The Language of Comforting
What to Say (and What Not to Say) to Someone Facing Cancer
by Val Walker
It can be hard to find the right words to say to comfort someone coping with cancer. At times, we might even avoid contact completely because we fear saying the wrong thing. Here are some suggestions for what to say – and what not to say – to a loved one, friend, or coworker facing cancer.
The most important things you can offer someone going through cancer are your presence, empathy, patience, reliability, sincerity, love, and uninterrupted attention. Good listening is more than just hearing words. Silence your phone, and don’t text, check messages, or do anything else when you’re listening – multitasking is not comforting. Listen with your heart, and tune in to what the person is truly saying.
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Val Walker, a rehabilitation counselor and grief consultant, is the author of The Art of Comforting: What to Say and Do for People in Distress. Keep up with Val at ComfortingInAction.com.
This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2014.