Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW


8 Examples of What to Say When Someone Is Sick

PUBLISHED Jun 8th, 2021 & UPDATED ON Nov 16th, 2022

It’s never easy when a friend, a family member, or a partner comes to you and tells you they’re sick — whether the illness is short-term, long-term, or terminal. And when it happens, you’re probably thinking “Holy shit, what do I say now?” You’ve gotta be sensitive to what they’re going through while also staying away from stupid platitudes like “Everything’s going to be alright” (because that totally invalidates their experience!).

You especially wanna stay away from saying things that will make them ruminate about their condition or illness even MORE! For example, “What do you think caused it?” or “Is it terminal?” Your best bet is to stick to comforting words that will keep them in better spirits (as good as they can be, anyway). And we’ve got 8 examples of what to say when someone is sick!

Short-Term Illnesses 

Whether a broken limb or a bad case of the flu, they’re probably not in the best mood! One of the best things you can do at this moment is to just listen and then choose some of these words of comfort to support them. Here are some examples of what to say when someone is sick with a short-term illness. 

1. “Let Me Take On Some of Your To-Do List.” 

They’re probably not feeling up to getting groceries or washing the dishes, so see if you can do it for them! It will lift a HUGE weight off their shoulders and it’ll be reassuring for them knowing they have someone to do the things they can’t. 

2. “How Is Your Mental Health Right Now?”   

Let them vent about how they’re feeling — because if they’re locked up in bed with the flu or a broken arm, they’re most likely feeling the burden of isolation and loneliness. Just be there for them and let them talk about what’s going on in their head. 

3. “Is There a Fun Activity We Can Do Together?”

Get creative and find something you can do together that they’re still able to take part in. Whether it’s a game of “Eye Spy” or an embarrassing stories-sharing session, it’ll keep their mind busy and let them keep a positive mindset! 

4. “Call Me Anytime You Need Something.”

They may need something, like pain meds or even just company, when you’re not around. So, make sure they know that they can ask you for whatever they need, anytime — even if that’s just a 5-minute phone call!

Long-Term Illnesses 

Long-term or terminal illnesses are a bit harder to navigate…for example, what to say when someone has cancer or lupus. Maybe it’s a mental health condition, like depression, and it’s reeeally taking a toll on their life. Comforting words for serious illness aren’t usually at the tip of the tongue, but we’ve brainstormed a few to help you get started! Here are some examples of what to say when someone is sick with a long-term illness. 

5. “I’m Here to Listen If You Want to Talk About It.”

Rather than asking them allll the questions about what they’re going through, let them decide what they want to share! It helps them take charge of their illness (and maybe be able to cope with the diagnosis a bit better). 

6. “How Are You Holding Up?” 

Saying something as easy as this lets them know that it’s okay to not be okay. In a serious situation like this, it’s not as easy as just sleeping on it and feeling better the next morning. You’ve got to respect that they’re going to sit in that sadness — and probably for a while. 

7. “Let Me Know What I Can Help You With and When You Want to Be Alone.”

Allow THEM to set the boundaries because only they know what they need right now. So, take the pressure off by letting them tell you if they need something and when they want company. ‘Cause unwanted attention can be especially difficult for someone going through a serious illness! 

8. “You Didn’t Do Anything to Make This Happen.”

Reassure them that there isn’t anything they could have done to prevent this from happening. They’re probably very down on themselves, and a bit of reassurance may help them feel slightly better about what’s happening.

Just a little reminder that words of encouragement aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution! When deciding what to say when someone is sick, make sure you take an approach that best fits the person in your life who is struggling right now. So, feel free to customize the blanket phrases we’ve given you to suit your circumstances. You know… So you don’t end up resorting to this. ⬇


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