The Mighty Logo

34 Things to Say to Someone Who's Just Received Devastating News

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

There are moments in life when we receive news that we aren’t quite sure how to process. Sometimes, we’re left feeling devastated. But having someone say just the right thing to you in that instant can change everything.

We asked our Mighty readers to tell us the best thing someone said to them when they received devastating news.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “‘He’s the same little boy you’ve loved from the beginning.’ We were told this after we received his diagnosis of Williams syndrome.” — Stacia McKeever

2. “We were in an elevator after just being told by a neurologist that our 21-month-old daughter had severe nonverbal autism. My husband looked at me while holding our baby and said, ‘It changes nothing.’” — Melissa Cote


3. “After our daughter suffered from a metabolic crisis and devastating brain damage, one of the doctors said, ‘I am going to the wedding of a man who was my resident last year. He was born with devastating brain damage and wasn’t supposed to do anything. He proved everyone wrong.’ Our daughter is also proving everyone wrong.” — Anne-Marie Wurzel

4. We have each other. We have so much love to give. What else is there?” — Mariann Noonan Wilson

5. “I had a friend send a card that simply said,  ‘S#!t.’ No phony anything. It was where I was and what I wanted to hear. I wanted to know it was OK to not be OK yet.” — Jennifer Canaan Mustachio


6. “‘The love you’re going to experience is a love that only a special few will experience. You will go through the rest of your life in deep struggles, emotionally and mentally, but the love that will continue to grow will guide you and help pull you through all obstacles. It’ll show you your true meaning of life.’” — Clinton Hansard

7. “You can’t put too much stock in everything doctors say. I’ve been at this 20 years and have seen so many things that should’ve never happened. ‘Never’ takes the ‘God factor’ out of it. And doctors don’t know everything. Including me.” Our ophthalmologist said this after we found out our daughter has polymicrogyria.” — Lyndse Marie Ballew


8. “I don’t remember the conversation word-for-word, but my friend asked if I wanted to talk about it. I told her, ‘Not yet.’ She said something to the effect of ‘Let me know when you’re ready,‘ and then asked if I’d heard about some particular celebrity gossip. I needed for a moment to feel normal again, and she gave that to me while still leaving the door open to talk about what happened.” — Melissa Goodman

9. When she’s 20, it won’t matter when she walked; it will just matter that she did. Our physical therapist said this when we still weren’t sure if our daughter would walk. We take everything in ‘Ellie time’ now. It doesn’t matter when, just that one day she will do better than she does today.” — Amy Sherian

10. “‘Everything will be all right,’ said my 3-year-old daughter.” — Priya Jasper

11. “After learning my 1-year-old son with hearing loss also had muscular dystrophy and that we would be constantly battling to maintain some vision for him, my sister told me, ‘He will always know love and some people will never know that.’” — Kristen Taylor Linsky


12. “On my first day back to work, a co-worker I only knew in passing hugged me and whispered in my ear, ‘I pray for you and your family every morning when I pray for my own.’ I later learned that she also recently lost her father in an accident.” — Laura Graff

13. “‘Take her home and love her,’ said our neurologist on discharge the day after our baby girl survived a severe brain injury.” — Candace Hamm

14. The person who said nothing but just listened to me ramble.” — Holly Stanton Morgan

15. “The neurologist said, “You didn’t do anything that made this happen, and you couldn’t have done anything to prevent it.’” — Sue Rutan Donald  


16. Don’t waste time blaming yourself or waste energy trying to figure out how it happened. The best thing you can do now is help her to build strength with therapy, and she will progress at her own pace.” Our neurologist said this after my daughter’s periventricular leukomalacia diagnosis. And I have never looked back. Only forward.” — Hope Martinson

17. “‘That sucks.’” — Amy Johansen


18. “After we were told our son wouldn’t see adulthood, a friend of ours searched the Internet, made contact with another mom who has two boys with the same condition and asked her to list all the positives. Then my friend showed up out of the blue with that list, photos and contact details for that family. In my friend’s words, ‘I didn’t want to be here to cry for Ethan, I wanted to show you hope is alive and well, see.’ She handed me the details with tears in her eyes. She’s been my friend since I was 13, and the other family living in England have been my friends since 2008. There’s nothing I can do to repay my friend, but I’ll never ever forget what she done for me.” — Geraldine Renton

