Ways to help a person or family when tragedy, illness or hardship strikes their home. What to say, not to say, what to do and more

Helping A Sick Friend and Comforting In Heartbreak

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ways to help a person or family when tragedy, illness or hardship strikes their home. What to say, not to say, what to do and more

What do I say, or do when I want to help and give service?

Helping A Sick Friend and Comforting In Heartbreak

Have you ever been sick, or caring for someone and needed some some extra help? 

Or had someone close to you, who you knew could use a lending hand in some way, but you wondered what to do that would be comforting and useful?

Helping A Sick Friend and Comforting In Heartbreak is one of the most thoughtful and rewarding things we can do. 

However, too often we shy away and not do anything, because we may not know what to say, or what to do, or how to best give service.

So that we can bring relief to the weary who are physically drained from caring for their family and loved ones; and comfort those who’s heart is breaking from any type of tragic and adverse situation, I have put together some resources to guide us in being a true comfort, such as:

  • How can you help a friend who is overcoming a loss from suicide, infant death, pet loss, or any other situation of deep mourning. 
  • What do we say, or not say?
  • How can we actually help without saying the cliche: “Let me know what I can do”?  and then do nothing….
  • What can we do to show we care that is meaningful and helpful? 

As you read on, you will find there are several excellent ideas here; however, the secret is to act and reach out.  They will greatly appreciate your kindness and show of support, in often unspoken words. Just do the best you can and serve.


Mourn with those that mourn

Have you ever experienced a trial or hardship that was extremely difficult, though maybe not as recognized as a disease or accident?  I think we all have, and during those times, we still need an encouraging word of reassurance and friendship.

During a particularly difficult time, Natalie delivered this card to me shown just below, and it filled the heart with joy.   

To find beautiful cards like this, Natalie’s link is HERE 

You can also download a free THINKING OF YOU CARD  here

Being there to lift another’s burden by simply saying you are there as a friend is priceless. Remember, a ‘real’ card is never out of style. 


You will find many more ideas of how you can help in useful and creative ways, including a SUNSHINE GIFT for all ages at the end of this post.

Ways to help a person or family when tragedy, illness or hardship strikes their home. What to say, not to say, what to do and more

What do I say, or do when I want to help and give service?


In distressing circumstances what do you say– or not say?  

There are numerous conditions under which a person or a family could use help.

  • Severe handicap
  • Mental Illness
  • A loved one chose suicide
  • A death, whether old, young or newborn
  • Terminal illness
  • Hospitalization
  • Surgery
  • New baby (adopted and foster are just as much of an adjustment)
  • Job loss – long term, or repeated can be very disheartening


1- Now that we identified WHEN to help –

2- WHAT can we do if it’s not obvious?

3- Look hard and pray about HOW to help.  Here’s an example from my own experience.

Some years back, a family in our neighborhood had a very young son who was diagnosed with cancer. Needless to say, it was a scary and trying time for also their extended family and those of us in the neighborhood who knew and cared about them.

I wanted to somehow be a benefit, but I wasn’t sure what to do, so I included it in my prayers that I’d know how to help.

After prying a little one day, I found out that the mom did not have the extra means to buy food from the cafeteria while she was at hospital; which was daily while her young son had treatments.

That was my answer!

I packed a sturdy durable bag that closed tight with food that could be warmed in the microwave, or eaten as it was, but none that required refrigeration.

Mainly high protein foods and a few treats.   

Another time this same mom asked me to watch her other children because she had to take her son to his doctors appointment. While she was gone, I arranged with other women in our church to come in for a cleaning blitz who had wanted to help, but didn’t know what they could do.

While we cleaned, older kids of the women who had come to help clean, did crafts with the kids I was in charge of for the mom at the hospital, making them feel special and keeping them entertained.  This was a great gift and service to them, as their life now had to often revolve around all the hospital visits and that very sensitive situation of their brother being ill.

It’s a cherished memory of how to involve others.

What if I SAY or DO the wrong thing? 

How do I know THE BEST way to serve them?

It’s unfortunate, but a part of life that illness, tragedy or hardship will come to one of our loved ones,  a friend, or a neighbor at some time. 

And then –

  • What do we say?
  • What do we do?
  • How can we help?
  • What’s the best approach?
  • What about when the person or family has lost a loved one to suicide?

I have some tips and suggestions so that you will ALWAYS know how, when and the best ways to be of service and comfort.  Remember!  Just Do SOMETHING with the best intention of loving them and it will be alright.




This was a situation for one of my dear neighbors and I didn’t know what to say, or what to do myself as I hadn’t encountered this situation before. So I researched a bit and I’m sharing with you the information I found.

Heartbreaking position for those grieving with the loss of a loved one to suicide

To read the helpful tips and ideas of what to do, click GRIEVING THE LOSS OF A LOVED ONE TO SUICIDE





This is another delicate issue and so tender for everyone involved.  

I have tried to gather information for us so we can be the most helpful in this situation. 

Click here on  What Do You Say When A Friend Or Family Member Loses A Baby?




