Words of Encouragement for a Friend or Family of Someone Suffering (Illness, Death, Loss of Livelihood)

By Billie •  Updated: 07/06/21 •  8 min read

What if your friend’s mom is healing from a traumatic injury or given a terminal prognosis, or your boss’s family is stuck in another country due to a tyrannical government? How do you help a friend who is hurting? Sometimes you may feel like you cannot help because what they are enduring frightens you, or it is something to which you just cannot relate.

Your instinct might be to say nothing instead of risking saying the wrong thing. This is natural. However, as a wise person once said, “I’d rather have my friend sitting beside me, saying the wrong thing, than not hearing from my friend at all.”

“The greatest sympathy gift you can give a hurting friend or loved one is you. Your presence, compassion, patience and caring are the greatest gifts you could ever give to help them get through a difficult time.” – Michelle Pommells

Words to Comfort a Friend Dealing with Loss

Sharing your sincere sentiments and sympathy go a long way in helping others cope with their grief. Nothing can take away their immediate pain and suffering, but they may find some measure of comfort and relief in your expressed condolences.

If you have a friend who is dealing with the impending loss of a cherished loved one, here are some words to share, preferably in-person or over the phone. Sharing in their grief will help your friend and their family feel less isolated, and create a stronger community.

You might opt to write your friend a letter or send a sympathy card. This is greatly appreciated, as they can refer to your card and meditate on your encouraging words in their own time, when they feel like it.

“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”

John Steinbeck

“The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected.”

Nicholas Sparks

Words of Comfort for a Friend or Loved One Going Through a Hard Time

While the loss of a job or the stress of a failed accomplishment may seem trivial compared to the loss of life, we all need the loving support of our friends and family. A diagnosis of terminal cancer, an experimental medical treatment rolled out without informed consent — whatever the cause of a loss of trust in the world, a forced new normal can feel devastating and disorienting.


As for the rights words to say? What works for one person doesn’t work for another; people are different and respond in different ways. Sometimes by simply saying, I’m here, you’re going to give so much more comfort than talking.

Offer Heartfelt Words

You might be worried about what to say, but the point is to let your friend know you care about them. Keep it as short and simple as you need. More messages to encourage and support friends in the face of adversity.

Example of a letter of support for a friend

Dear Larry,

I was sorry to hear that your efforts to keep the new highway from going through your property were unsuccessful. I remember the day twenty years ago when you took me out to see that poor neglected piece of land. You certainly have worked wonders with it.

I hope you can find some way of living with this or maybe even of finding some good in it (I know, I don’t see any either at the moment). From studying the paper, I see that most of your place will remain untouched, but that’s not very comforting when you’re facing the havoc to the rest of it.

I’ll stop by one of these weekends to see how it’s going.

Note expressing solidarity after hearing bad news of business hardship or vandalism:

Dear Mr. Harris,

I’ve just heard about the robbery and vandalism you had at the store last night. That is surely one of the greatest nightmares of any small business owner.

Can I help? What do you need? I thought you could use an extra pair of hands, so I’m sending this note over with Lily Cross, my assistant manager. She can stay until 5 p.m., helping you with whatever needs doing.

I’ll give you a call tomorrow, but if I can do anything for you between now and then, let me know.

Offer Specific Help

Is your friend suddenly caring for an ill family member? Instead of asking your friend how you can help, tell them specifically what you’re able to help with. For example:

Or maybe your friend is the one being treated for an illness, in which case let your friend know that everything will be taken care of. Offer to help with transportation to receive or administer treatment and run other errands required for day-to-day life. Their focus should be on healing, not worrying.


I like to climb mountains, read Nietzsche, and explore the West Coast. I have a BA from York University (2003) in Toronto, Canada, and yet on this site I sometimes spell like an American (know your audience). Thank you. Thank you very much.

Keep Reading