The important people in your life will sometimes experience challenges and heartbreaks. As a family member, friend, or even colleague, you’ll likely want to let these people know you care for them when they’re struggling. You want these people to know you’re there for them, even if all you can do is offer some small degree of comfort.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How You Can Support a Family Member Going Through a Hard Time
- What to Say to a Friend Experiencing Hard Times
- What to Say to an Acquaintance or Colleague Who’s Going Through a Rough Patch
Consider these ideas for how to console someone if you’re aware that a friend or loved one is going through hard times. Your message may be exactly what that person needs to hear. Here are some ideas for what to say to someone going through a hard time.
Tip: If someone you know recently lost a loved one, our post-loss checklist can help them sort through the complicated tasks and challenges they might be facing.
How You Can Support a Family Member Going Through a Hard Time
Family members need one another, and saying the right words is one of the most important things you can do when your loved one is struggling. Ideas to consider include:
1. “Thank you for all you do for us, but now is a time to take care of yourself as well.”
Family members are often responsible for taking care of each other in various ways, and that includes doing chores and key duties.
When a family member is going through a difficult experience, he or she might not be able to justify a much-needed break. Help your family member by letting him or her know that you’d like to take over some responsibilities while your family member tends to his or her own needs.
If you're far away from your family member and can't be there in person, consider sending a care package with food or some of their favorite things in addition to your message.
2. Remind your family member of something very kind he or she did for you.
Your family members have probably been there for you when you were going through hard times. Remind them of this when they’re in the same boat. They’ll be happy to know they made you feel better. More importantly, hearing about how they helped you may make them feel a little bit better.
3. “I’m proud of you.”
Depending on the nature of your relationship with a family member, there’s a good chance this important person would love to hear that you’re proud of the way he or she is dealing with a painful experience.
For example, parents might tell a child that they’re proud of how he or she dealt with a very difficult breakup.
4. “My job is to make your life easier right now. This is how I’m going to do it. Does that work?”
Family members need to support each other when one is in pain. However, if you only ask a family member “How can I help?” when he or she is struggling, your loved one might not actually let you know. Instead, offer to make his or her life easier during this painful time in specific ways.
What to Say to a Friend Experiencing Hard Times
Friends aren’t just people we share fun times with. They’re also the people we may turn to when life is difficult. If you know a friend would like to hear from you right now, get in touch to share one of these messages:
5. “I hate that you’re going through this, but I know that you’ve got this.”
People want to know their friends don’t just like them but admire them as well. Tell a friend going through a tough time that you know he or she has the strength to overcome it.
Even better, reference a specific story or life event that proves your friend is as strong as you claim.
6. “You’ve got a lot on your plate. Can we set a time to chat every week?”
Maybe you’re trying to think of what to say when someone has a sick family member that needs to be cared for. In this instance, let your friend know you’re impressed with how well she’s handling caregiving responsibilities and suggest a specific time each week when she can call you to vent. You can also consider sending coffee and sweets for her to enjoy while you two chat.
7. “Remember when you were there for me? It’s my turn to do the same for you.”
Like family members, friends going through hard times often feel better when someone reminds them that they’ve been a big help in the past.
Let your friend know you want to support her by reminding her of a specific time when she did the same for you. This will boost your friend’s odds of actually accepting your offer to help.
8. “You’re my best friend. Helping in any way I can is my top priority right now. Please believe that.”
Sometimes, saying “sorry for your loss” isn’t enough to convey to a friend just how much you care when a loved one has passed on. Go the extra mile by wearing your heart on your sleeve. Tell your friend what his or her friendship has meant to you, and why helping in any way possible is very important to you.
What to Say to an Acquaintance or Colleague Who’s Going Through a Rough Patch
The people we wish to comfort aren’t always close family members and friends. Throughout your life, you’ll also likely have colleagues and casual acquaintances who are experiencing tough times. Here are some things you might say to them when this happens:
9. “Here’s how we’re going to take care of your work while you’re away.”
A colleague going through a rough patch may need to take a step back from work for a period of time to address other needs. This may be true if your colleague is in mourning, struggling with an illness, or otherwise dealing with a life challenge that consumes a lot of his or her time.
Your colleague might stress about work and wonder who will be handling all the responsibilities until he gets back. You can help your colleague in a very big way by coordinating with supervisors and coworkers to divvy up responsibilities. Get in touch and show your colleague you have work responsibilities under control.
10. “If you need a reference, networking help, anything like that at all, let me know. Happy to help!”
A colleague may be going through a tough time because he or she got unexpectedly laid off. There’s a decent chance you might be able to help by serving as a reference or introducing your colleague to others in your industry.
Offering to help in these key practical ways could make your colleague (or former colleague) feel much better.
11. “I know we don’t know each other very well, but I went through a very similar experience, and if you ever need advice, I have plenty to share.”
In some instances, it makes sense to reach out to a minor acquaintance when you hear he or she is struggling with a difficult life experience. This is particularly true if this person’s life experience is very similar to one you’ve also been through.
For example, maybe an acquaintance was diagnosed with an illness you previously had. In this case, you could reach out and let her know you understand what she’s going through.
12. Share a positive memory you have of an acquaintance.
As you probably guessed, this is another way you might comfort someone you only know through friends. A friend of a friend might be going through a rough patch, but let’s say you genuinely have a positive memory involving this person.
Consider reaching out and letting this distant friend know about it. It’s always nice to hear when you’ve made a positive difference.
Offer Support—It’ll Be Appreciated
Again, you won’t always know what to say to someone going through a hard time. Everyone has this experience at some point. When you’re feeling that way, keep these ideas in mind.