. Linde

    Many thanks for he above suggestions to replace simply, “I’m sorry.”

  • James Hoyt

    I have found that if you know the patient it is best to share an experience where you may have felt silly.
    That way your friend can reciprocate and feel like they are helping you.

  • Cullen Dauchy

    I’ll be praying for you and your loved one (or family, or friend).

  • Alison

    A Family Story

    Imagine a child of Edwardian England, born when a new century had barely begun. It would prove to be a century of unimaginable change, progress, and tragedy, and my mother, the child Constance Beryl Horton, would witness most of it.
    At age six, this child was the orphan of a tubercular father and a mother, the kind and beautiful Louisa, who was said to have “died of a broken heart.” Make of that what you will. The extended family was large, and the orphans were taken in by near kin to be raised as their own.
    One of Louisa’ sisters, Ruth, had some years before, gone to America to recover from an unfortunate engagement. Ruth’s fiancé and his lover whom, I presume, was unknown to the family, dispatched themselves in a double suicide. (My family never wanted for drama.) Still living in America, Ruth met and married Joe Curran, a happy but childless marriage. When word of the tragedy reached them, Joe booked passage for Ruth who would sail to England and return with a child. Ruth asked if he would like a boy; “Just bring back a child” he said.
    By now, the year was 1912. Constance was six and in the care of her aging grandparents. Sometimes her grandmother sent her up to bed without her tea for small infractions. She was spared by her grandfather who would tiptoe to her room with more than enough to satisfy.
    When Ruth arrived and met the children, she saw that the boys weren’t eager to move to America. “Couldn’t even pronounce it properly,” Grandmother Ruth told me years and years later. Constance took a small step forward, and said “I’ll go with you, Auntie Ruth.”

    To be continued…

  • Judith Fetler

    As a terminal cancer patient myself, I agree with many of the previous suggestions. The comment I love the very best was something I read, a rather salty comeback to such a situation. To paraphrase: “Well, so Plan A didn’t work out. Then let’s just kick the s**t out of Plan B!” For the right person, like me, this is the absolute best!

  • Carol Schuler

    I’m sorry you’re going through this.

  • Kriesha Britton

    It might be nice to hear “How can I help? A person dealing with an illness may not see the need for help at first, but this question provides an open invitation if and when a person becomes ready to accept.

  • Catherine Eldridge

    I’d like to help. Can I come clean, bring food, pick up the kids?

  • Belita

    One of the main thing is to let them know that you will be praying for them. Prayer is the key because all sickness do not lead to death,

  • Solon Ray Ekhoff

    why is not the request to pray about the problem not asked for?

  • Caprice Mayhew

    I’m praying for you
    Is there anything I can do? Around the house?
    Talk about good times from the past, or maybe something to do in the future to look forward to

  • Tomm Stewart

    “I can’t really say I’m ‘happy’ to be here, because your not feeling well, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Or, “to see you is the highlight of my day.”

  • Vicki Burch

    Love the 6 positive expressions of support. Thank you for sharing.

  • Dana Christman

    When my two stepsons died in a horrible, horrible car wreck, a person came by who said, “I don’t have the words…there are no words.” That was absolutely fine. Much better than many other platitudes, like, “They aren’t suffering any more,” or “They are in a better place.” And now, 24 years later, I still remember so very well someone who asked, “Is there anything I can do for you ?” Yes, there actually was. In our enormous grief and a house full of family from out of state, I just couldn’t face going to the store to face all the people I knew I would encounter, but needed some aspirin for a terrible headache. She seemed surprised that that was what I wanted, but quickly brought the aspirin to me. I was so thankful; she had no idea how much she helped by doing that small thing. But, at that point in time, it meant so much to me. I still remember that inncredible gesture of help.

  • Jo-Ann Bach

    It is good to see you

  • Donna Bath

    I’m so glad you’ve told me. This will help me know how to feel helpful.

  • Pam Goulet

    Is there anything I can do that will make things a little easier for you?

  • Pamela Hill

    As a patient I want to endorse the suggestion of ROBYN on Dec 14. So many say to call on them anytime but that is difficult to do. Offering concrete help….here are three recipes, which would you like to receive and when?…is by far the best.

  • MG

    You’ve got this!
    You aren’t alone in this journey. I’m here for you.
    Please let me know if there is anything I can do.

  • Donna Vermeer

    I wish this wasn’t happening to you. I still see you as the energizer bunny.
    I love you.

