When someone you know is sick, it’s important to step up for that person in a small way. Though words of encouragement, affirmation, and positivity may not guarantee that this person will heal in record time or even at all, these messages can still have an impact.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What to Say When Someone Is Sick with Cancer
- What to Say When Someone Is Terminally Ill
- What to Say When Someone Is Not Feeling Well or Has a Cold, Flu, or a Temporary Illness
There's a huge connection between outlook and outcome in just about any trying circumstance. Sickness may not guarantee a person will pass away, however, there are resources out there for dealing with grief as well as how to offer condolences.
If you’re unable to set aside extra time to spend with the person who is sick, sharing a few words with them in person, via text or email, or even on social media can still make them feel seen. Whether the person has been diagnosed with cancer, is terminally ill, or has a temporary illness, we provide suggestions for each below.
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What to Say When Someone Is Sick with Cancer
Getting a diagnosis of cancer — regardless of the type or stage — is something no one should go through alone. It’s understandable that some people are fiercely private, and you may hear of someone’s diagnosis through the grapevine. However, sharing some words of encouragement isn’t a bad idea. As long as you’re coming from a place of care and respect, you can’t go wrong. Here are some ideas for what to say in a few different scenarios.
It’s important to note that you should not compare illnesses or individuals. If you have a previous connection to someone diagnosed with cancer or who was terminally ill, this does not mean that they will cope with it the same way. Avoid making comments about how serious or benign you think a diagnosis is, especially if you don’t have a medical background.
You should also refrain from sharing opinions about a person’s care regimen. In brief, know your place. If you are not a decision-maker for someone who is ill, do not act like one. Use your time with them to focus on the positive and how much you care for them. If you'd prefer to send a card and are looking for card messages, take a look at our guide to what to write in a card for someone with terminal cancer.
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If you’re talking in person, here's what to say when someone is sick with cancer:
- “How are you doing? I happened to hear about your health. If you want to talk, I’m here to listen.”
- “I heard about your diagnosis. I hope I’m not overstepping by mentioning it. I just wanted to let you know I’m here to help your family with anything at all.”
- “If you need to talk to someone who’s been through this, I’m here. I never felt like talking about my diagnosis, but when I did, I always felt better.”
- “How are you feeling? If there’s anything I can do for you, let me know. I’m here for you.”
If you’re texting or talking via email, here's what to say when someone is sick with cancer:
- “I wanted to remind you how much of a boss you are. You’re one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. You’re gonna kick this thing’s butt, I know it.”
- “Checking in to say I love you and you’re going to get through this. I’m always here if you need to talk or just want some baked goods!”
- “I’m here to talk when you’re feeling up to it. I know you don’t like being called brave or strong, but you are — that’s the truth. I love you!”
If you’re communicating on social media, here's what to say when someone is sick with cancer:
- “You’re stronger than all of us. I love you, and I’m praying for you!”
- “There’s nothing you can’t do. I’m thinking of you and rooting for you.”
- “I love you — you’re the epitome of strength and grace, even through the toughest times. Keep fighting!”
What to Say When Someone Is Terminally Ill
When someone is terminally ill, the circumstances are more grave. However, the tone and intent of your message shouldn’t change. You should still offer warmth, encouragement, and support, no matter how much time they may have left. It’s your choice on how you want to impact their time here — so make it enjoyable.
Below you will find some ideas for what to say in a few different scenarios. You can also bring or send a gift that will cheer them up and provide comfort. Of course, let these suggestions serve as a guide. You know the person you’re talking to better than we do. And, naturally, you don’t want to say anything to upset them or their other family members. Similarly, here are some examples if you’re struggling to write a sympathy message or don’t know what’s appropriate.
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If you’re talking in person, here's what to say when someone is terminally ill:
- “I’m going to keep bugging you — and I better not stop hearing from you either.”
- “I love you, you know that, right? There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you. You let me know. And if you don’t, I’ll make my best guess.”
- “I know this is a hard conversation to have, but I had to ask. Is there any unfinished business I can help with?”
- “Is there anything I can do to make you happier? What’s missing? I want to make sure you have everything you need.”
If you’re texting or talking via email, here's what to say when someone is terminally ill:
- “I love you so much. I can’t begin to explain how much I admire your bravery and your resolve. I’ve been looking up to you my whole life, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
- “You’re one of the best people I’ve ever known. I’m going to keep praying for you, but I know you’re taken care of. I love you.”
- “I love you, I hope you’re behaving yourself — kidding. If there’s anything I can do to help us break a few more rules, let me know.”
If you’re communicating on social media, here's what to say when someone is terminally ill:
- “You’re beautiful, now as much as ever. I can only hope to live up to the amazing example you’ve set for all those around you. I love you!”
- “You’re Superman/Superwoman, and don’t let anyone forget it! You continue to be such an inspiration, even through this. I’ll love you forever and always.”
- “I love you. You’re a superhero and the bravest person in the galaxy — I know, you’re gonna roll your eyes when you see this.”
What to Say When Someone Is Not Feeling Well or Has a Cold, Flu, or a Temporary Illness
It’s a bit easier to know what to say when someone has a temporary illness. This is mostly because you’ve likely gone through a similar situation yourself, so you know what you’d like to hear. Though temporary illnesses, such as the flu or colds, are less serious, they can still knock you around quite severely.
It’s important to remain sensitive to the person, encourage his or her recovery, and make sure they take care of themselves in the meantime. That being said, try not to say anything like he or she is being “dramatic” or “being a baby.” Regardless of the truth, no one likes to hear this, and negativity won’t help anything.
Furthermore, if your friend or loved one is contagious, you may not be able to see him or her in person. This makes your message even more important. You may also consider giving him or her a gift, like a healthy snacks care package, cozy throw blanket, or something similar to a sympathy gift. Here are a few examples for inspiration, if you’re one of those people who never knows what to say.
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If you’re talking in person, here's what to say when someone is not feeling well:
- “How are you feeling? If there’s anything you need help with, let me know. You should focus on getting better.”
- “Can I bring you anything or help around the house in any way? I want to make sure you focus on resting.”
- “You better be taking it easy! I know you don’t like it when I tell you what to do, but I love you, and I want you back to your best self.”
- “What can I do to make you feel better? I’ll do anything for you! I want you to be well.”
If you’re texting or talking via email, here's what to say when someone is not feeling well:
- “How’s it going? I’m checking in to see if you need anything and to tell you I love you!”
- “You’ve got this — please give yourself a break and focus on getting better. Work and exercise can wait. Now go watch a movie and make sure to drink your fluids!”
- “I love you! I hope everything is going all right and you’re feeling a little better. If there’s anything I can do, I’m here!”
- “Can I stop by with anything? Medicine? Soup? I want you back on your feet. Love you!”
If you’re communicating on social media, here's what to say when someone is not feeling well:
- “I heard you’re not feeling well. I wanted to send some love and good vibes your way! Let me know if there’s anything I can do — I’m about to send some memes whether you want them or not.
- “Love ya! I heard you’re under the weather. I hope you’re cutting yourself some slack and taking it easy. You deserve to rest!”
Even the Worst Circumstances Can Benefit From Positivity
The mind-body connection is a real thing. It’s likely that you want to see your loved one enjoy their life as much as possible, regardless of their health limitations. Doing your part by sharing words of encouragement can work wonders for them.
Even if their body does not respond with a quicker recovery or is even able to recover at all, you’re providing them with love and support. These two things are arguably what everyone spends their whole life chasing — finding it makes all the difference.