What to say when someone is sick?

If you’re reading this article, chances are that someone close to you is sick. Whereas most of us don’t know how to react when someone we love becomes ill, it’s actually not that difficult. These 11 tips will help you navigate the tricky territory of sickness in your life!

What to say to someone sick?

  1. Have empathy for the person who is sick – It can be difficult for many people who are healthy to understand what someone with a chronic illness goes through on a daily basis, but it can also be hard for them if they feel like their friends don’t care about what they are going through. Try to remember where they are coming from and empathize with them when possible.
  2. Let them know you are there for them, don’t ignore or avoid them – Don’t avoid the person who is sick or act like nothing is happening in their life. If they need you, they will ask for it.
  3. Send a card or text message: If a person who is sick gets a text, e-mail, or call from someone they care about while they are ill, it goes a long way and can help lift their spirits.
  4. Buy them a small gift: If the person who is sick struggles to get out of bed, it can be nice for them to know that you thought about them. A small gift shows them that you care.
  5. Understand their limitations: Be understanding if someone who is ill needs to cancel plans with you or does not have the energy to do what you are doing. Your friend may be going through a lot more than just being sick and may not have the strength or energy to socialize with others.
  6. Ask if they need anything: People don’t like asking for help, so make it easy on your friend and ask if they need anything when they are sick or feeling under the weather.
  7. Bring them food: When someone is ill, they may lack the energy or ability to prepare or purchase food themselves. If you know your friend is feeling ill, take some soup or other food to their house, work, or wherever they are.
  8. Don’t be afraid to talk about things that come up: It is okay for friends who care about each other to talk about difficult topics (death, illness and disease) if it needs to be brought up. If a serious topic comes up, don’t ignore it because you’re afraid of offending them. Make sure that what you say is sensitive and sympathetic toward your friend’s situation!
  9. Listen to what they have to say: No matter how difficult it may be, try and listen when your friend talks about the impact of their illness on their life. They may not be looking for pity or sympathy, but they most likely need to express themselves and you can help.
  10. Keep the lines of communication open: People have different needs at different times in their lives and depending on what is going on in their life keeps in touch with them! Don’t feel like you have to share everything with someone who is sick since you don’t want them worrying about you, but keep the communication lines open!
  11. Be there for them – If your friends are experiencing a hard time because of an illness (e.g. losing their job, relationship troubles etc.)

Also read: How to be confident

What not to say to someone who is sick?

Avoid making comments that may seem insensitive to the patient or pressure them to get better too quickly – Both of these comments can be hurtful for the person who is sick and make you seem like you don’t care.

Don’t ask a lot of personal questions about an illness, unless they are comfortable talking about it. If you are unsure, ask if it is okay to talk about it or if they want to open up at a later time, or no time at all.

Avoid saying “I’m praying for your health” when someone gets sick but aren’t religious/spiritual – This can make them feel uncomfortable and doesn’t help them get better faster.

Try not to interrupt. Though it is easier said than done, do not interrupt your friend when they are speaking. Allow them to fully express themselves before responding or asking questions and try and build on what they have just said instead of jumping right in with something else.

Don’t make it all about you when someone is sick – focus on their needs and not yours! You can ask about their recovery, but most likely will not be able to help them.

-Completely avoid telling others that you “feel bad for them”, or that “you’re my hero” – You may say them you care, but don’t show it in your actions if you do not care at all. Be there for others, but don’t be a cheerleader if that is not what they want.

Do not say, “let me know if you need anything.” Instead, get out of the way and let your friend know that they have your full attention and you are ready to actively listen to them.

Don’t say “I’ve never gotten sick like that before” – This may make them feel bad as it may be difficult for people who are ill. Comments like this also sound condescending and makes the person who is sick feel bad about their illness.

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