Words of encouragement for a friend with a sick parent can make a big difference during this challenging time. When a parent becomes sick, it’s like a sudden storm descending upon a family. Everyone scrambles to care for them and pick up the slack for their usual responsibilities. Life suddenly feels chaotic and overwhelming.
There are 7 types of comforting words for someone dealing with a sick parent: listening, validating, and offering to help. Gifts like meal service subscriptions, gift cards, and care packages can also help support a friend. When someone’s family member is sick, avoid three types of potentially harmful responses: expressions of toxic positivity, catastrophizing, or offering unsolicited advice.
What to say when someone’s relative is in the hospital
Here are 7 types of things you can say when someone’s relative is in the hospital.
- Offer help
- Show your care
- Show empathy
- Acknowledge their experience
- Let them know you’re here for them
- Check-in regularly
- Wish their family well
What are some words of encouragement for a friend with a sick parent?
Here are some words of encouragement for a friend with a sick parent.
- If you want to talk about anything else, I’m here to take your mind off things.
- I know you may still be reeling from the shock, but when you’re ready to talk, I’m here.
- How is your dad doing lately?
- How is your mom’s health?
- I heard that your mom is in hospital. How are you coping?
- How is your family?
- How’s everything going, if you don’t mind me asking?
- I’ll be thinking of you.
- Wish you were here, and thinking of you.
- I’m holding your family in my heart and sending you love.
- I hope your mother gets better soon.
- I hope your mother receives the best treatment.
- Holding you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.
- I’m sorry to hear about your father’s health condition.
- Wishing your dad’s operation goes smoothly and brings relief.
- Wishing you courage and strength during this hard time.
- You’re not alone in this. I’m just a phone call or text away if you need someone to lean on.
- I know keeping up with your errands can be hard at such a time. Let me know if I can drop off some groceries.
- I’d be happy to watch the kids or take them out while you’re at the hospital.
- I’m available to watch the kids or take them out.
- Drop me a list if you need errands taken care of.
- Would you mind if I brought you dinner sometime next week?
- I’m heading to the store; may I pick up something for you?
- Would you mind if I brought over a baked good when I see you? Would be happy to take suggestions.
- Would you like some company the next time you’re at the hospital?
- Let me know if I can help you understand all the medical jargon.
- Whatever you need, I’m here for you.
- If you need a shoulder to cry on, I’m here.
- Let me know if you’d like me to share some things that helped us. No worries if not.
- I’d love to help, whether it’s big or small.
- Let me know if I can help you in any way.
- Getting outside may be hard, but I would love to take you out for a coffee if you’d like.
- This must be so hard for you and your family.
- It must feel overwhelming right now.
- We don’t have to talk about it now if you’re not ready.
- I can only imagine how difficult this must be.
- I know it may not feel like it, but you’re doing a great job.
- It’s clear how much you love your father.
- You’re doing a wonderful job under these circumstances.
- There is no right way to handle this. You’re doing the best you can.
How to support someone with a sick parent
To support someone with a sick parent, you can listen, validate, offer to help, check in regularly, encourage self-care, be sensitive, respect their privacy, and suggest professional help.
Here are 6 suggestions for supporting someone with a sick parent.
Listen and validate
Listen without judgment when they need to talk to give emotional support. For families dealing with a chronic illness, sharing thoughts and feelings about what’s happening can be helpful.
Show genuine empathy and avoid downplaying or invalidating their experience.
Active listening and paying attention to their words and nonverbal cues can help you respond sensitively and avoid saying anything that might be hurtful or unhelpful. Finding genuine ways to highlight and validate their dedication may leave them feeling seen and boost morale.1
Talking about serious illnesses like cancer or dementia can be tough. Even though these topics are hard to discuss, don’t shy away from them if they’re part of what your friend or family is going through. Assure them it is okay to feel worried, scared, or sad about their parent’s illness.
Offer to help
Asking for help during a family crisis can be difficult, and it may be hard to figure out what is reasonable to request from others. Sometimes, ´whatever you need’ is too vague and can lead to sticky situations when you cannot meet the person’s requests.
For people reluctant to inconvenience others, letting them know that you want to be there for them and are not going too far out of your way can help. Adding “it’s on my route home” or “I really don’t mind” can ease people’s worries that they are burdening you.
You can be specific in your offer. By offering specific forms of support, you can remove the burden of guessing and going back and forth for your friend. You can offer to run errands, drop off meals, or look after kids when your friend is bogged down with caretaking tasks. Even small things like dropping off groceries can be a big help.
Regular check-ins, such as a simple text or call to let someone know you’re thinking of them, can mean a lot. It’s a small gesture that feels like a virtual hug. This small gesture reminds them they are not alone during this challenging time.
Let them know that they don’t have to respond immediately, so they have the time and space to process and then respond when they’re ready.
If your friend turns down your initial offer to help, you can let them know from time to time that the offer still stands to make it easier for them to ask.