  • Elizabeth H Gosselin

    One of my favorite things is to read the comments on my Caringbridge site, and I tell people that is a way that they can be there for me – just knowing and reacting to what is happening. Caringbridge allowed me to share my life and be surrounded with love while my husband was sick. Now he is gone and it is my turn. I also encourage them to donate. (This is not a paid political announcement 🙂 )

  • Alicia Kerns

    Instead of saying I’m sorry, you could say something like, I’m praying for you.

  • Sherry McReynolds

    Never say to someone in a tough spot, “I know how you feel.” You cannot possibly know, even if you have been through a similar situation. Never say, “I don’t know how you do it.” Neither do they. They think, “What else would I do?” Never tell someone, “I’m praying for you.” That sounds harsh, but if you are both people of faith – the better thing to do is have face-to-face contact. SHOW UP. As you are leaving take the person’s hand and ASK if you can pray WITH them. Keep it very short. One or two sentences. If the contact is only phone, you can do a version of the same thing. The important thing is to keep the contact about the loved one that is suffering in the moment. Long stories about your dead wife’s by-pass surgery are about you. It’s what many visitors do to fill a silence that doesn’t need to be filled, and ease their own awkwardness. If someone loses a spouse, don’t begin every conversation with, “How are you doing?” They will learn to say, “Fine.” Let them learn that from someone else. Call or write and start the conversation (for example)…”I was at Walmart and saw this…and it reminded me of the time the four of us went to The Virgin Islands. Good times! I think of you so often” – or words to that effect. Look for opportunities to say, “Hey, I was just thinking about you!” Finally, if someone has to bury a child, and words fail…that’s not a bad thing to say. Go to the store, buy a blank card with a beautiful image, and simply say “Words fail… All our love,” and sign it. Not acknowledging a devastating loss is a regret that will not improve over time. Addressing unimaginable pain should be done in the moment. It’s an act of kindness that pays off for your relationship going forward.

  • Belva McKann

    You’re not alone.

  • Beth Brown

    I have to post this extremely wrong response.
    I had a friend of 9 years. We were pretty close. Once I told her about my cancer (stage 4 ) these were her exact words. “ I don’t want to talk about cancer, I just want to have fun with you.”
    We are no longer friends.

  • Sandi Bowen

    On ‘what not to say,’ when I tell someone that I’m not going to get better and/or I AM going to get worse – and I get responses like ‘oh, you’ll get better; you’ll get stronger, you’ll see; oh no you won’t!; look for a better doctor.’ I’m not trying to be a drama queen, but I’m not going to improve. I have one of the top soine syrgwons in the country, and when he tells me what’s going to happen next and that I can’t ‘go back,’ shows me the MRIs and where the bones crushed the nerves, I’m sure that he’s telling me how it is. I don’t dare tell people that I will most likely die earlier than I should due to lack of being able to exercise at all and that my organs are getting smashed more all the time; I already hear, ‘You must stay active,’ from well-meaning people. Oops sorry for my venting! I just wanta punch the forced ‘happy outlook’ people.

  • Joyce

    As a single person with no family who is living with cancer, what I most appreciate are the friends who will ask me if I want to do lunch or supper or go to a movie or some other activity. They would go with me to treatment if I wanted them to but what I most need is to get out of the house once in a while to do something fun to take my mind off the situation. Also, getting a “thinking of you” card in the mail brightens a day.

  • Brenda

    You know that I would change this if I could!
    I’m with you for the long haul!
    You mean a lot to me!

  • Debra S.

    If the person has breast cancer, do not assume they want to be hugged or patted on the back or shoulder. Ask first! Some reconstruction incisions are not where you expect them to be.

  • Marty

    “Is there anything I can do to help?” (…if you are truly willing to help.)

  • anne

    as a car giver and as person with walking disability i have appreciated anyone simply saying “thank you”

  • Pamela

    All wonderful things! I was over and done with “I’m so sorry.” It made me start despising that….it’s three of the most overused words. I love the idea someone posted about a list of recipes they could make! Priceless! Like take out but way better!!

  • Robyn

    Offer practical help – here is a list of recipes I can make and deliver to you, please pick a few and let me know which days you need them. I can pick up prescriptions or do your grocery shopping. Do you need a ride to treatment? If you’re visiting in the hospital, bring up funny stories or happy memories you share with the patient. Or discuss current events. Sometimes the sick person is just tired of being sick and wants to have a normal conversation.

  • Doreen Linehan

    I want to just wrap my arms around you. Sometimes a hug says more than words can

  • Kelly Taylor

    I don’t think you should be such a curmudgeon about saying I’m sorry for crying out loud! This advise just sucks from such a “caring” site! Good grief! Disappointed in this article….

