If someone you know has a sick family member, it is possible that they may be feeling delicate or sensitive as they deal with the difficulties of a serious illness affecting their loved one. During these difficult times, even just saying a few words, lending a hand, and sharing warmth can work wonders.
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Jump ahead to these sections:
- What to Say if the Family Member is in the Hospital and Seriously Ill
- What to Say to a Close Friend or Partner with a Sick Family Member
- What to Say to an Acquaintance or Coworker with a Sick Relative
In times like these, condolences and sympathy messages can be crucial. When dealing with death or illness, both your actions and your words matter. Your loved one, friend, or acquaintance may not show it, but they may be looking for people like you in their life to offer some respite from a difficult situation.
When trying to offer sympathy, try to imagine you’re in their shoes, or think back to a time when you were dealing with something similar. What would you want to hear? What wouldn’t you want to hear? Keep reading for ideas.
Tip: If someone you know is facing the possible passing of a loved one, our post-loss checklist can help them sort through the complicated tasks and challenges they might face, if and when the time comes.
What to Say if the Family Member is in the Hospital and Seriously Ill
Dealing with a family member in the hospital can be one of the most stressful things to encounter. If that family member is seriously ill, it’s that much worse. With a family member in the hospital, your friend may feel strapped for time with either work or staying at the hospital with their loved one.
When they aren’t at their family member’s bedside, they may be a bit fragile and worried. If you have a couple of days and went to send something special, they might even a gift box with snacks to share at the hospital or to pass along a get well card to share with their loved one.
Are you wondering if there’s something you shouldn’t say? Some people may not be keen on hearing definites about the unknown, such as expecting their family member to recover or even trying to offer any medical advice. There are some platitudes that just may not feel appropriate to share and with such a delicate situation, it may be best to err on the conservative side.
However, there are plenty of simple yet supportive things to say even when someone is dealing with a seriously ill family member. Here’s what you should say to him or her. Feel free to make the following suggestions your own.
- How is everything going, if you don’t mind me asking? I have been praying for your family.
- Let me know if I can help you in any way. I want you to be able to give you full attention where it’s needed.
- If you need me to pick things up and bring them to the hospital for you while you’re visiting, I can. You can feel free to say no, but my offer stands.
- I’ve been thinking of you and your family. Would you mind if I brought over some dinner or baked goods? I take requests, too.
- Let me know if you ever want to talk. I’m here to listen. I know how hard it can be to see a loved one in this situation.
- I’ll be praying for you, and please don’t hesitate to ask if you need anything at all. Big or small, I’d really like to help.
- I heard you have a family member in the hospital. I’m just a phone call away if you ever need anything. Would you mind if I visited some time?
- I just wanted to say my thoughts are with you and your family. I can’t imagine what you must be feeling. Let me know if I can help at all.
- I’m right down the street if you need me, keep in touch. I will be thinking of you as will the rest of the family.
- I’ve been praying for you. Your family is so strong, you will get through this. Call me if you need help with anything.
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What to Say to a Close Friend or Partner with a Sick Family Member
If one of your close friends or your partner is dealing with a sick family member, your role is all the more important. However, you shouldn’t be fearful of being an inadequate support system.
The more you worry about if you’re doing enough, the harder it may be for you to do anything at all. Your friend or partner knows that you may feel similarly helpless and may simply want some comfort and company.
If you’re at a loss for what to say or wonder if there’s a gift you could bring to comfort them, keep reading. Feel free to make the following suggestions your own. This list is not exhaustive. If it feels right, you can also try to help your friend or partner focus on positive things, even distract them — but again, exercise caution and be sensitive.
- What do you want to eat for dinner? I’m bringing it to you, I won’t take no for an answer.
- I love you so much. I want to be able to help in any way I can. You know that, right?
- Would you like company the next time you visit the hospital? I don’t mind at all. My offer still stands even if you say no.
- Don’t worry about cleaning the house or those errands. I’ll take care of all of it. I want you to be able to focus on what matters.
- I’m running to the store. Tell me what you need and I’ll bring it to you.
- Just checking in and wanted to say I love you. I can help with anything you need, big or small.
- I can run by the house. What do you need me to bring you? If you can’t think of anything off the top of your head, I’ll do my best to guess.
- How is everything going? I’m always here if you want to talk, any time of day or night. I really mean that.
- I can stay at the hospital while you run home to shower and get some sleep. I really don’t mind. I love you.
- Is there anything you need me to do? I know you don’t like to ask, but I won’t stop bugging you until you let me do something.
What to Say to an Acquaintance or Coworker with a Sick Relative
How to address someone you consider an acquaintance or a coworker varies. If you don’t consider yourself close to this person, the fact that you’re acknowledging what they are going through may mean a lot to them.
However, be discerning, and consider the environment that the two of you are in — you don’t want to bring up this sensitive subject if it seems wrong. Go with your gut. They may also seem as though nothing is wrong.
Some people don’t feel comfortable sharing their emotions with everyone. If they brush off your well wishes, do not take it personally. Here are some more ideas.
- I hear you have an illness in your family, I’ll be thinking of you all. Of course, I’d be happy to help you out in any way.
- I know we never really talk, but I wanted to let you know I’m here. I’ll keep your family in my prayers.
- If you ever need a listening ear or want to grab a coffee, I’m around. I’ll be thinking of your family.
- I just wanted to let you know I’m praying for your family. No pressure at all, but if you ever need anything, I’m here.
- If you ever need help with tasks, let me know. I’m sorry to hear about the illness in your family.
- I know what dealing with a family illness is like. Let me know if you need help with any errands, I’ll be around.
- I’m grabbing a coffee, would you like to come with? I know it can be difficult to work when you’re thinking about a family member. I’ve been there, too.
- My other friends joke that I should have been a therapist. If you ever want to chat, I’m here to listen. I’ll be thinking of you and your family.
- Feel free to say no, but I’m here if you need help walking the dog or running errands. I’ll be praying for your family.
- I’m sorry to hear about the illness in your family, and I wish I was reaching out to you under different circumstances. Is there any way I can help you all out?
Put Yourself In Their Shoes
No matter what trying circumstances your loved one, acquaintance, or coworker is going through, giving love and compassion during a hard time can provide true support. Try to imagine yourself in their shoes.
What would you want or need to hear? Or, think back to someone else in your life who dealt with a sick relative. What was it that made them feel better? After all, it may not be the specific words you choose, but your intent behind them. If you’re truly wanting to comfort someone, they’ll feel it.
If you need more ideas on how to be there for your loved one, check out our guides to sympathy gift ideas, how to sign a sympathy card, and how to write a condolences email.