What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Sick

During the last month, I haven’t been feeling amazing. I’ve experienced a totally unexplained increase in MS symptoms. This is very perplexing since I’ve stuck to my routine one hundred percent. I’ve religiously engaged in all of the healing protocols and therapies that have always worked. That includes HBOT, IVs, Keto Diet, daily walks, healthy amounts of sleep, and gentle movement.

What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Sick

One thing that keeps coming up while I’m resting and recuperating is dealing with people while I’m ill. How people react when you don’t feel well can be a very tricky thing. While everyone means well, not everyone knows the most appropriate thing to say. That’s why I’m writing this guide on What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Sick.

Best of Intentions in a Tricky Situation

In my experience, people have the best of intentions and no one wants to say something hurtful. But when we are sick, we feel uncomfortable in our bodies, and our friends and loved ones can pick up on that. They may even internalize our discomfort and feel off balance themselves.

You’re So Lucky!

When I start to feel an increase in symptoms, the first thing I do is increase rest and decrease stress. I cancel as much as I can so that I can listen to my body and rest when I feel tired. Still, a month later I’m in the same boat with the same symptoms. Very frustrating, but I’m determined to get well and feel even better than I did before this started. So you can imagine my surprise when someone told me I was “so lucky” to get to rest. Trust me, I’d rather be writing books for you and going on a long book tour than stay cooped up in my house dealing with MS symptoms.

But You Look Fine

If you’ve heard the term “Invisible Disability” you probably know better than to say “you look fine” to someone who’s feeling sick and under the weather. A more supportive comment might be, “You look great, but I hear that there’s a lot more to it than that and that you’re suffering right now.”

You’re Feeling Better!

Some friends want you to feel better so badly that every time they see you they say, “you’re feeling better?!” It comes out as more of a statement than a question. That’s because they’re so scared for you that they feel tremendous anxiety within themselves. This means they care, even if they don’t say the right thing. This reaction is about them and has nothing to do with you, so there’s no need to take it personally.

I Thought Those Were Spa Treatments

Recently, when asking about HBOT, someone said to me, “I thought those were spa treatments.” Anything that minimizes a person’s healing path is not a supportive comment and is most likely better left unsaid. Again, this is about the other person, not about you!

Giving Advice

Giving advice is a tricky thing. And it’s best not to give advice even if you have fantastic intentions. Remember, someone who is sick is dealing with a lot of people, not just you. Multiply your advice x100 people, plus medical professionals, and healers, and then reconsider. If you can’t refrain from giving advice, look inside to see whether your impulse is coming from a compulsion. If it’s not, you’ll easily be able to let it go.

Asking About Symptoms

This is another challenging topic. Don’t ask people who are sick about their symptoms. This might seem like common sense to most people, but again, common sense can be lost when people are nervous or uncomfortable.

What to Say to Someone Who’s Sick

More people than ever that I know are sick right now. All of these folks have friends and loved ones that don’t know what to say to them because dealing with illness is AWKWARD and makes people very uncomfortable. It’s a bit of a taboo subject like sex, politics, and money. I’m writing this to give you perspective from the inside, and help everyone communicate better!

The Perfect Thing to Say to Someone Who’s Sick

Thankfully, all of the above comments are very minimal in comparison to the incredibly supportive network I have of people who know how to say the perfect thing in this situation. My husband somehow knows exactly what to say every time. Additionally, we have friends who send over notes like this, “I’m so sorry you are feeling bad. How frustrating for you. If you ever just want me to pick up lunch and come over or take a walk let me know. I’m good at last minute plans. Hope you feel better soon.” That is the perfect thing to say to someone who’s feeling sick!

If you’re not feeling well, or have experienced illness, what helpful or unhelpful things have people said to you? Leave a comment and let me know!

You are truly a hero to me for pioneering new paths to wellness, then generously sharing your knowledge and experiences.


181 responses to “What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Sick”

  1. Thanks for this post. I have to agree 100%. In my case, saying anything with a healthy intent is so much better then not acknowledging. I have had close family who have never ask how I am doing which actually hurts most.