  • Butch Walzel

    A dear friend of mine has pancreadic cancer. I sent her a card and wrote: “You make me smile!” It was the best I could come up with.

  • Barbara

    This is useful advice! I’m guilty of saying “I’m sorry” too often. Good to know how it might be come burdensome.

  • Oliver Brody

    Another thing NOT to say is “Everyone dies some time” NOT helpful

  • Alenda

    This is positive info my favorite is “this stinks”

  • Kim

    “that is so hard. I can’t even imagine” Also offer help and mean. Somebody gave me the link to this site. That was truly helpful.

  • Valerie Schrader

    This must be so difficult for you. How can I help?

  • Shirley Miller Scroggins

    I lost my first husband in 2004 to COPD and if anyone would have said to me the sarcastic comments you have noted above I would have been hurt. At a time of loss the survivors need reassurance of the Lord’s love, comfort and concern for you and the promise of Salvation.

  • Kate Ruby

    We have a prayer list at dinner in which we pray by name for family and friends who are suffering. This may help by being more specific We generally ask if they would like this done and the answer is usually yes. Perhaps by being more specific this can bring more comfort than the generic ‘we’re praying for you’ though, in my personal experience as the wife of a stage 4 cancer survivor, prayers of all kinds were welcome.

  • Vicki Ebat-Selke

    How are you feeling now? What do you need right now? Do you want to talk about it – or not. Want to get an ice-cream cone? (coffee, cookie, Jamba Juice). If not today ask if they would mind you asking again later. Suggest next week or month etc. and let them decide. If you don’t hear from them do something non intrusive to let them know you’re thinking of them – leave a helium balloon or flowers and a note on the porch. Email – or even better send a card snail mail with the same offer for an ice cream cone etc.


    Can I give you a hug? I remember being at the hospital with my granddaughter that was in DKA and just diagnosed with T1D while babysitting her and her siblings and her parents were on a trip to MX and trying to get home ASAP. The mother of a close friend of our daughters that I did not actually know came up to check on us and pray for me and asked if she could give me a hug. It was something I really needed right then as my husband was watching the boys and could not be there with me.

  • Jo-Ann Bach

    I will keep you in my prayers daily as you travel this journey. Feel free to contact me for assistance.

  • Ann Peitsch

    I/we are praying for you !

  • Ivan Mulder

    For a death, ask “What is a favorite memory you have of….?” When my wife was in the hospital for several months recovering from total paralysis, visits from immediate family members were appreciated the most. She preferred not have others see her in her desperate condition. However, visits from family and others are what kept me going. The least appreciated thing people said in her presence was, “Just be patient!”

  • Elug J-Lynne

    So face one day or moment at a time and keep me in the loop.

  • Jenifer Funk

    Walking with you in sorrow.

  • Terra

    After my cancer diagnosis, some of the words I appreciated most were really practical observations, like, “Well, this is certainly inconvenient.” Because it was! Sometimes I needed acknowledgement of the obvious disruptions to my life, in addition to the heavy emotional words of support.

  • martel emmons

    I’m sorry but what is wrong with “I’m sorry”? “This stinks”? Yeah, that’s much better. I guess I’m getting old or something but if this is where we’ve come in our “progressive” society, that’s a problem. But I’m probably wrong. I’m sorry.

  • Joyce Munger

    1) My heart strings are with you and your family. 2) Please know my arms surround you even when I’m not at your side
    3) I’m sending you a virtual bouquet trusting it will ‘color’ your world today. 4) You are so precious…we will walk through this journey together. 5) My prayers will continue to surround you daily.

  • Shawn m wilson

    I agree with Pamela Lear. I recently lost my husband to cancer. I lost my mom to this horrific disease too. Hospice offers suggestions. It is always better to say what you can do to help. Such as I’ll bring dinner Monday. I can drive you etc. many people don’t want to bother you.

  • Carol Stafford

    I don’t know what to say, but how can I help you?

  • Sheila

    God is with you so that He can give you strength and gentleness. He will never leave us alone.

  • Nancy Fleury

    If someone ill and living alone, call them and offer to run to the store, offer to make them something to eat and ask what time is best to bring it over, when is a good time to visit, if they feel up to it. Caregivers often need time of respite, and could use someone to stay with the ill person for several hours. Be specific with offers to help such as : I can help with the grocery shopping or errand running on certain days and times, or let me give you a break from caregiving tomorrow afternoon around 2pm as examples.