Losing A Pet can be as devastating as losing a family member to those who love and care for their pets.

I have a tips and ideas you will find helpful here in How To Comfort When There Is A Pet-loss





Treat them the same

It’s important to remember and treat the person, or the family as you always did.  This new diagnosis, or difficulty they are having isn’t ‘them’.  It isn’t a way to identify them, or take over their personality, it’s just the new situation or ‘normal’ for the time being.  Remembering that will help you treat them the same as you always did, and it won’t be as awkward with the new circumstances because it helps them feel ‘in control’ and somewhat their usual self.


Try to do something ‘normal’, out of the ordinary and FUN

For example

The picture of the baby at the top of the post is one of my grand daughters.  Right after being born, she was in the NICU also known as the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Her brother had been in the hospital for several days which was terrifying.

Stan, my husband, spent much of his time after work at the hospital with the sick grandchildren.

But when he was home, he took the other kids to Sam’s Club (their favorite) for lunch, then to the store to let them pick out their own match-box car.

When they came back to the house,  I gave each of them a few washable markers and their own empty toilet paper roll to make a car ‘power station’. They had a blast and it filled the time with creativity and imagination.

It doesn’t have to be expensive, just out of the ordinary and something THEY will enjoy.


Another day does begin

I had some of the grand kids at my house, giving their mom a chance to recuperate with the sick baby.

I put on the musical ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, the one with Ann Margaret. They had the best time watching something they had never seen, and dancing with Birdie as the whole town swooned and fainted – they thought that was pretty funny; acting right along and falling to the ground with the character’s in the movie, as Birdie played his guitar.

Get them up and MOVING

Laughter is a wonderful release from the stress for ALL ages.
kids 1
Try to provide as much normality as possible in their day by keeping them busy, as appropriate of course.

This provides a way for even little ones to feel somewhat in control, despite the drastic changed schedules and even living circumstances. 

‘Helping’ Uncle Dallin clean.kids 2


Here is my son, daughter-in-law and grand daughter getting ready to come home from the hospital.

Our little NICU grandbaby was finally allowed to come home!baby 8After taking baby CPR classes at the hospital, learning how to run the oxygen machine, classes on how to use monitoring and other devices to help our little grand daughter stay alive, our son Derek remarked:

“Who said kids don’t come with instructions.”

Always try to keep a sense of humor, it goes a LONG way in putting these stressful situations in perspective and dealing with them in a healthy manner.

photo 6

It seems if we live long enough we will have family and friends who will face challenges of some sort that will require help.

I have complied a little list of ideas that might be useful if you are ever in the situation of wondering how to help and be most useful:

  • Keep in mind that when a person, or family are in a crisis, they may have much different priorities then before. Be sensitive to their ‘new situation’ and that ‘normal’ things may not be a current concern.  Just understand and be supportive.
  • LISTEN, do not judge or give unwanted advice. Sometimes the other person simply wants to talk and get it out in the open.  Realize it may not be how they really feel; actually, it probably isn’t. Be kind about not repeating or passing on anything that is best kept between trusted friends. Venting is part of grieving.
  • Offer to clean the house or gift a professional house cleaning service.  Do not just offer, be proactive and DO something. 
  • Sometimes when asking what you can do to help is almost more stressful because the person/family may not be able to process everything that does need to be done, such as  the real necessities. You could ask about arranging to pick up other children for school, sports, scouts, etc. That would be a great relief to the parents and family.
  •  It is critical that the family members have a way to recharge and have the energy to face the ordeal at hand. By arranging for the parents/care giver to have the opportunity to exercise, get sleep, have meals brought in and babysitting the other children would be such a relief.
  • Offering to stay with a child or family member for a few hours at the hospital to give the adult(s) time to leave for a bit, would allow them to take a moment for them self, while knowing that someone was there and their loved one wasn’t alone.  
  • A SunShine Gift or Basket would be perfect, click HERE

SunShine Gifts and Baskets













More Suggestions on how to give comfort and relief:

