How To Support a Friend When Someone They Love Is in the Hospital

Four tips to help your friend and show you care without overwhelming them.

How To Support a Friend When Someone They Love Is in the Hospital
Photo by Kristina Litvjak / Unsplash

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog post about The Best Ways to Support Someone Who Is Grieving. Now, I want to talk about something else: how to support someone whose loved one is really sick or in critical condition.

When my father was in the hospital and we were unsure of his prognosis, I had many well-meaning friends reach out to try to “help,” but ended up making me feel even more overwhelmed. So, here are a few things to do and not to do in this situation.

The Best Ways To Support a Friend When Their Loved One Is in the Hospital

Photo by Flavio Gasperini / Unsplash

Reach Out With A Text Instead of A Phone Call & Give Permission to Ignore You

Send a text to let them know you’re aware of the situation and are thinking of them. Say something like “I’m sorry this is happening” and “Sending love/hugs and strength.” Then let them make the next move. They might not answer you and that’s OK. You can let them know you care without making them feel like they have to respond by saying something like, “I know you are probably overwhelmed so no need to respond. I just want to let you know I’m here.”

If you feel the need to reach out, give your friend permission to ignore you. Chances are, they’re receiving tons of texts and phone calls and are completely overwhelmed. For me personally, the best messages were those that ended with “no need to respond.” Unconditional support was the most helpful.

Avoid Asking Tons of Questions About What’s Going On

If possible, get your updates from someone who knows the situation but isn’t as close to it. When my father was in the hospital, I had so many friends bombard me with requests for updates. I could hardly process the information from the doctors myself, let alone convey them to someone else. It was really overwhelming. If you need a status update, reach out to someone else who might know or just wait for your friend to be ready to tell you themself.

Be There For Them Without Asking What They Need

I had no idea what I needed when my father was in the hospital but little things that Jeff and my friends did without asking really helped. Jeff reloaded my Starbucks card because he knew I left the hospital each day to get a latte. He bought an endless supply of the type of tissues he knew I liked and made sure they were at my house for me.

Does your friend have a pet? Maybe go check in on them. Water their plants. Check their mail. These are all things you can do without asking them what you can do and it will mean more than you know.

Avoid Saying Things Like “It Will Be OK” or “Everything Will Work Out”

Life is uncertain. That’s the only thing we know for sure. You might feel like you’re soothing your friend’s nerves by saying things like “it’ll be ok” or “they’re strong and will pull through,” but giving false hope is never helpful, especially if you have no idea the severity of the situation.

Again, my go-to in these types of situations is always: “I’m sorry this is happening. I’m sending lots of strength and love to you and your family.” By saying something like this, you’re acknowledging that your friend is going through a really hard time and validating how horrible they must feel.

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I hope that this blog post has been helpful to you. If you’re reading this while your loved one is fighting for their life, just know I’m sorry you’re going through that. I’m sending lots of love and strength to you and your family. If you’d like to talk, please don’t hesitate to send me an email.

As always, thank you for reading!