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. Dear Elana,
    I am struggling also with worsening MS symptoms. Trying very hard to not succumb to the ease of a wheelchair. I absolutely love you recipes and find I feel more energized when following your advice and recipes. Thank you so very much for your calm words and encouragement. I hope you feel better very soon.

  2. Dear Elena,
    Your suggestions are good ones.
    You are surrounded with love and appreciation; the most powerful tolols one hopes to have in their life.
    Healing thoughts your way.
    Music always helps to nurture the soul.
    Keep a song in your heart and get well soon.
    Sandra ❤️

  3. I see kitty cat is right there giving his unconditional (and super cute) support. We should all follow his example! I’m thinking of you, Elana.

    • I didn’t even see her kitty there until I read your comment. Yes, kitties are good at just sending off calming vibes all around them, and they never say the wrong thing. Wishing you well on your journey Elana. Sometimes it’s humbling to realize how little control we have over anything, even when we’re trying our best. Thank you for all you share!

  4. Yet another reason why chronic illness can feel so isolating. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in such a clear and respectful way, coming from a point of understanding. It is so frustrating when our body fails us. Sending prayers and good vibes your way.

    • Jen, I totally agree, chronic illness can be very isolating in so many ways. Sending prayers and good vibes to you too :-)

  5. “But you eat healthy…” or “But you’re skinny” – in other words, you shouldn’t be sick.
    Just being kind and compassionate, not patronizing or overly sympathetic is most helpful. There is a balance between acknowledging what’s going on and not putting too much attention on it.

    • Alicia, I love what you said here: “Just being kind and compassionate, not patronizing or overly sympathetic is most helpful.” Thanks so much for sharing your thoughtful words :-)

  6. Well…..I’m not sure if this counts…..but while I’ve never been chronically ill, I have suffered from six miscarriages. I wound up never being able to have children. The most hurtful were those related to there being some sort of cosmic plan or reasons for my loss and that “god knew best”. I’m an ER nurse that has taken care of many abused children making it an even more confusing and hurtful statement.

    It was like pouring salt in my wound.

    I am sorry if you have ever experienced anything similar.

    • Jennifer, I could not agree with you more, that is truly like pouring salt in a wound. I’m so very sorry you had to not only go through that very traumatic experience, but also have to be on the receiving end of those types of comments. My heart goes out to you.

  7. Elana –

    Truly grateful for all your recipes and idea-sharing. Know that you have brought my family much joy in these recipes and inspired our cooking!

    I hope you are on a path toward feeling fully better soon.

    You and yours are in my thoughts.

  8. Dear Elana,

    I hope you’re feeling better soon. I love your website and have been using your recipes since I discovered you a few years ago during my own journey through menopause looking for ways to reduce the symptoms. Needless to say your recipes made a huge difference!! I have recommended your site many times to others I know also looking for ways to positively impact their health. THANK YOU for all you do! XOXO

    • Diane, thanks for your incredibly sweet, supportive comment and also for recommending my site to others :-)

  9. Dear Elana,
    I wish you comfort and ease.
    I have so much gratitude for your work. I love the recipes. But what I appreciate most is hearing and feeling the truth expressed of the not so easy journey of self care and healing. I know for myself that sometimes it can feel quite lonely and isolating when I don’t feel well and your words in this blog bring an elegance and honesty to that.
    Peace to you,
    Shannon Marie

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