  • A gift certificate for a massage, a facial, a haircut, a manicure, a pedicure, a movie, favorite meal, etc., would be so appreciated for them to use while a trusted friend or family member sat with the sick/hospitalized patient.
  • Provide rides to and from school,  or activities for other family members. Also, rides to the hospital so the children can visit the parent(s).
  • A personal planner to keep track of all the details if this is an extended situation.  THIS ONE would be a great one. 
  • Take, or send, a care package to the sick patient. Part of this could also be gift cards to local restaurants or even a way to purchase food at the hospital for the parents/adults.
  • If it is holiday time, offer to shop for them, or even arrange a ‘Secret Santa’ for the family to take the pressure off them financially, as well as the overwhelming time it can be.
  • A journal is incredibly healing.  HERE is a terrific choice. 
  • And ONE for kids
  • If it is another child’s birthday time, offering to hold the party would be a tremendous burden eased for the parent(s) so the child does not feel left out or ‘on-the-back-burner’ so to speak.
  • Grocery shop for family. If the funds are tight for them, you might want to purchase the necessities or even see if neighbors want to go in with you.
  •  Do, or arrange for, housecleaning or yard work to be done.  That’s a HUGE help.
  • If they have pets, help or provide a source to feed and walk them.
  • Take siblings out for a fun activity or babysit them.
  • If you know them well, books and CD’s that will inspire and make them laugh would be a great choice.
  • Provide THANK YOU cards and stamps for them to send out. THESE would be a fabulous choice.
  • If it is overwhelming to keep family and friends up to date of the patients treatment and circumstance. You could offer to keep up a blog or even Facebook page for them; with their approval of EVERY SINGLE post/entry
  • Help the other family members feel useful. It empowers them and takes their mind off the situation at hand.
  • A small decorated vase with a narrow opening is a great idea to take to your friends or neighbors if you are on a budget. If taking flowers, ask to be sure if they are allergic to any one type of flower.
  • Balloons are always fun.  
  • ***If you are taking flowers or balloons into a hospital check with the staff first o make sure it’s alright with the hospital policy and into the area you want to take them.

If you are looking for ideas on taking in a meal, I have GREAT information, lots of useful tips and recipes at: 

What You Need To Know About Taking In A Meal They Will Want To Eat

I hope this post has given you tools and resources to empower you, so that you feel comfortable reaching out to anyone in need; whether you barely know them, or they are close family or a dear friend. 

We all have ordeals to go through some time in life – that’s just the way it is. 

Having a person, an angel, who cares enough about us, our comfort, our family, to ACT and DO something selfless, means more than words can express.

Copyright A Mother’s Shadow, 2014, 2018

Recognize a blessing and be a blessing today.

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14 replies
  1. Deanna
    Deanna says:

    So glad she’s home! I’m sure big brothers are excited as well as everyone else. 🙂 Great list of suggestions. I love how you helped your friend. Packing meals like that is a great idea. Simple things make a huge difference. Even when we were just in the hospital the 2 nights after Spencer was born, I friend brought some food over because she knew how horrible our hospital’s food was. 🙂 And we were blessed to have a friend who let Kenna hang out with her both of those days. When I was in the hospital 4 years ago for almost 2 weeks, a friend brought Shaun food several times and when I came home more meals were provided. Since my family doesn’t live near by, we are really blessed with good friends and a great church family.

  2. Connie Rasmussen
    Connie Rasmussen says:

    I am Carrie’s mom and modern technology is really a miracle. We were so blessed that Carrie only had to have oxygen for 4 hours, though born 8 weeks early at 3 lbs. 14 oz.
    I always said that we should come with a bag of replacement parts also and in our wonderful world of medicine and technology nowdays they use parts from stuff they make in a factory and parts from other wonderful people … Be sure to put “DONOR” on your drivers license . You never know when you may need a ‘part’ .

  3. Cindy Sheldon
    Cindy Sheldon says:

    Carrie, Your granddaughter is such a cutie! They are very blessed to now have her home. But I bet they are scared to death with all the equipment and thoughts of what can go wrong. You are such a strong support person for them. It will get easier for them. They are still in my prayers as are all of you. Love ya.

  4. Gaye @CalmHealthySexy
    Gaye @CalmHealthySexy says:

    Carrie – This is a lovely post. So glad that your new granddaughter is home. These are great tips for helping others who are in difficult circumstances. I am going to pin this and share it with others.

  5. Lynn H @ Turnips 2 Tangerines
    Lynn H @ Turnips 2 Tangerines says:

    Wonderful post~ My family has been hit a few times over the years with different challenges and I remember how appreciative we were of any and all help. Sending prayers your way for your precious grand-daughter. Lynn @ Turnips 2 Tangerines

  6. Lori @ A Bright and Beautiful Life
    Lori @ A Bright and Beautiful Life says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful post. We all have hard times and know others that are going through them, too. It can be such a stressful time for everyone. It’s great to have a list of things we can do to step in and help another to ease their burden during those times. You’ve come up with some I haven’t thought of myself ~ so thank you. And thank you for sharing this at Making Monday. Have a great weekend!!! 🙂

  7. Nicolette
    Nicolette says:

    This is such great advice. It’s always hard to low what to do. We all want to help but not overstep boundaries. Thanks for sharing with the Mommy Brain Mixer. I hope to see you again this week.

  8. Diane Roark
    Diane Roark says:


    Please give me an update on your granddaughter. How is she doing? This reminds me so much of my son Caleb.

    Thanks for sharing all these great ideas. I know from experience it would help be a blessings to others.

  9. Jenny @ Unremarkable Files
    Jenny @ Unremarkable Files says:

    I spent 3 weeks in the hospital on bed rest with #5, and the thing I appreciated most was when someone gave one of my four children a ride to the hospital so I could spend some one-on-one time with them (otherwise my husband had to bring them all, and someone would inevitably have a meltdown or all the kids would get stir-crazy in the little room and they couldn’t stay for long). It was also nice when someone stayed with my children so my husband could come and visit me by himself, too.


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