What can I say?

Posted April 25, 2013, in

Have you ever come across someone going through a time of grief or sadness, and not known  what to say?  Have you felt uncomfortable and found it easier to say nothing at all?  Pretend it hadn’t happened, or even avoided the person?  Me too.

But now I have been on the other side of the fence, I realize that these actions are really more hurtful than helpful.

 ”But what can I say?” I hear you ask. Good question.  And I am happy to share my thoughts on the matter.

First and foremost – don’t ignore the situation. It is most likely consuming the person, and is the most important thing in their life at that moment. To ignore it is to pretend it is of no concern.

I know it is often hard to confront the pain of another being, but it is so important to acknowledge the way it is. The words don’t have to be eloquent or profound – just genuine and caring.

“I’m so sad for you”

“I’m sorry to hear your news”

Such simple words, but they can be enough.  It’s even OK to say “I don’t know what to say”

 A hug can help a lot too.

If the one you are speaking to, has lost a loved one, it is good to speak of their lost one.  Relate a time when they had impacted on your own life, or an affectionate memory of their beloved.

Please,please,please can I ask that, if they have been diagnosed with a life threatening illness, do NOT share with them the latest “miracle cure”. If you knew how many diets, potions, creams and recommendations I have been given…….  It can be really overwhelming and even guilt inducing, and most often not helpful.

If you want to help someone in a practical way, it will be well received, but be specific.

“I want to come and do your ironing – when is the best time to come?” or  ”I will bring around tea for the family – is it OK to drop it off tomorrow afternoon?”, will be greatly appreciated.

So many want to help, but I find I can’t respond to  ”If you need some help, let me know”. Like most people, I don’t want to put others out, so I won’t ring and ask for help.

So, there you go – my ideas on what to say when there is nothing to say!


Story by Carol, a Member of the Advanced Breast Cancer Group.

Read more of Carol’s stories at her blog – Because His or read her Tuesday Group story here