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When You Don’t Know What To Say…

One of the best things you can do for someone who is sick or going through a difficult time is to simply show up, and keep showing up. So many times, we are scared that we won’t say the right thing or maybe worse we will say the wrong thing.  Don’t let that fear prevent you from letting someone know your care. 

A visit can just be a quick hello, and all you need to bring is love, empathy, and a willingness to listen. 

Most of the time, the less you say the better because just being present will mean more to them than you could possibly convey. I still remember everyone who visited me when I was in the hospital for over a week. Most just stopped in to let me know they were praying for me, and others brought a small gift which was not expected but appreciated. Some fun things to receive were little snacks, a warm blanket, or a cozy blanket and a set of pajamas. Others asked if they could bring a meal, which was always welcomed since hospital food is universally bad. But don’t forget a visit alone is an immeasurable gift.

During a visit, try to pay attention to cues regarding someone’s mood. Sometimes people need a distraction and laughing and telling jokes is just the right medicine. Others may need a listening ear or just to hear that you love them and are sorry they are sick. Avoid talking about your “bad day” or putting your loved one in a position where they need to comfort you. Just listening to someone going through a difficult time is a true gift, and you don’t have to know all the answers. Accept that words fail us all at times and often the best thing you can do is, again, just show up and just tell someone “I love you and I care”.

Some may love a welcomed distraction of talking about the latest episode of their guilty pleasure, or they may not want to talk at all. Often just being physically present, even if it leads to sitting in silence, is a welcomed distraction. 

Try to refrain from the statement, ” Let me know what I can do to help”. The standard reply is going to be a smile, a head nod, and immediate dismissal because they don’t want to inconvenience anyone.  Instead, make specific suggestions of things you can do for them that may be helpful, like “This sucks and I am going to help by _____(walking your dog, helping with the kids or bringing a meal on this date, etc. ( Please ask what sounds good prior to bringing any food).

Finally, remember that you can always pray. One time my husband and I were visiting people in the chemo room and we came upon a lady who was obviously very sick. We gave her a cancer care pack and told her,” We just want to let you know that we care and we believe you can do this”. Without the slightest hesitation, she looked at us both in the eyes and said, ” I am going to die. I have a tumor growing outside of my body”. As she said those words she lifted her shirt and we were both faced with the harsh reality of cancer growing outside of her body. We both paused and didn’t know what to say besides, ” I am so sorry”. I barely got the word “sorry” out of my mouth, and my husband was asking the lady if we could pray for her. With tearful eyes, she responded, “Yes I would love that”. As we prayed for her, an instant peace and calmness came over all of us. We hugged her, and as we left reminded her we would continue to pray. Sometimes, that is all you can do.

Other phrases to use while visiting someone in the hospital: 

I am proud of your strength

This stinks

If you ever need to talk, I am here to listen. 

I care about you and want to help

I pray for your everyday 

You’ve got this

You are strong, you can do this

Never give up

If you know someone fighting cancer and want to send them a little love request a free cancer care pack here:

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