19. ‘You’re about to embark on the most amazing adventure,’ said our developmental medicine doctor who specialized in Down syndrome for 50 years.” — Melanie Perkins McLaughlin


20. “After my son was born four months early and given a 4 percent chance of healthy survival, a nurse said, ‘I know this wasn’t what you were expecting, but congratulations!’ She was the first one to acknowledge that we had just had a baby and that deserved to be celebrated.” — Andrea ‘Dolney’ Mullenmeister

21. “A friend and her husband said, ‘We’re here for you. We want to help.’ And they kept their promise.” — Michelle Kelman Friel

22. “My sister said, ‘Let’s do some research.’ She knows me so well and knows all I need is information and then there is nothing to worry about. The unknown is the only scary part.” — Kerry Sautner

23. “‘The scenery on your path will be different than you imagined but not any less beautiful.’ The best advice.” — Lisa Hanna


24. “A church friend asked me how I was. Before I could answer, we locked eyes, I started to tear up, and she said, ‘No, don’t answer,’ and hugged me tight. It was a real moment; all she gave me was love, not empty words.” — Lynn Siegler

25. “After my son was diagnosed with brain cancer the doctor turned to us and said, ‘I can’t tell you what to do, but if it were me, I would fight it. I would at least try.‘ So we did. He was given less than a 10 percent chance of survival beyond the first year. He lived 5 years more. It was out best decision ever.” — Leenadria Barros

26. “My baby’s pediatric neurosurgeon said, ‘My colleagues and I have never sat around the table at lunch comparing how old we were when we first sat or crawled.’ I was worried the baby would have serious physical and mental delays with spina bifida and a Chiari malformation diagnosis that would affect adulthood and career opportunities.” — Michelle Atwood

27. “‘There’s nothing wrong with that baby,’ said my dad when I gave him the news about my daughter’s Down syndrome diagnosis.” — Ruth Fannin

28. “‘I don’t care if there comes a day when you don’t remember me, Stacey, I will always love you and be there for you.‘ I was told this when dealing with memory loss due to my epilepsy.” — Stacey Ann Olson


29. “When my mom died three years ago, a friend of mine messaged me. She lost her mom a while before, and she said, ‘I hope you have a day. And then another day. And even then another. Eventually you’ll have OK days. And some time after that you’ll have better days, good days. One day, maybe when you’re not expecting it, you’ll find that you’re having a great day. You’ll cry less. And the good days will outnumber the bad.‘ I carry those words with me when times are hardest for me.” — Amber Ford Rempel

30. Challenge accepted.” — Monica Ronghi Donnelly

31. “After our son was diagnosed with autism his pediatrician told me, ‘He is going to be just fine, and so are you.‘ I didn’t believe her at first, but a year later and with wonderful support, I believe her!” — Bridget Augustine

32. “Right after our unborn baby was diagnosed with the most severe form of spina bifida, I ran into another mom who had an older child with it at the grocery store. She was my friend and she said, ‘Congratulations.‘ At the time I was a little confused by it, but now realize all the positives that have come from our child having his diagnosis. It’s taken me a while to see that, but she’s right. I’m so glad she was positive when all we were seeing, hearing and feeling was negative.” — Carrie Fabian Holt


33. “I was venting to a couple friends who have kids around the same age as my son. I was taking about how worried I was about my son being a target of bullying. Immediately, my one friends says, ‘Oh don’t even worry, he will have his buddies to protect him.’ They all chimed in and agreed. One said ‘Our sons will be like his body guards. We will raise them to always watch out for him.’ I still cry thinking about it.” — Staisha Brazington

34. You are not alone.” — Wendy Scranton Baumert


 What are some things people have told you in your time of need? Let us know in the comments below. 

Sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

Originally published: April 1, 2015
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home