Supporting someone in chronic pain can be difficult. There is nothing that can be done to ease someone’s pain and sometimes, it leaves friends and family at a loss for words. There are no magic words or actions, but there are suggestions for things to say that could possibly help your loved one feel better.
Here is a list I have compiled from personal experience and research of helpful things to say to someone in chronic pain:
1- “You look well today/good, but how are you feeling?” Many times people with chronic pain feel like people see how they look on the outside, not how they feel on the inside. This statement is helpful because you are stating something positive about the person, but asking how they are feeling despite looking good. Additionally, asking “how are you holding up?” is a similar and helpful comment that lets the person in pain know that you acknowledge they are in pain and you wish to know how they are handling it.
2- “I am going to be going to the store. Can I get you something?” After my second surgery my best friend would often call on weekends and tell me she was at the store and did I need anything. The way she asked didn’t hit my pride, because I felt like she was already there and I wouldn’t bother her if I said, “sure, can you get me bread?”
3- “I can’t imagine how hard this is for you, but you seem to be handling it well and I think you are so strong.” I often feel weakened by pain, but statements like these make me feel stronger and supported.
4- “You are in my thoughts and prayers” As opposed to telling someone to ‘pray’ or ‘have faith,’ this statement expresses a good intention and lets us know you care.
5- Mirror back what is being said. If the person says “my back is really hurting me” Tell them, “Your back hurts, that must be difficult for you.” By mirroring their statement, the person feels their pain was heard, even though there is nothing you can really say or do to help, they know you listened/heard their pain.
6- “This must be so difficult for you, I can’t imagine.” There are no magic words, and unless you are living with chronic pain, it’s difficult to understand what we are going through. Comments like this show support without pretending you know how we feel.
7- “I wish I had something to say that would help/take away the pain, but I don’t. But I am here to listen.” Sometimes, the best thing to say is nothing at all. Sometimes it is best to just listen, without judgment, and just be there for someone. Admitting you are at a loss and offering an ear is one of the most helpful things a loved one can do.
8- “Please don’t feel bad if you have to cancel, I understand and I hope I can see you when you feel well.” This statement expresses concern without making the person feel bad about their limitations.
9- “I hope that you feel as well as possible.” Since we are talking about chronic pain, ‘feel better’ can be frustrating because many people don’t have ‘better’ days. This statement is more genuine, in a way.
10- “I heard about _______(fill in miracle cure of the say). I know every case is different, but would you like to hear about it?” We have a lot of advice thrown at us by well-meaning people, but much of it is unwanted because it can make us feel as though others think we are not trying to help ourselves. We also do a lot of research and see a lot of doctors, so we have probably heard it already. By asking if the person would be interested in receiving advice shows respect for our situation and gives us the option to say ‘not right now’ or ‘sure.”