How to Help a Friend? Toxic Words Vs. Words of Support

March 13, 2022

I have a good friend, in fact she’s been my friend longer than anyone else I know, who has stage 3B ovarian cancer. Make no-bones-about-it: Cancer SUCKS!! She’s in the fight of her life, for her life. The people who love her, myself included, feel like we’re fighting too, for her and for her recovery. I mentioned my friend and my worry over her to my other friend, Katie, the other day and she shared a meaningful post from another Katie (Couric, to be exact). I have converted that post into the chart below and I thought it would make a great topic for today. So here goes…

help your friends when they need
Photo by Elina Fairytale from Pexels

Everyone, and I mean everyone, will be in a fight like my friend is in at some point in their lives. They may not have stage 3B cancer, but maybe they’re going through a divorce, the death of a loved one, the loss of a pet, a chronic illness, a job loss or something else BIG. They are in, to put it rather coarsely, “a bucket of suck,” as my friend Danny says. Everyone will also know, or does know, someone in the ring, going the rounds, with some awful thing… right now, at this very moment. Loving your people (and yourself) through these times can truly make a difference… maybe not in the outcome… but certainly in the journey. What you say in these times really matters, so be careful of toxic words that you may not even know are toxic. Words that you think are helpful, but to a person staring down the nose of a huge life challenge are hurtful and uncaring. Here’s what I mean…

Toxic WordsSupportive Words of Validation
You’ll get over it.This is hard. I understand.
Just be positiveDo you want to talk about it?
Good vibes only!It’s normal to have some negative thoughts right now.
Stop being so negative!I know it’s hard to be positive right now with what you’re facing.
Think happy thoughts!Do you want to talk about your options?
Never give up!It sucks to feel like this/go through this. Do you feel like doing something together today?
Just be happy!It’s probably hard to see any good in this situation right now.
It could be worse!I know what’s happening doesn’t make a lot of sense right now.
Everything happens for a reason.I’m here for you.
Be grateful it isn’t worse!I’m not going anywhere.
They are in a better place.This isn’t easy and you don’t have to pretend that it is.
At least you’re in remission.It’s ok to be scared about this coming back.

So What’s A Person To Do?

You can help your friends by looking at this list and noticing the subtle differences. A person that is having a rough day because they stubbed their toe can, most often, handle the comments on the left. A person dealing with life and death and situations that feel worse than life and death need more from you. They need your shoulder to cry on and maybe even your sleeve to wipe up their messy face. They need the best your heart has to give… and I know I can count on the best readers in the world to bring it… and to love the hell out of the people they love. So go forth and shine, my friends.


  • Reply
    Linda Butler
    March 13, 2022 at 9:47 pm

    Well, i think your friend is blessed with you!

    • Reply
      March 15, 2022 at 1:44 pm

      Thank you. I have been blessed by her for 49 years of friendship!

  • Reply
    September 7, 2022 at 2:15 pm

    I somehow missed this story and your words of kindness. You are the best friend anyone could ever wish for.
    My mom was diagnosed with OC when she was 49 and I can honestly say that as a family we became POSITIVELY the most supportive, positive and fun people to be around! Maybe the humorous side of our Irish heritage led us…
    I love what you wrote for all to make use of going forward and wish your friend the very best going forward.
    PS: Is the bucket of suck quote from our mutual friend Dan? He is another inspirational friend who I find great humor in…
    Thank you!

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