  2. Dear Elana,

    I love your books, your recipes and your inspiring words. I have been dealing with symptoms that have gone undiagnosed for several years. I am also a private person and most of my symptoms are less than pleasant to talk about. I only have a few people who even know I am dealing with something. They do their best to be supportive but I have heard most of those comments you talked about. The comment “but you’re better, right?!?” has always bugged me and I never looked at it from the perspective of how much they want that to be the case. I am currently looking for ways of coping with the loss of freedom, missing out on events and activities from being to ill or too tired. I appreciate your thoughtful words and wonderful recipes.


    • Ellie, thanks for your comment and I’m so sorry to hear about all that you’re going through. I’m very lucky to be on this healthy living journey with you. I hope you’ll keep me posted on how you’re doing. ❤️

  3. Yes, Ma’am; 20 years worth — TSgt, USAF (Ret)

    The same neurologist up above, the first one I saw, Told my wife and I that my migraines were in no way connected to the jerking and sapsing I was experiencing because “the brain is not part of the cantral nervous system.”

    That was the last time I saw him, we went through their process to get me to another one.

    We have to laugh.

    • David, thanks again for your service for our country!!! Love the story about that neurologist, but I hope that’s not typical of the doctors serving our veterans. If so that is truly tragic. Your attitude is amazing and your comments lift my spirits :-)

  4. I am a first-time responder here, my wife has been following your blogs for years, she tries out your recipes (most are pretty good). We have been following a very-low Carb diet for quite some time, and are healthier for it.
    Back in 2003, I was told that I couldn’t have MS even though I have most of the symptoms (18 of them, back then) of the ‘disease’; there was no way I had MS… I was male; I was too old for the initial diagnosis (49); and, I had no brain lesions.
    My wife and I didn’t believe him even though he was a neurologist and the head of the neurology department at the military hospital we still get our healthcare through.
    I am quite familiar with what you are experiencing, it made me smile to read this and know that I am not alone.
    I have still not received a diagnosis of MS, we are currently working on seeking out still another neurologist. I have seen three others since the above incident. They seem to want to only treat patients that are willing to take medications. One of my neurologists insisted that I take a prophylactic medication for my migraines even though it is contra-indicated for people with my specific type of migraine; it causes brain aneurysms in us. I stopped taking it and sought out the third one, who only wanted to treat me for my tremors. Looking for number four!
    I have learned to handle all of my various dysfunctions with humour.
    When I’m out in public, and my body starts to spasm or one of my legs starts to stomp or kick backwards, I announce to everybody around “that my body just wants to dance. It just doesn’t have any sense of rhythm.” I also turn around and apologize to folks behind me. I have two different types of Glaucoma and the cranial nerve responsible for eye movement is malfunctioning, so I continually ask the neuro-ophthalmologist when I need to start teaching my dog how to drive. The nerve disorder causes me to see double (vertically) so, occasionally, I will comment to my wife about how beautiful all four of her eyes are. I know have an SCS (spinal cord stimulator) wired into my lower back to help alleviate much of the chronic pain in my lower back and legs… I tell folks I’m working on becoming a cyborg.
    Humour helps me. A lot.

    A bit of seriousness here: I spent all of my working life in the communications field. So I understand all of the problems associated with RFI. Has any of you looked into something called a ‘Faraday cage’? This is what we used to block spurious signals from interfering with our testing apparatus while we were investigating and certifying communications systems.
    Way back in the olden days (before the turn of the century) people used to use screens in their windows that were metallic (aluminium or steel wire mesh). If you could line the walls of your exercise/meditation room with this type of screening you will find it most helpful.
    Yes. it is unsightly. If during a remodel, you put aluminium or copper screens under the drywall, it is just as effective. Copper is much more expensive and it looks downright pretty. Steel mesh is also a bit pricey, and very strong. But Aluminium mesh is a better conductor of electricity though. You will need to ‘ground’ the mesh to effectively shunt all the RF signals away from the interior of the room. And, if you use this room for typing out your blogs, you can still run your network cabling into the room as one normally would.
    Your boys should be able to easily reference any of this out on the Internet should they want to.

    I wish you and the family all the best.

