This article was co-authored by Ken Breniman, LCSW, C-IAYT and by wikiHow staff writer, Glenn Carreau. Ken Breniman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Yoga Therapist and Thanatologist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ken has over 15 years experience of providing clinical support and community workshops utilizing a dynamic combination of traditional psychotherapy and yoga therapy. He specializes in eclectic non-denominational yoga guidance, grief therapy, complex trauma recovery and mindful mortal skills development. He has a MSW from Washington University in St. Louis and an MA Certification in Thanatology from Marian University of Fond du Lac. He became certified with the International Association of Yoga Therapists after completing his 500 training hours at Yoga Tree in San Francisco and Ananda Seva Mission in Santa Rosa, CA.
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There's no question that family emergencies are upsetting, and kindness and understanding can be so helpful to someone experiencing one. Whether a friend, colleague, acquaintance, or partner is going through a family crisis, the most important thing you can do is be supportive. Not sure what to say? No worries. Read on for a complete list of things to say when someone has a family emergency.
1 1 of 13:"I'm so sorry."
- A simple expression of concern can go a long way. Whether you're talking to an acquaintance, friend, co-worker, or partner, "I'm sorry" shows them that you understand and are sympathetic to their struggles. Acknowledge the situation so that the other person can see you're willing to talk openly and honestly with them, and then offer your sympathies and condolences.XTrustworthy SourceHelpGuideNonprofit organization dedicated to providing free, evidence-based mental health and wellness resources.Go to source
- "I'm sorry to hear that your uncle is in the hospital. I'm sending both of you my best wishes."
- "I heard that your sister has been in an accident. I am so sorry, and I hope she has a fast recovery."
- "I'm so sorry about your grandfather's death. My heart goes out to you and your whole family."
2 2 of 13:"Thank you for letting me know."
- If it's an employee or co-worker, thank them for notifying you. Because family emergencies are often sudden and extremely draining, some find it tough to reach out and notify work promptly. Whether you get plenty of forewarning or a last-minute note, acknowledge the time and energy that person spent telling you about their current situation.
- "I appreciate you checking in, and I'm so sorry to hear about your mother's illness."
- "Thank you for the update—I can't imagine how stressful this must be. I wish your family nothing but the best!"
- "Thank you for the heads-up. Please don't worry about that assignment we're working on; I'm more than happy to wrap it up myself."
3 3 of 13:"My thoughts are with you and your family."
- Let them know you're thinking of them to help them feel less alone. It's a good idea to tell them that you're thinking of them when a family emergency happens, and it's also a kind gesture to remind them how much you care as time goes on. After all, this person might be dealing with the aftermath of the emergency for quite some time. Keep them in your thoughts as they heal!
- "I'm thinking about you today and sending you all the good vibes."
- "I just heard the news; I'm thinking of you and your family today."
- "I'm keeping your family in my thoughts today. I hope everything is okay in the end."
4 4 of 13:"I don't know what to say, but I'm here."
- It's okay to be at a loss for words when you hear about a tough situation. Sometimes, there just isn't any right thing to say. Acknowledge that you don't know what to say while clarifying that you care about them nonetheless. Focus on being present with them rather than doing something; your support is far more important than flowery words!
- "I'm at a loss for words. Is there anything I can do?"
- "I wish I could find the right words to say right now, but I'm here for you always."
- "I wish I could put your mind at ease, but I know it's not that easy. If there's anything I can do, just tell me, and I'll do it."
5 5 of 13:"I can't imagine what you're feeling."
- Empathize without trying to compare their experience to your own. Everyone's individual experience is different. You can share a little bit about your own experiences if you've been through something similar, but that doesn't mean the other person feels the same way you did. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how they might be feeling before you say something to them.
- "I can only imagine what you're going through. I'm so sorry for your loss."
- "I remember how tough it was to navigate my grandpa's illness. I don't know how you're feeling right now, but I'm here to support you."
- "Wow, that sounds like a lot. Remember that I've got your back!"
6 6 of 13:"I'm here to listen if you want to talk."
- Be a good listener and let them vent their worries and sorrows. Talking about troubles can actually help people process their feelings and feel better about the situation over time.XTrustworthy SourceHelpGuideNonprofit organization dedicated to providing free, evidence-based mental health and wellness resources.Go to source As they talk, be curious and ask questions to show them you're listening—but don't interrupt them while they talk. Wait for a natural stopping point instead.
