In the past week, a dear friend of mine got terrible health news and a family member died. The death in the family was a blessing in that the person had been seriously ill for a long time but it’s still sad. In the case of my friend’s news, I can see nothing redeemable in the situation. The simple truth is bad things happen.
So what does one say in these situations?
- Someone gets a terrible diagnosis, and maybe it’s not the first one.
- A friend suffers the death of someone close, maybe a child or young friend.
- A dear one loses a job.
- Your friend’s spouse wants to end their marriage.
- A treasured pregnancy ends in miscarriage.
What you can say is “I am so sorry.”
The most important thing to realize is that a person suffering a strong emotional blow or disappointment is not her best self. She is vulnerable, sensitive and possible angry.
Things are things that are not helpful to say:
“Well, behind every cloud is a silver lining. You’ll be fine in no time.”
“You know everything happens for a reason.”
“You can always have another child.”
“At least he’s in a better place now.”
“I know exactly how you feel.”
While technically you may be correct, right now a friend needs empathy, not templated solutions. In fact, high stress levels change body chemistry and your friend may not have slept well, may be feeling jumpy or highly emotional.
These are things you can say that might help:
- I am so sorry for your loss.
- I wish I had the right words, just know I care.
- Please know I am here to help in anyway I can.
- You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.
- My favorite memory of your loved one is….
- I am always just a phone call away.
- Give a hug.
- We all need help at times like this, I am here for you.
- I am usually up early or late, if you need anything.
- Just be present with the person.
What else to do?
Look for opportunities to help. Send flowers or food or a note. Call to check in. Listen.