Hospice Foundation of America

Question: My co-worker's spouse has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. We are very close and I've told them to call if they need anything, but that seems too impersonal. What do I say or what can I do? -Patricia

Answer: When a friend is coping with a loved one's or her own imminent death, you may not know what to say or how to respond. It is common to feel overwhelmed, self-conscious, or to fear saying the "wrong" thing. However, this may prevent you from giving the love and support that your friend may need. When you feel at a loss, try to follow these few basic principles:

  • Offer your support: Support can be offered in a tangible way, such as bringing a meal to your friend's house or running errands. Support can also be shown by just listening to your friend.
  • Follow their lead: Your co-worker will sometimes need to talk about his or her experience, and other times will choose not to. Remember that keeping a sense of normalcy is important; whatever you talked about before is appropriate now.
  • When in doubt, ask your friend how you can best offer your help and support.
  • For more information and resources, go to HFA's web site.
  • You may try contacting your local hospice and speaking with a hospice bereavement counselor.

Copyright 2008 Hospice Foundation of America. All Rights Reserved.

Top Tip

Realize that you do not have to struggle alone. We all can share our grief with family and friends. Seek help from clergy or counselors. Hospices and funeral homes may be able to suggest mutual support groups. And librarians and bookstores can recommend books that can assist as you grieve.

Read More