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What to Say When Someone Is Dealing With Hard Times

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

If you’ve experienced domestic violence, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction, the following post could be triggering. You can contact SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

There are a lot of reasons why someone might be struggling and often it is hard to come up with things to say. Most of the time people will say “let me know if there is anything I can do to help,” or “you are in my thoughts and prayers.” Both of those things are acceptable and can help, but there are times when you want to say more, but just don’t know what to say.

Here are some suggestions to use, along with some reasons why a person may be going through a hard time. Included are things you should not say or do and some ways of what you can do to help out.

Death of a family member

  • One of the things that helped me the most was someone said that things would be different, but you will adjust. Holidays will never be the same, but you can make new traditions and keep their spirit alive by doing the things they enjoyed the most.
  • It will take a long time to deal with all of this, but it truly will get better. I thought this was a cliche, but time does heal.
  • We all grieve in different ways and it is OK to be in whatever stage you are in.
  • There will be times you remember something that will cause you to break down in tears, but those times will get less and less and the times they happen will be farther apart, but know that the littles things can sometimes set you off, but be prepared and know it is bound to happen.
  • If you ever want to talk about all the good things about the person you lost, I am here to listen.
  • It helps to remember the good times. Reminisce with other loved ones and friends, look at pictures, etc and honor their memory.
  • Talk about the loved ones to the younger ones so they do not forget them. Keep their spirit alive.
  • It is OK to talk to the person you lost. Even if you do it out loud many people cope in this way,
  • It is OK to seek out help from a grief counselor. There is nothing to be ashamed of. You might want to join a group. It will help to talk to others going thru the same thing. Grief Share is a great place to start.
  • I wish I had the right words, but please know that I care.
  • If you ever want to go for a walk or need to talk , let me know. Encourage them to get out of the house.
  • Share great memories you have of them.
  • Checkup on them a few days after the funeral as that is when they feel the most alone. Life has gone on without them and the house feels empty.
  • Show them a great picture you have of them.
  • Offer to bring them food. They probably got a lot at first, but might be running low and it might still be too hard to cook. Also, it is important that they eat. It is easy to forget.
  • Let them cry and mainly be there to listen.
  • I am only a phone call away.
  • I accept you want to be alone to grieve, but please check in with me just to let me know you are OK.


Battling a disease

  • I am here for you.
  • Let me know if you ever need a ride to the doctor or hospital.
  • I am willing to learn as much about your illness as I can to help you navigate your treatment plan.
  • I don’t understand what you are going through, but will do my best to be there for you in anyway I can.
  • Let me know if I can ever help with the kids.
  • I am willing to do errands, clean and cook meals.
  • Simply, how are you doing? Please always be honest. I know you will have good and bad days. I want to be here for them all.
  • Respect they may want to be left alone or not want to talk about it. Accept that just let them know you are there when they do want to talk.
  • I know this must be very scary and that is valid. Let me know if I can make that better in some way. Offer to do research to let them know what to expect.
  • Make light of things some times. This might be the best thing for their mental health. It is OK to laugh and enjoy life. In fact. some choose to enjoy their last days and not dwell on it.
  • Realize it is their choice to make medical decisions and do your best to respect them. This can be hard.
  • Offer to record them on video leaving a message to their loved ones to be given to them after they die.
  • Offer to help getting in touch with a lawyer if they do not have a will.
  • Know where to find information on how bills are paid. This is the last thing you want people having to figure out in their times of grief.
  • Offer to pray with them and/or put them on a prayer list.
  • They might not want others to know about their illness, respect that.
  • Offer to set up a Caring Bridge or be the one to update people on how they are doing.
  • You might also ask if a GoFundMe page might help. You could also offer to some kind of fundraiser. Many people want to help and this is one way they can do it.

Challenges with mental health

This is hard because it is usually invisible and could be something they were trying to hide. The main thing is not to judge and make it clear you know that you don’t think less of them. Let them know you don’t view it as a weakness. I highly suggest you read, “Someone Has Told You They Have a Mental Illness, Now What?”

Getting a divorce

  • I know for you this had to be a hard decision to make, but I’m sure you are doing what is best for your family and I respect that.
  • I love you both and plan to remain friends with both of you (of course if you mean it).
  • I hope the next chapter is better.
  • It might take some time, but I think you will be a happier person now.
  • Let’s celebrate!
  • I am glad you can put that in the rear view mirror.
  • Be gentle with your heart as I’m sure it will take time to heal.
  • Let me know if you ever need to talk.
  • How are the kids doing?
  • This might be awful, but it doesn’t mean you are an awful person.
  • I know you did your best to make it work.
  • Finally you can live a happier life.
  • They were not good for you and I am glad you made this decision.
  • You deserve so much better.
  • I’m sorry you are experiencing this, but I think in the long run it will be the best for all of you.
  • Sometimes endings are hard, but there is always hope for a better future.
  • Don’t consider yourself a failure. You did everything you could to make it work.