  • Janice Albuquerque

    This is a difficult time, if you need anything at all, even to just talk, call me.
    Friends are forever, during the good and the difficult times.
    I`m here for you to help during these trying times.
    I and my family will be praying for you everyday to have the courage and hope to win this battle.

  • Nina Galin

    Thanks for this, very helpful. Thanks for reminding me to focus on connection.

  • Janet ILTIS

    I wish this wasn’t happening to you. I think if it was me I would like some help at home so I’d like to help you out at home. I want you to know I am here for you and would be happy to do whatever you need.

  • Shirley George

    What can I do to help? I will be keeping in touch.

  • Mimi Neff

    My pet peeve, is people who say “Sorry for your loss” when someone has died and “sorry for your loved one” after a diagnosis. There must be better expressions of sympathy. These are trite knee jerk reactions with no empathy for what the person or family is going through. Lets try to make these comments a thing of the past and come up with more comments like those below.

  • Taylor Watkins

    “How can I help? May I drive you to your treatments?”
    “May I bring you dinner? What are some of your favorite foods right now?”
    “May I drive your kiddo to soccer practice or ballet lessons?”
    “I would love to pray for you.”

  • Christy A Larsen

    If you need to talk to someone, I’m available any time.

  • joe momma

    ….how you holdin’ up??……..

  • Den

    Keep the Faith

  • Ronnie Weiss

    I’m here to support you.

    Let me know if you need to talk

  • Donna Fike

    This information is great. The only other response I have heard since my husband has had a stroke, is:
    I want to help or I know you must be struggling, what can i do to help? In many cases the answer (my answer) is ‘We would appreciate your prayers’.

  • Rose Garbulinski

    When my brother came to live with me he brought his large vehicle. We have three cars and we have a single driveway and it is short. My neighbor offered his driveway for my brother to park his vehicle. That was huge. A couple of months later, he did pass away and three of my neighbors brought over enough food for us for a week and also had masses said. They did ask if there is anything they can do, just ask. My other friends also brought over food. They also talked about all the good attributes my brother had – all good things, it was such a comfort! I will never forget it.

  • Diane Keefe

    I wish this wasn’t happening to you and am looking forward to when you are feeling strong. Can’t wait until you are back in the saddle again! I miss seeing you!

  • Jennifer Murphy

    How can I help you?

  • bow walker

    One of the things I often say, “No words can express my feelings. What is it I can do?” I also say, “Would you like to talk about ‘anything’?” and there are times when having known the person we talk about ‘life after here’. There is often humor, seriousness and an array of various things that are said depending on how well I know the person. I have had many experiences so, it is not difficult for me to assure people (from my own experience) of life after ‘here’. Sometimes, it is simply a sincere hug and eye to eye contact. Our quiet spirit can say volumes. I think being your authentic self in awareness of the sacred moment is best and I like prayer. Offer whatever peace we can, even just a gentle touch, holding someone’s hand. Be in the moment with sincerity , trust GS (Great Spirit/God) to Divinely guide you and I always end by saying, “Remember, no matter what happens everything will be alright.” and I do mean this. Be wholly in the sacred moment and your heart will always know what to do (my experience). Share stories now to be prepared for later…Blessings all, and may all of our transitions be full of LOVE and LIGHT and inner peace of transforming to the next place. ALL life takes the ultimate journey. A’ho/Amen. PEACE BE WITH YOU. <3

  • Fran

    I believe in saying sincerely and genuinely how sorry you are. Sending a “thinking of you” card, offering prayers, asking with genuine concern, “how are YOU?” Be prepared to listen & nod….no response except a heart to heart hug speaks volumes.

  • Judy Schield

    Is there anything else, besides praying for you, that I can do to help you?


    thank you for telling me. I am here for you.
    May I pray with you? (If it is not comfortable I can always pray for them later but it is often nice to receive a prayer in person.)
    Is it okay to check in to see if there is any way I can be of assistance?

  • Janene Burkard

    You are in my prayers as you travel this journey. I’m here for your. Call if there is something I can do for you. (And don’t forget the hugs …… lots of hugs…. personal contact with those who like the feeling of being encircled by arms that care)

  • Helen Graziano

    Sue R and Debbie Drill: great suggestions. Spend some time with the person in the inner circle. And in the case of a deceased person, let them talk about that person. Laugh and cry at the same time. We did.

  • Eva F

    A positive comment could be …
    “I’ll be praying for you all.”

  • Brian Marks

    we hate this for you!
    you don;t deserve this!
    lets pray together!
    lets celebrate when it’s over!
    tough break but we can fight together!

