7 Things You Should Never Say to a Patient or Caregiver
By The Caring Bridge Staff

We’ve all been in this situation before: A loved one is struggling with illness or grief, and we completely fumble for the right words to say, or possibly say nothing at all.

It can be disorienting to watch someone you love go through hardship. No one wants to say anything that will make their pain worse, and so we often default to cliché language that isn’t actually all that helpful.

Authors Emily McDowell and Kelsey Crowe of “There is No Good Card for This” cover 7 examples of unhelpful language to avoid when consoling patients or caregivers, and Caring Bridge shares what you can say instead.

1. “Everything happens for a reason.” Why is this harmful? Saying that everything happens for a reason minimizes the patient’s or caregiver’s pain. This statement implies to your loved one that there is a good reason for their struggles, and they should just accept the situation the way it is.

What to say instead: “I’m so sorry this is happening to you. You don’t deserve this.” This statement shows your loved one that you recognize and validate their pain, and that nothing they’ve done has caused them to deserve what they’re going through.

2. “This is God’s plan.” Why is this harmful? This statement is problematic for a couple of reasons: First, not everyone is religious, or puts their trust in the same faith that you do. Additionally, even if it’s not your intent, saying this can come off as self-righteous, like you are in control of what is or is not God’s plan.

Finally, like ‘everything happens for a reason’, saying these words can minimize a patient’s or caregiver’s pain by implying that their grievances are all part of a plan that they must simply accept.