Lost a job

  • I’m sorry to hear that you lost your job, but I will be here while you are readjusting.
  • I know the right position is out there for you.
  • With your brains, talent, and experience, I know you will be welcome somewhere else.
  • I hope that this will just be a stepping stone to something better.
  • I cannot relate to what it might be like to be ending this stage of your career, but I am here if you need to talk or just hang out.
  • I am confident that you will succeed in the next path you choose to take.
  • I know you have been dedicated and hard working and those qualities will help you someone where else.

Didn’t reach a goal

  • I admire you for trying.
  • There is something better out the for you.
  • You tried your best and that is all you can do.
  • Better luck next time!
  • Don’t give up! Many people fail the fist time.
  • You are a determined individual and I know you have it in you to do wonderful things with your life. This might just not be it.
  • It really is not the end of the world. We all fail as none of us are perfect.
  • You can always try again.
  • I am proud of you for taking the chance.

Abusive relationships

Depending on the situation, you might need to contact the police or social services. Don’t be afraid to call 911 if you feel their life is in immediate danger. You can also call or have them call the Domestic Abuse Hotline. It is important to stay calm and be there to listen. It is important that you realize this could be a crime and you need to preserve evidence and write everything down they tell you. You could be called as a witness. Don’t promise them you won’t tell anyone, ask them for details, contact the person who abused them, or assume someone else is getting them help. Once you know they are safe, here are some things that might help to say:

  • It is not your fault. You are not to blame.
  • Can I help you to get somewhere safe?
  • Do you need a ride to the hospital?
  • Let them know they have done the right thing telling you.
  • It takes great strength to reach out and you are very brave.
  • Thank you for confiding in me.
  • I am here to listen anytime.
  • You are not alone. Millions of people have been abused.
  • It takes courage to speak up about this.
  • I’m glad you told you and all you have to do is ask I need anything you need.

A child facing a hard time

  • Things might be rough right now, but I am proud of how you are getting through it.
  • I believe in you.
  • We love you unconditionally.
  • You might have lost the game, but you never gave up. That takes perseverance and I am proud that you are not a sore loser.
  • No matter what mistakes you have made you are still a winner in my book.
  • It might be hard that you have lost some of your friends. They were not your true friends. There are true friends out there who will see you like I see you: kind, smart, funny, talented and fun to be around.
  • I guarantee things will get better. Keep fighting the fight!
  • Kids can be cruel and bullies, but people like that are always going to exist in this world unfortunately. Don’t let them get you down. Don’t let them see that it bothers you or confront them with it. I know you will make the right decision. Let me know if you need to talk it out.
  • What you are feeling is OK. You can be angry, hurt, scared, discouraged, etc. But please talk it out or maybe you can journal or write a poem or song.
  • I would do anything to help you. I hope you know that.
  • Do you want to see a counselor?
  • Please let me know if you ever have a feeling to hurt your self, provide the Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Struggling with addiction

  • I know it’s a cliche, but take it one day at at a time.
  • You might be going through a rough patch, but you are tough and can get through it.
  • You are very brave and courageous and can handle this.
  • You have gotten through this before and can do it again. I know this a setback, but don’t let it defeat you.
  • Can I drive you to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting? There is also Celebrate Recovery, a Christian-based program. I will be here for you every step of the way as long as you stick to AA.
  • Can I find you a rehab and take you there?
  • This is going to be a big change, are you ready for it?
  • I will be there every step of the way as long as you are taking it seriously (be careful of being codependent and you might need to use tough love. You may need to remind them of things they have done in the past like stealing things or lashing out and hurting others. Let them know you will not tolerate this again. Setting boundaries is important for your own mental heath).
  • Stay strong. You can do this. I have faith in you.
  • I will always love you no matter what.

Lost someone to suicide

  • Just so you have it incase it is not too late: The Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273 TALK.
  • Acknowledge that they died by suicide. The word “suicide” can be hard to say, but by doing so, you are letting them know you are willing to talk about the extent of their loss openly.
  • Let them know you are there to listen and won’t judge, but don’t force the issue.
  • Insist that it is not their fault. They most likely will be feeling guilty and replaying in their minds what were the signs they should have missed.  Oftentimes, the person really does not show signs and appear happy right before they do it so it can be really hard to detect.
  • Again, stress there was really nothing they could have done.
  • Let them know they are not alone.
  • Worldwide, the rates in 2016 were about 16 deaths per 100,000 men and 7 deaths per 100,000 women.  Reference
  • Here are some other stats you might be interested in: List of countries by suicide rate  (I have seen stats about how suicide rates have gone up because of COVID-19 too. Suicide rate among active-duty troops jumps to six-year high in 2019).  Reference
  • There are several support groups set up for people who have  lost people to suicide online. One is on Facebook called Suicide Grief Support, also there is an organization called Out of Darkness that gathers people who have faced suicide in some way for a walk.
  • You might want to share your story to help others who have lost someone they know from suicide.
  • You could talk to people at schools reminding them that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Maybe sharing your story and what effect it had on you might save a life.
  • Let something good come from the tragedy you endured. Also, even though the situation might be different, they still have lost someone.
  • Review what I said earlier about how to help someone who is grieving.

I hope this helps people. Please share with others as it definitely could help someone else know the right things to say during another person’s difficult times.

Photo credit: Andrey Grigoriev/Getty Images

Originally published: May 3, 2021
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