- "If you think it'll help, let's talk about this. I want to know more to help you as much as possible."
- "Do you need to vent? I'm happy to listen for as long as you want."
- "I'm listening. Let's talk this over, and hopefully, it'll help."
- Don't offer any advice unless the other person has specifically asked you for it. Most of the time, they just want to be seen and understood—not fixed.XResearch source
7 7 of 13:"Your feelings are totally valid."
- Reassure them that there's no right or wrong way to feel. Family emergencies can be complicated and incredibly stressful; it's natural to have a lot of emotions about them. This person might even be upset with the family member involved in the emergency. Either way, accept their feelings—don't encourage them to move on or insist that they should feel something different.XResearch source
- "It's okay to feel however you feel. There's no pressure to act or feel a certain way about this."
- "There's no right way to feel, and you have the right to process those feelings in your own way."
- "However you feel right now is completely okay. You deserve to feel your feelings without anything getting in the way."
8 8 of 13:"Take all the time you need."
- Give them the time and space to deal with family emergencies. Few people can bounce back right away, especially if they've been dealing with a sick or hurt family member—or even experienced a permanent loss. Remind them that everyone processes feelings differently, and assure them that they're allowed to spend as much time as they want to come to terms with the situation.XTrustworthy SourceHelpGuideNonprofit organization dedicated to providing free, evidence-based mental health and wellness resources.Go to source
- "Take your time. You'll figure out how to deal with this—I believe in you."
- "There's no concrete timeline for this kind of thing. Take the time you need to process your emotions."
- "A death in the family is never easy. No one expects you to bounce back right away; take all the time you need."
9 9 of 13:"I'll be right by your side."
- Be present and stand by your partner during an emergency. The most loving gesture you can do for a significant other (or close friend) is simply staying with them and assuring them they won't have to take on the problem alone. Everyone needs a support system during hard times, and your partner will appreciate having you be their pillar of strength while dealing with a family emergency.XTrustworthy SourceHelpGuideNonprofit organization dedicated to providing free, evidence-based mental health and wellness resources.Go to source
- "I love you, and I'm here for you no matter what happens."
- "You're strong and capable. You can get through this, and I'll be with you the whole time."
- "I'll stay with you for as long as you need. What are friends for, right?"
10 10 of 13:"Let me know if there's anything I can do."
- Show them that you want to help them through this difficult time. If this person is a co-worker or casual acquaintance, it can be easier to ask if they need anything rather than jumping into action. Offer your assistance to make it clear that they're not alone, and they have an ally if they need one.
- "I'm just a phone call away if you need anything."
- "You know where to find me. If there's anything I can do, feel free to reach out."
- "Please don't hesitate to ask if you need anything. I would really like to help however I can."
11 11 of 13:"Can I drop off dinner for you tonight?"
- If you know them well, help them directly instead of asking for ideas. Pick up groceries, offer to babysit, or give them a ride when they need one. When a close friend or significant other goes through a family emergency, it can be helpful to provide concrete suggestions of what you can do to assist them.XResearch source
- "I'm running to the grocery store in an hour. What can I grab for you while I'm there?"
- "I'm happy to feed your cat while you deal with this! Take your time and do what you have to do."
- "If you have some time this week, let's take a walk through the park. I'll buy you a coffee, and we can get your mind off of everything."
12 12 of 13:"I'm praying for your family."
- If they're religious, prayers are an important source of comfort. Ensure that the other person is spiritual or religious before offering prayers. If they are, reassure them by letting them know that you'll say a prayer for them and their family during this difficult time.
- "I'm praying that your grandma fully recovers."
- "We're praying that things become easier for you and your family over time."
- "May God watch over your family, especially your brother. My heart goes out to all of you."
13 13 of 13:"How are you doing?"
- Check up on them rather than assuming you know how they feel. This shows the other person that you care about them (and their family). It also gives you the chance to get a better sense of the situation and the other person's feelings. Once you know how they're feeling, you can set the tone of the conversation from there.XTrustworthy SourceHelpGuideNonprofit organization dedicated to providing free, evidence-based mental health and wellness resources.Go to source
- "Just checking in. How is everything going? You've been on my mind today."
- "How are you today? I hope you don't mind me checking in from time to time. I want to make sure you're doing all right."
- "How have you been feeling? Things seemed really intense the other day, and I was worried about you."