What to say when words fail you??

Carlotta_BullJuly 24, 2002

I have a friend who was just diagnosed with cancer. She told DH & I yesterday & I couldn't thing of ONE THING to say, so I gave her a bear hug.

DH jumped all over me after she left & said I should have "said something to comfort her."

Am I messed up here? I don't know how she feels (I haven't been down that road yet) & "I'm sorry" sounded really trite in my head.

What would you rather have from a friend?


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm so sorry! i'm often at a loss for words to comfort people, especially my youngest sister (not cancer but still, bad times) so i've often just given her a big sister huuuuuuuuug and lately she's been telling me how much she appreciates my hugs because they've been the only thing that's gotten her through the bad moments

that being said, imho your DH was a tad outta line
...in a situation -- in a moment such as that (you were in shock) there are no words to convey how you felt and a hug more than makes up for that
...i'm sure your friend appreciated the heartfelt hug aLOT more at that moment than any feeble words you could have come up with because nothing you could have said would have made her feel any better

    Bookmark   July 24, 2002 at 9:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am one that never has the right words to say. I usually try to give comfort in just being there and giving hugs. Alot of times I will say "there is nothing that I can say" Everyone shows support in different ways, your way is no better or worse than someone that has the right words.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2002 at 10:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think a hug says it all. I would follow it up with phone calls and visits for emotional support. Make extra when you cook dinner and take meals and cookies over to her. Buy her little gifts, doesn't have to be expensive just cute or funny to let her know she's not alone. Whatever you do, don't ignore her or wait for her disease to go away. Keep in regular contact, maybe go on a picnic, if you're religious go to church together, go for walks in the park, drive her to some of her appointments, if she has surgery or chemo coming up, maybe you could go with her. Do what you can to support her. Some people just want to sink into themselves and weather the crisis on their own. Some want a shoulder to cry on. Whatever your friend prefers, you'll have to tailor your support to fit her personality and her needs.

There's really nothing you can say to comfort her. She's probably scared and won't be able to feel normal again for a long time. You can't reason with her or tell her not to feel scared. It's more of an opportunity for you to be a good friend.

Today 2 people did kind things for me. One friend sent my husband's resume to everyone she could think of. At first I was appalled because that like such a violation of his privacy. But then I realized she was networking for him and I understood the kindness behind the violation. Another friend called this morning and brought over dinner for us.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2002 at 1:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A hug is fine. DH and I received hugs and prayers, during his extended illness, and that said mountains that words cannot say.

All you can do beyond that is tell your friend that you're there if they ever need anything.

Cancer can be beaten, but can also mean the worst. So anything you try to say at the spur of the moment may not even come out right. So I say a hug is ALWAYS a good option!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2002 at 3:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think a hug is perfect! Like Karen said - let her know you are willing to listen to her fears. Ask her how she's doing, ask her about treatment, ask questions...

When my father died I found many people would say something trite and then never mention it again. Hugs were wonderful, they mean more than words sometimes. Death is scary, and people are nervous talking about it.

I am wishing her the best.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2002 at 8:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks everyone.

She has surgery scheduled for August 22 & all we can do is hope for the best.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2002 at 3:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Carlotta, I agree with everyone else. I think your repsonse and action were right on cue! We men don't automatically know this like you ladies do; we have to be taught and then retaught. Your husband reacted the way most men would have. Don't sweat it, we're really doofuses when it comes to stuff like this. Just take it with a grain of salt and drive on sister! Be there for friend.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2002 at 8:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Carlotta-If it was me, I would have loved your hug. A hug says, "I am your friend and here physically and emotionally for you" I often get that "I don't know what to say" feeling. Then I'm scared that I might say something (well-meaning) that might make them feel worse. And what can you really say? Gee that SUCKS??

I totally agree with Denise. Leave it up to your friend as to how you will "help" her. Some people will want to "talk it to death", others won't want to dwell on it etc. Everyone is different. Just let her know you are there for her in whatever way she needs!

And I hope your friend can beat this awful cancer!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2002 at 3:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Are there comforting words possible; that's a complex question and depends on the people in the situation.

If there were things that 'should have been said' and your husband has the feeling or thinking that there were; ask him what they were. It's maybe something he kept himself from saying, which he could have said or wanted to say.

When words fail a person, they fail a person. People will then, quite naturally usually act or react based on 'instinct' or intuition. If your natural reaction was that words failed, so a hug ensued... that's just the nature of reality as far as you in that situation. By definition it was your best possible response it sounds like.

Your friend may not have known how she felt if she only just got a major medical diagnosis, and all kinds of sudden imposed change on her life and any plans she may have had.

You could offer literally anything they need, or if they need to talk... if there is anything you could do, ever to help them (that sort of thing). Also make sure their nears and dears know of your offer too because sometimes there are indirect needs; or needs that won't be mentioned but which would be really really appreciated.

when words fail there can be no speech; whatever else happens would have to be nonverbal and a hug-- simple human contact and touch-- is not only as good as it may get, but it may also have been better than words could have been at the time

    Bookmark   July 27, 2002 at 3:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Somtimes the best thing to do is give them a hug and you don't have to say anything. A good, sincere hug can say it all. Sometimes if you feel that you have to say something, a simple hug and "I'm sorry" will suffice very well.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2002 at 12:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You were great!

If, the future you do want an option, however, just because we sometimes feel the need to say SOMETHING, I usually say, "I don't know what to say...". What's good about it is, this phrase works when you're sorry or even when you're not sorry (like when your best friend's marriage is over to the biggest jerk and you're glad he's gone, even though she's really sad).

And when its a friend, they can tell the tone you mean, "I am here for you and I want to do more, just tell me and I will". You did good, he probably just felt helpless and wanted to fix things (which is a man's nature, meant in a good way).


    Bookmark   December 12, 2002 at 12:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Tell her you'll be there for her if she needs anything -- to talk, or help around the house, or p r a y with her. You didn't say what kind of cancer she has, but medicine has improved so much in the past few years, there are lots of cancer survivors. And there are also many instances of divine healings - just look on the internet for many testimonials - it's so uplifting to see these. Help her to make peace with G o d just in case.. this is a tremendous burden off of someone who faces death. I'm sure she will need you to give support when she's down, I hope she's doing better now.
How is she since you first posted your message?

    Bookmark   December 19, 2002 at 12:52AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
My marriage is falling apart, I don't know what to do
There is no short way to put this. I am going to include...
Viagara - Sorry long
Here's my issue a few months back my hubby (45) had...
hausband say bad words after he gives me gift!
hi, I appreciate any suggestions. We are married for...
Age Difference
I posted this on the Parents Forum but it was suggested...
Husband treats me like crap! How do i stop it?
My Husband and I have been married for almost 5 years....
Sponsored Products
Wooden Bookshelf Modern Decorative Desk Lamp
Casablanca Lighting Kits 2.25 in. Cottage White Incandescent Low Profile
$78.00 | Home Depot
Seeds of Mint Candle
$27.99 | Dot & Bo
Designers Fountain 83789 Modesto 9 Light Chandelier in Artisan Finish Multicolor
$698.00 | Hayneedle
Worthy Leather Bench - Brighton Breeze Green
Joybird Furniture
Illumine Pendant Lights 1-Light Sliver Pendant Frost Glass CLI-LS433255
$62.40 | Home Depot
8' White Cedar Unstained Double Rail Bridge
Brentwood Appliances KT-1790 Stainless 1.7-liter Electric Tea Kettle
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™