Craft For The Soul Nice Life Reminders Pip-Life

24 non-crap things to say to the sad person in your life

July 17, 2016

Do you know what?

Sometimes, when people are feeling sad or peaky, we really don’t know what to say. Phrases like ‘Cheer up!’ or ‘It is what it is’ or ‘Toughen up’ can sometimes spill from our lips. Expressions like ‘tough love’, ‘big girl panties’ and ‘sad sack’ might swirl in our heads.

Of course we’re probably not 100% behind those responses. It’s just that they’re the kind of Wrongtown defaults we might have encountered in our own lives when we’ve felt a bit crap. Annoyingly they might even pop out of our mouths unexpectedly. Then it’s very hard to put them back in, right? Ugh.

It’s not just Wrongtown responses that are a bit unwanted in the talking-to-a-sad-friend game. Sometimes a friend or family member’s response to tough times might be to be very, very, very quiet. Indeed, we might say nothing at all to our under-the-weather pal/kin.

We might be so worried about saying something counter-productive or triggering that we just shoosh up completely. *crickets*  It’s an understandable, cautious approach, but can be pretty isolating and confusing for the sad person in question. They might think we’re rejecting them or that we don’t really care when really, the opposite is true.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately in my quest for nicer times – and in my quest to be a better pal/human. Then I figured YOU might be thinking about this kind of stuff, from time to time, too. So in the name of nicer times and more friendly friendship (or family-ship!) here’s a list of things that might be slightly less jarring than the age-old ‘Cheer up!’


24 non-wrong things to say to the sad person in your life

  1. Can I help by doing x y or z? Or is there something else I can do?
  2. This is a temporary-yet-painful situation. It won’t always be like this. And bloody hell, you are right, it DOES suck.
  3. It IS hard to imagine a way out of this mess. We can think about where to start chipping away together after we eat these biscuits.
  4. I’m here to listen whenever you need me. No matter when or why.
  5. I’m so glad we’re friends. Remember your x, y and z (insert character traits and strengths) are what brought us together? So pleased I met you.
  6. I’m sorry you have to go through this. *insert hug*
  7. What are your thoughts on what’s going on and why it’s like this?
  8. Sorry if I sometimes say stuff that shits you, but know that I’m here and I want to be the best pal I can be for you. Let me know if I stuff up so I can learn to do better.
  9. It’s so good to see you here. I know you’ve got a lot of stuff going on. So glad that the planets aligned today and we get to hang out.
  10. Can I take your pet/child/partner/housemate out for the day?
  11. Can I take you out for the day? For a drive? Get away from the usual and sip cold wine in a gastropub or some-such?
  12. Here are some dumplings for you.
  13. If you need someone to co-pilot with you at the GP, I’d be so happy to be that person.
  14. I’ve made you something delicious. When can I leave it on your doorstep/kitchen table?
  15. Can I come over and take you for a big walk? We can look at trees and stuff quietly, or we can talk… or not.
  16. I can see you’re trying your best. That’s all you can do. Nice one.
  17. I think this might be an Uncle Buck/Ghostbusters/Young Ones-and-hot-chips-and-g-and-t kind of day. What time should I bring all the laughs/carbs/booze over?
  18. So today was a bit of a cock-up. Meh. It’s okay to be messy. Forgive yourself and hope for a radder tomorrow.
  19. You have a nap. I will tidy up and make dinner.
  20. Can I assist you to find some more help with this? I think some extra support might offer a fresh perspective and maybe a little relief.
  21. I’m not sure of the best way to help, but here is a bottle of Prosecco and some tissues. Where shall we sit?
  22. It’s not okay that you’re having to endure this. I’m here to help in any way that makes sense to you. Let’s start small. I wonder what small thing can we do to shift things a bit?
  23. I’ll call you again tomorrow to see how you’re going. (repeat daily)
  24. Yes. Sometimes pets ARE the most supportive people. So true.

Of course, these are just a little kick-start to the sad-pal-response-team game. Perhaps you have some great ideas of your own you’d like to share? Or maybe someone has said something compassionate to you when you were feeling terrible? Something that made a difference and did not make you want to bury your head under a pillow?

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  • Reply Pascale May 6, 2022 at 4:52 PM

    I loved this list so much! One possible addition might be “You are not alone. I am here for you.” Sometimes just hearing this will help me (and loved ones) realize that we are not alone in our sorrows or worries. Of course, the person actual has to follow through and really be there but sometimes the words can help a lot.

  • Reply Codi July 4, 2018 at 1:54 AM

    I really like this list! FYI, if you are just randomly reading this article, then you might be interested in this organization I just started to volunteer with. It’s called Letters Against Depression, and you can choose someone on the site to write a letter to. That’s what brought me here, I was looking for ways to cheer up my most recent recipient!


