Anyone who has been seriously ill or has had a loved one dealing with a health crisis knows how friends and family can either say the most comforting things or the least welcome ones.
Words don’t always come easy in sensitive situations. So, AARP spoke with several experts who offer some advice on the best things to say (and not to say) to a friend, family member or coworker who is sick or in recovery.
How to speak with a sick friend
Someone who is sick can feel isolated and may even be waiting for others to reach out to them. So, don’t be afraid to show you care just because you aren’t sure what to say, says Michelle Maidenberg, a psychotherapist and adjunct professor at New York University (NYU).
“It’s important to acknowledge the challenges of whatever it is that they’re experiencing,” she says. “If somebody says, ‘It's really hard for me,’ just mirror their feelings back to them by saying things, like, ‘I hear that this is really hard.’”
Phrases to say to a sick person:
- “I’m really sorry you’re going through this.”
- “How can I be helpful to you?”
- “How can I be supportive?”
- “Do you want me to bring you some food? What is your favorite food?”
- “What you just shared with me was so heartfelt and I really appreciate you opening up to me in this way.”
What to say to someone who just had surgery:
- “Sending you healing vibes.”
- “Please let me know if you need a ride or just want to talk.”
- “What was the process like?”
Finding the right words to say to sick friends, family members or colleagues
First, think about the relationship you have with the person and let that guide your approach.