When you’re tasked with coming up with something to say when someone is sick, you really only need three things: a positive attitude, a smile, and a warm personality.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What to Say to Someone Before They Have Surgery
- What to Say to Someone After They Have Surgery
- Words of Support and ‘Get Well’ Wishes During a Long Surgery Recovery
After all, a person going into surgery doesn’t want to hear about the time your aunt had a similar operation “and was never the same.” Someone with a sick family member only wants to hear positive messages for cancer patients.
Here are some ideas of what to say to someone who is anticipating surgery. We’ll also help you pen the perfect “get well” message if you can’t be with your friend or loved one in person.
Tip: Unfortunately, surgery and medical intervention can't always save a life. If you've recently lost someone, our post-loss checklist can help you work through the tasks and challenges you might face.
What to Say to Someone Before They Have Surgery
Your job is to remain optimistic, warm, and comforting when someone is in the hospital awaiting surgery.
There is usually a lot of downtime in the hospital. Keep the conversation light. Make jokes about the lousy hospital food or watch funny videos online. You can even bring a cozy blanket like this one to help keep them comfortable. And if you have to talk about the surgery, consider talking about it in one of the following ways.
1. “I’ll see you in a bit! Love you!”
Do your best to be light-hearted and positive when you’re present as your friend or family member is wheeled off for surgery. Avoid tearful goodbyes.
2. “You’re in great hands.”
Remind your friend or family member that in all likelihood, this surgical team has performed this particular surgery many times. He or she is not the first patient in the world to have that surgery!
3. “You’re going to be okay.”
Share quiet, reassuring thoughts with the patient. Most surgeons are careful to perform surgery only on patients who can handle it.
4. “I’ll be there when you wake up in the recovery room.”
No one wants to be surrounded by strangers when he or she doesn’t feel well. Reassure the patient that you will be there when he or she wakes up.
5. Tell a joke.
Have a few goofy jokes in your back pocket just in case your patient’s mood takes a nosedive. Laughter is the best medicine, as long as it is balanced with moments of sincerity.
Perhaps you won’t be with your friend or family member at the hospital. Here’s what you can say right before the patient is wheeled off to surgery.
6. “Let’s plan a girls’ night after you recover from your surgery!”
The obvious assumption is that things will go well when you say you are eager to make plans with someone after surgery.
7. “Things will be better after your surgery.”
At times, surgery is presented to the patient as just one choice for treatment. Say positive things about the choice. After all, what good will it do to second-guess a decision that the patient has already made?
8. “I know you are scared, but you will be fine.”
Fear is a valid, normal emotion. Don’t belittle how your friend or family member is feeling by telling him or her to “be brave.”
9. “I’ll be praying for you and your medical team.”
Is your friend or family member a person of faith? If so, reassure the patient that you will be sending prayers for all involved. Even better — pray with your loved one.
10. “Life will be better after you have fully recovered from your surgery.”
Your friend or family member may be looking forward to the surgery because a healthy life will follow recovery.
What to Say to Someone After They Have Surgery
Recovery after surgery can be hard. Your friend or family member may feel nauseous from the medication and pain from the incisions. He or she may even start to regret the decision to have the procedure.
Reassure your loved one that he or she made the right decision. After all, you can’t go back in time, so there is no use second-guessing the decision. Saying the right words after surgery may be even more critical than what you say before the procedure.
11. “I know you feel lousy now, but this is part of the recovery process.”
Reassure your friend that the way he is feeling is not the new normal. The medical staff probably set realistic expectations for the recovery process. Remind your friend of those expectations.
12. “I’m so glad that your surgery went well!”
Again, focus on the positive. Remind other friends and family members to focus on the excellent end result, too.
13. “Take time to recover properly.”
Your friend or loved one may feel like recovery is taking forever, but remind him or her that recovery takes time and that it shouldn’t be rushed. Encourage your loved one to follow the medical staff’s advice.
14. “I’m here to take care of you.”
Your friend or family member will probably be weak after surgery and may require some TLC. Reassure the patient that you will be there to help during the recovery process. Perhaps your family member will need assistance getting in and out of bed or maybe your friend will need rides to physical therapy. Sometimes a successful recovery requires a team effort.
15. “Your job right now is to focus on your recovery.”
Is the person close to you in a rush to get back to work? Explain that work will always be there and your friend or loved one needs to follow best practices to recover quickly.
Words of Support and “Get Well” Wishes During a Long Surgery Recovery
You may not see your friend or loved one before or after surgery. You may need to write “get well” messages to him or her on a greeting card like this or a social media page. These messages can also make a care package or other surgery gifts extra special. Here are some things you could write to show your support.
16. “I am so happy that your surgery went well! Please take care of yourself. We miss you at work, but we want you to take the necessary time to recover before you return.”
17. “I know that this has been a difficult time for you. I just wanted to let you know that I have been thinking about you and praying for you. Take care of yourself during the recovery process. I can’t wait until I see you on the sidelines at the next soccer game.”
18. “Classes have not been the same without you being there. After all, I have no one to complain to about our ‘favorite’ professor. Take care of yourself! I’m looking forward to seeing you soon.”
19. “I’m sending healing vibes your way. I hope you recover quickly so that I can see you soon.”
20. “I’m sorry to hear about your surgery but I’m glad to know it went well. I’ve been praying for a speedy recovery.”
Crafting the Right Message
It can be difficult to find the perfect message for someone who’s going into or coming out of surgery — it’s kind of like crafting the perfect sympathy message.
You may also have a tough time thinking of end-of-life planning for yourself. Don’t avoid making these plans. The greatest gift that you can give to your loved ones is leaving clear instructions about your final arrangements.