When people try to offer a supportive statement to a friend or loved one who has just received tragic news, they generally mean well. Unfortunately, many lack experience in this role, try too hard, or take approaches that fail to comfort the individual in pain. To help prepare you for the next time someone seeks your comfort following a relationship breakup, death of a loved one, diagnosis of a serious illness, layoff, or other crisis, we have developed an expanded list of “what not to say,” followed by some better alternatives.
Important disclaimer: No one is expected to automatically know how to be supportive in a crisis, and we have all uttered less than helpful statements at some time. If you encounter any of your own past remarks, give yourself a pass on those, gather new information to make adjustments for future situations, and avoid judging yourself.