A friend is sick….what to say in a card, when you call, in person? How do you show empathy?



“If you need anything, call me. And if you don’t call me, I promise I’ll call you. And I’ll keep calling,” – bestguess, N.Y.

“Don’t feel like talking? Me either. Let’s sit here and not talk together.” – Jessica, South Orange, N.J.


“I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. I promise to hold your hand and never tell you that everything happens for a reason.” – Bridget, Virginia

“I’m not your doctor, so I’m not going to give you medical advice. I’m not your support group, so I won’t pretend I know what you’re going though. I am your friend, and I’ll always be there to shut up and listen.” – Clara M., Arlington, Virginia

“All people have bumps in the road of life. You have a mountain, but I’m here for you with my climbing gear.” – Laurie Lee, Lake Oswego, Ore.

“I promise not to encourage you when you say you’re too tired. I’ll just give you a ride home,” – AB, Vancouver, Canada

“Let’s deal with this constructively: Let me know when we can meet up and smash things.” – Emily, Jersey City

“I’m uncomfortable asking about it, but I will never pretend your incurable, chronic illness magically went away.” – Katherine, Macfarlane

“I wish I knew the right thing to say. Joanne S., N.J.

These suggestions come from an Empathy Card Contest published in the NY Times

There is no ‘right thing’ to say. Every cancer is different. Every survivor has different needs, different involvement of friends. Some don’t want to talk about it at all. Others need to talk about it. The important thing is to empower your friend by making the time you spend together, and the things you do for them, what they want and need, not what you think they want or need.


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