When parents fall ill, their children may become so swept up in ensuring they are cared for that their own needs fall to the wayside. Gently remind them about the importance of their health and well-being. Encourage simple self-care, like taking a break, resting adequately, or engaging in activities that bring them joy.
You can also encourage them to reach out to more friends. Sharing experiences and receiving support makes coping easier, according to a 2013 research conducted by Linneaus University.2
If a friend who’s dealing with a sick parent asks about your life, it’s still okay to share updates. But it’s important to be sensitive in how you communicate the news, considering what they’re going through. Being mindful of their situation can make the conversation more comforting and supportive.
Respect their need for privacy and understand if there are things they don’t want to talk about.
Suggest professional help
If you notice signs of depression or extreme anxiety, gently suggest professional help.
What to give someone who has a sick family member?
Here are things to give someone who has a sick family member.
- Meal service subscription
- Gift cards for practical needs like gas or groceries
- Care packages with healthy snacks, soothing teas, or bottled water
- Hospital comfort kit with travel-size toiletries, a sleep mask, earplugs, or magazines
- Comfort items, such as soft blankets, cozy slippers, or a comfortable robe
- Self-care products to encourage relaxation, like bath salts, candles, or scented lotion
- A handwritten note with your heartfelt message to let them know you think of them
What do you say to someone whose parent is in hospice?
Things to say to someone whose parent is in hospice include things that show your empathy, offer your help, and express unconditional support.
- Express empathy and concern: “I’m so sorry to hear about your parent. I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you. How are you holding up?”
- Offer help and support: “My thoughts are with you and your family. If you need someone to talk to, or if there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know.”
- Reassure them they’re not alone: “Please remember that you’re not alone in this. I’m here for you.”
- Acknowledge their situation: “This must be a really tough time for you and your family. I’m here to support you in any way you need.”
- Share font memories: If you knew their parent, sharing a positive memory can be comforting: “Your parent has always been so kind and caring. I remember when I came over to play, they always greeted me warmly.”
- Invite them to share their memories: Give them a chance to reminisce positively if they wish: “What is your favorite memory with your parent?”
- Avoid clichés: It’s usually best to avoid saying things like “Everything happens for a reason” or “They’re in a better place now,” as these can sometimes feel dismissive of their pain.
How do you help someone whose parent is dying?
You can help someone whose parent is dying by being there for them, listen to them, and validate their feelings.
- Be present: Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just be there. Your presence can offer immense comfort, even if you don’t say much. You don’t need to fill silences or come up with solutions. A compassionate presence is what matters.
- Listen attentively: Let them talk about their feelings and thoughts. Listening without judgment or the need to offer solutions can be very supportive.
- Acknowledge their feelings: They might be experiencing various feelings, from worry and sadness to fear. All feelings are valid, and it’s important to acknowledge negative feelings without trying to change them, fix the situation, or make the feelings go away.
- Normalize their feelings: Let them know it’s okay to feel negative emotions. For example, “Anyone in your situation would feel upset” to convey that their reaction is normal and understandable.
- Empathize: Empathy shows that you are trying to understand their experience from their perspective. For example, “That must be very difficult.”
- Respect their pace and space: Processing emotions takes time. Give them space and be patient as they work through their feelings.
- Avoid clichés or invalidation: Avoid saying they will “get over it” with time or that the person who died “is in a better place.” This negates the very real grief happening now.
What not to say when someone’s father or mother is not well?
When someone’s father or mother is not well, avoid being overly optimistic, sharing discouraging stories, or giving unsolicited advice. Here are 3 things to avoid when your friend’s mom or dad is sick.
Avoid overly optimistic statements.
While maintaining a positive outlook or trying to see things in a new light can be helpful during difficult times, these feelings must be genuine and not forced. Telling someone, “You have nothing to worry about” or “Just stay positive,” can come across as dismissive rather than supportive.
These phrases undermine the real emotions and challenges the person faces and urge them to suppress their feelings, leading to worse emotional well-being. A 2016 study published in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy concurred that emotion suppression was associated with higher negative and lower positive feelings.3
On the other hand, sharing discouraging stories about people in similar situations can multiply the anxiety already present for families with sick relatives. They likely have already thought of the worst-case scenario. There is no need to offer up another one.
Hold back on offering unsolicited advice or knowledge. Leave that to the medical professionals.
If you have skills or previous experiences that may be useful, you can offer to share these in an empathetic and well-timed way. But don’t take offense if you are turned down.
- 1.Fruzzetti AE, Shenk C. Fostering Validating Responses in Families. Social Work in Mental Health. Published online January 23, 2008:215-227. doi:10.1300/j200v06n01_17
- 2.Årestedt L, Persson C, Benzein E. Living as a family in the midst of chronic illness. Scandinavian Caring Sciences. Published online January 15, 2013:29-37. doi:10.1111/scs.12023
- 3.Brockman R, Ciarrochi J, Parker P, Kashdan T. Emotion regulation strategies in daily life: mindfulness, cognitive reappraisal and emotion suppression. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. Published online August 12, 2016:91-113. doi:10.1080/16506073.2016.1218926