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How do you express hope or emphathy to someone who is dealing with a terminal desase? I am not talking about family, or close friends, but a causal aquaintence. Back in the Xian days it was easy. I would just say I will pray for you, and then later I would pray for them. I have wrestled with the idea of a proper responce for many years, and yet I have not thought of a satisfactory expression.

What words do you use to comfort someone who is suffering from a terminal illness, or they are suffering because their loved one has a terminal illness?

Leutrelle 7 Mar 3

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I just say "I'm thinking of you, and if you need anything or I can do anything, let me know." Then I go and get something that I know they'll appreciate, like a bag of groceries or, better still (assuming they like a drink) a bottle/12-pack of whatever's their favourite and drink it with them. Everyone says "let me know if you need anything", but if you do that it shows you mean it.

Jnei Level 8 Mar 3, 2018

I just ask if there's anything they need, offer to help and just let them take the lead once I let them know I'm okay with whatever they'd like to say. Most that i've come across here just want to laugh at jokes or remember good times.


I try not to say much. Be with them and acknowledge the frailty of words


Make them laugh.

You have gift if you can pull that one off🙂


I'm a hospice nurse, so I'm a little biased on this topic. But as a casual acquaintance, I would say something along the lines of, "I'm so sorry you're having to go through this." Then be prepared to listen. And be present. Most people need that more than any offers of "If there's anything I can do..." If you can listen and be truly present with them, it is a gift to them and could end up being a gift to you, as well.

I appreciate your service and advice that you came by through difficult circumstances.

AuntieM, I didn't see your post until after I posted mine...I have hospice nursing experience, too and really appreciate your comment.


Don't ask them how they are doing or feeling. Talk about a good memory. Ask if there is anything you can do. Find things you both agree on and talk about that. Let them know they are cherished and will be remembered. Do the have a wife? A dog? Ask if they need anything too.


Without knowing the person well, there's very little I can say that I'm sure will be a comfort. Even saying I'll pray for them is a shot in the dark, because they may be nonreligious or not believe in the efficacy of prayer, or my just be fed up with hearing that from everyone despite the surety of impending death. What might help, and something that most people probably avoid, is to ask them to tell you what they're thinking and feeling. I'm guessing most people don't want to hear about the pain and the fear and the isolation and the anger, and understandably so because it's such an emotionally charged topic, but that's why, I think, it means so much to them if you do ask. You become an outlet for all of those thoughts and feelings to be released, and I think that can be cathartic. And if you are a casual friend or acquaintance, that may even help more because these are things they may not feel comfortable burdening their family and close friends with, those who are already under so much emotional strain.

Good, thought-provoking question. Thanks for posting it.


Try to just show up and be there. Don't have to make a conservation, just listen if they want to talk.


Cancer survivor says saywhat feels right.


I offer sympathy for what they are going through, or offer support and let them know I will be keeping them in my thoughts...


Sometimes just a listening ear and 'I'm sorry you're dealing with this' is all a person needs so that don't feel so alone in it.


i don't mention it unless they do then i respond to what they say


I have a standard speech:

The only comfort I can give you is the truth. It will get better.

There is one good thing about grief: it's impossible to do it wrong. Anything you do or say, any feeling you have-- it's all OK. Everyone works through grief their own way.

The best thing I have found when grieving is to keep busy. Do your normal routines. If you're behind on something, use this time to catch up. Everyday activities can be a great comfort.


When first learning of that from the source, I like "Wow. How are you doing with that?"

If I hear from someone else, the person seems open to talking with me, and it seems appropriate, I might say "hey, I heard. How are you doing today?"

From their response to either of the above, I can get the idea of what, if anything, else should be said.

(The above is in part been around way too much death in my life. The following is from doing my practicum in grief and trauma therapy.)

It's important to remember some things not to say:

Don't say "I know what you are going through" even if you have your own terminal diagnosis. Everyone's experience is different.

Don't say anything that starts with "Well, at least" If somebody happens to not be in the mood to feel optimistic, that can come across as really insulting. Same goes for "everything happens for a reason."

Don't predict how anyone is going to feel, for both of the above reasons.

Don't tell them how to feel or what to do. If, after checking against all of the above, you are pretty darned sure that what you have to say may be helful or useful, maybe it's okay to say "Some people have found..." or "I've read that... what do you think?" Just be really careful not to drag it on too long if there is any chance the person might not really be receptive, and is just trying to be polite to you.

Don't keep reminding them of it. If you say something like "how are you today?" it should be because that's what you usually say, and don't say it with any special emphasis.

Mostly just try to take their lead, and you should do okay.


Just treat them as any other friend. People don't want to be pitied IMHO.


How about offering to do something concrete like rides or cleaning or cooking or shop?

Definitely on the right track.


Ask what you can do for them and let them know you were there in any way

I think you hit the nail on the head🙂


Never tried "I'm sorry"?

I agree "I'm sorry you are going through this.". That's one of the best.

I would have infinitely preferred that to thoughts and prayers.


I don't know if it helps them at all, and I am quite flippant about it. But we are all going to die, from the moment of conception. It is inevitable, comes to us all. Accept it as part of life. The end of the journey.


Tell them that you hope they can beat this and that you are pulling for them. Comforting without religion is easy.


I just let them know I wish for them the best outcome possible. That means something different to everyone.

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