    • David, thanks for your incredibly heartfelt and humorous comment. And it sounds like you’ve been in the military so THANK YOU very much for serving! I haven’t discussed it much here, but we have a Faraday cage in our bedroom which has been amazing for me. You sound very knowledgeable and could probably write an entire book on this subject. For others reading this, one of the most important components of the Faraday cage is, as you mention, grounding the cage to shunt all the RF signals away from the room. Thanks again for your comment which truly brightened my day :-)

  5. Elana,
    I apologize for just reading this helpful post. While I believe I am a sensitive person, sometimes too sensitive, I don’t always have the right words to say to someone else who may be just as sensitive, so I appreciate your loving, caring words to teach us all how to handle this type of situation.
    I do hope you are feeling much, much better by now and that you were able to make it thru the holidays stress-free, especially, with your very supportive husband.
    I had a situation some years ago that I can laugh about now. My husband of 50 years is a very loving and caring person and calls me his Rock. But, when it comes to the right thing to say when someone is sick or not, he falls way short. In hindsight, I did something very silly and drove myself to the hospital after work when I thought I was having a heart attack. When my husband came to the hospital, the first words out of his mouth were, “You’re not going to die on me, are you?” I love this guy and all of his imperfections, but he’s not one to have at your bedside at times to make you feel better. lol (Turned out to be pleurisy and not a heart attack.)
    Be well.

    • Linda, thanks for your super sweet comment and for sharing so much of yourself here. I am incredibly blessed to be on this healing path with you!

  6. I have a friend who lost her husband suddenly. Her children were very young and she was in shock. We were not close, our children were. I sat with her and put my arms around her and said nothing. Just sitting with her was the best support she received. Sometimes saying nothing and sharing a space of support is more impactful than words.

    Also, asking your “sick” friend how you can best support them is the best way for them to share their needs. Honor it no matter what you may think is best. And ask again, regularly.

    ~ Kiki

  7. Elana ~

    I don’t think I’ve ever commented before…this blog post was wonderful and just what so many (including me) needed. I always want to be supportive and helpful to a friend that is sick and this will help me to do that.

    I do hope that you will get to feeling better very soon!



    • KK, you are so sweet! Thanks for your incredibly kind words and wonderful support! I’m so glad we are on this healing path together :-)

  8. Thank you for sharing your story and for all of your wonderful recipes and books. You are such an inspiration to others dealing with autoimmune conditions. I don’t know if this applies to your situation but I wanted to share this information as it may be helpful to others who are dealing with mysterious symptoms. Many women who have breast implants (saline and silicone) are dealing with auto-immune illnesses and other symptoms. 50k+ women have shared their stories and banded together in the Facebook group “ healing breast implant illness by Nicole”. Most of the women are seeking to explant – properly remove the implants- thousands of women have shared that their mysterious symptoms and ailments have resolved after explanting. Look into Breast implant illness to get more info if this may apply to you.

    • Deidre, I haven’t had breast implants but do know a bunch of women who’ve had them after a double mastectomy due to cancer. I haven’t seen this work out very well and I wish the medical community could get on top of it!

  9. You should look into Dr. Joe Dispenza and his work it is amazing and I think you may be interested it it. It seems that a lot of people benefit from his teachings

    • Angela, been following him for years and prior to that Bruce Lipton whose work I taught in women’s groups in the early 2000s :-)

  10. Dear Elana-

    Thank you for this post. I would probably be one of those people trying to give advice. This post gave me a lot to reflect on. Fixing comes from my own sense of helplessness from not being able to change or help or control the suffering of others,and therefore myself, as a child. Also, from feeling discomfort and uncertainty with what to say or do. Even right now, I can feel a fear that I am going to say something wrong or upseting or imperfect. I don’t have any idea what you are going through. I can imagine it must be frustrating. I do relate to the feeling of having tried everything and feeling like you are doing all the right things and suddenly it isn’t working anymore. It makes me feel like I am failing. That sucks!
    I will hold you in my heart and mind with deep gratitude and love. I have used your website for years to teach my two sons, now teenagers, that food can taste good AND be nutritious. It warms my heart and I feel so thankful when I see them now making pumpkin bread or macaroons or popsicles all by themselves. Your website has been such a gift for all of us. My son actually said to me today, “I am so thankful that when I go to college I won’t have to eat Top Ramen everyday.” I am too! Thank you to the moon and beyond. Sending ? and blessings.

    • Dear Shani, thank you to the moon and beyond for your totally reflective and self-aware comment. I truly appreciate it! I am so grateful to be on this healing path with you. ???

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