  • Allen

    What can I do to help ?
    How can I help you through this ?
    What do you need from me ?

  • Sally Cook

    “I’m here for you.”

  • Debra Hodgson

    We are praying for you!
    Love you lots!
    Keep your chin up!
    You are one strong girl/boy!

  • Linda Tyson

    These are all helpful ideas. Yesterday I made a visit and also took a thinking of you type card in which I added a few comments. “God is already there” and “I love you” were shared. Person wrote a text later to say she liked that God is already there as she was awaiting surgery for cancer. A phone call with “How are you doing?” is often helpful if a visit isn’t possible.

  • Dottie

    How can I help?
    Is there anything I could do that would help you?
    I will be with you as you journey through this.

    Pray with that person rather than just for them.

  • Ann Marie

    I’m here for you in whatever way you might need.

  • Norma Miller

    Call me any time if you need to talk. I love you.


    “I don’t know what to say” is MUCH better than saying nothing!!! Also…” You don’t have to go through this alone… I’m here” is a great positive expression of support!

  • Pamela Lear

    This is great advice. I dislike when people say “I’m sorry” because, as you mention, it is automatic and represents their surprise and discomfort more than anything. Also, what is the recipient supposed to respond to “I’m sorry?” It’s awkward. The most important thing is to find a personal way to say that you care and that you are there to be supportive in whatever way is needed. HOWEVER, I think it is also inappropriate to say “What can I do to help?” as that puts the onus on them to remember your offer and to find a way for you to help – – that can feel overwhelming. It is generally better to say “I’m here for you”, “I’ll check in to see what I can do”, “Call me anytime”, etc., anything this is not a question. Ultimately, just be present, listen without judgment or offering advice, and check in without any obligation for them to respond.

  • Roxy

    We told a friend who lost his wife (and my best friend) that our porch and fresh ice tea was always open. He took us up on it and we have great memories of unexpected , unplanned visits. This Same friend wrote these words to me , when my mom passsed. It was priceless. “May sweet memories soon replace the present pain you feel”.

  • Betty Wolfson

    I love You.
    I am here for you.
    My new title, Assistant, at your Service. Please if I ‘can be of assistance’ in any way, don’t hesitate to ask! This is an open invitation and I will say yes whenever I am able!
    Remember, you are greatly Loved.

    ( There is a difference between asking to serve or assist, rather than Help. Sometime the word ‘Help’ comes with a sub text that registers as ‘I can’t do this.’ Assist or service is more like, ‘ You could lift this cumbersome box alone, but wouldn’t two more hands feel safer and go a lot quicker?!? )

  • Warren C. Plauche

    My first response was – I’m surprised, I’m anxious, I’m angry at this thing, I love you!

  • Grace

    “I will be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.”

  • Debbie Drill

    If you can follow through with this, the best thing you can say is “When can I come over and spend some time with you?” The best gift is the gift of your presence, sharing time and stories, laughing and crying together.

  • Sue R

    Shortly after my husband died, the comment I most appreciated was “Do you want to talk about him?”
    YES… I did & do…all the time!

  • Peter Moss

    These suggestions are very useful. Only the other day I met a lady who I know reasonably well in our village. She was leaving her house with her husband and I said “I was just thinking I had not seen you for a while” her response was “I have breast cancer, I am going for my first treatment” . I was taken aback and could only utter “I am sorry”, however I did manage to say “I will pray for you” before they said goodbye. I will be better prepared next time this happens. Thank you.

  • D haegeman

    Time for you now to take care of business so you can get on with your life.

  • Elaine Sokoloff

    Offer specific help rather than “if there’s anything I can do.” If you can do something say, “I’d like to do this for you”…

    I have found that doing dishes and clearing at a wake or memorial if it is not fully catered can be one of the best things that can be offered. Friends have said that many will bring food, but few think to help clean up, and I’ve done dishes and set up where that was the most obvious way that help was needed.

    If you do massage or bodywork, that is an incredible gift to offer as well.

  • Helen Graziano

    You can say what can I do? When we lost our son our dear neighbors cut our lawn and hosted two lunches for the afternoon and evening visitations at the funeral home for our many many out of town guests. This will never be forgotten.

  • Jerry Miller

    In my view, none of the “6 Positive Expression” is as sensitive and compassionate as simply “I’m sorry” followed by something like “How can I be helpful?” or “You are loved.”

  • John

    That’s a tough break.

  • Mary E. Rossow

    “… well, count me in on your cheerleading squad!”

  • Robin Weatherly

    What can I do to give you a hand?