  • Reply fabfiona May 16, 2017 at 7:36 PM

    Just fantastic, Pip. I’ve had depression of various sorts over various decades and I often read things about how to help yourself and others with it. This is gold.

  • Reply Nic March 21, 2017 at 3:16 AM

    This is good! I found your blog from that cheesecake recipe and now this is even more awesome. What a great find 🙂

  • Reply Joolzmac March 20, 2017 at 7:36 PM

    Food in a time of bereavement never goes astray. I remember my sister dropping off 2 dozen each of mini quiches and sausage rolls when my husband’s father passed away. It just provided those few meals that we didn’t have to think about when we had extra people around. I love doing this as people are arriving back from a hospital pick up or coming home from treatment. Apricot chicken, green beans and apot of mashed potato delivered just as they get home. Maybe a bag of homebaked cookies too.

  • Reply Q August 8, 2016 at 4:58 PM

    Love this.

    Also, I would add, “Would you like me to decide–choose what to do/eat/where to go?”

  • Reply sarsm July 25, 2016 at 8:41 PM

    I found you shared on Facebook! This is a totally awesome list. I think wine does help. When shared with a caring friend (and the person has no drink problem of course).

    I’ve actually been the recipient of a few of these suggestions and although they didn’t fix all of my problems, they showed me that friends cared and feeling cared about when you reach your lowest point is incredibly uplifting.

    One issue I have is when someone says, “If there’s anything I can do to help…” If people don’t say specifically what they can offer and when they can offer it, I can’t find the courage to ask when I need it most. I don’t want to trouble them, and I’m not sure just how much they are prepared to ‘give’ and I never want to put too much strain on someone else.

  • Reply Chris July 24, 2016 at 5:54 PM

    I don’t believe alcohol should ever be suggested to someone suffering with depression.

    • Reply Meet Me At Mikes July 25, 2016 at 7:58 PM

      This is not really a post about depression – depression is a much more serious issue than a sad day or sad few days… I agree with you, re depression and alcohol being a terrible combination. (I grew up with someone who was a depressed alcoholic, so I know only too well…) Thanks for your view. x

    • Reply c July 5, 2018 at 12:41 PM

      People with depression are people too! I have found a chat with a friend over a glass of wine immensely helpful at times!

  • Reply Bronnie - Maid In Australia July 24, 2016 at 1:09 PM

    Oh Pip – Thank you for this post, which I am going to share. I know when people say the wrong things they actually mean well. (Most people anyway). But a list like this can only help to raise some awareness that when people are really sad because crap stuff is happening which they can’t fix, or they are really depressed and they can’t fix that either, sometimes saying the wrong thing is like trampling on them. These are simple ways to actually make a difference, lighten the load, and maybe even get a smile or at least stop the tears for a while. Bless you. x

  • Reply jules July 23, 2016 at 4:05 AM

    #3 yes, ‘after we eat these biscuits’ !!! YES! Love the list. I’m printing it out to refer to. Thank you. Here from Down to Earth.

  • Reply AD July 21, 2016 at 7:44 AM

    Aww this is such a lovely list! I think people who say ‘what do you have to be sad about’ clearly don’t understand. Someone once said to me: ‘you are loved, you are fine.’ It was one of the most important things anyone has ever said to me.

  • Reply Philippa July 18, 2016 at 6:51 PM

    These are all such good ideas – I want to remember them all. Sometimes when you want to help someone, you instinctively try to solve their problems and, speaking personally, it’s not what you need – you just need support and kindness. This is exactly what you’ve given. My friend just moved to Australia and she’s having some tough times, so I sent her a parcel of British magazines, chocolates, letters, cards, etc – surprise post is always lovely.

  • Reply Michelle July 18, 2016 at 11:32 AM

    So lovely and thoughtful Pip. Especially “here, have some dumplings.” I love Enid Blyton but that whole “cheer up” business needs to stay back in 1956.

  • Reply amanda July 18, 2016 at 10:32 AM

    that is a fantastic list – thanks for sharing such great ideas

  • Reply kimberly July 18, 2016 at 10:13 AM

    Hi Pip
    A truly lovely post and so particularly practical as we all have either been the sad/depressed/grieving person, or been a friend to someone going through a particularly tough time. I unfortunately have had a series of deaths in my life over the last year – all unexpected (a suicide and two deaths where people were diagnosed with terminal illnesses with only a couple of months to live, so they had little time to come to terms with the end of their life).
    There is my own sadness, but more importantly all of these people had loving partners who were knocked to the ground emotionally by these deaths. One of the things I have learned is that you DON’T EVER (sorry it needed caps!) say “Call me if I can do anything”. It’s so vital that people realise that those in shock/bereavement/distress are not able to call and articulate their needs. They are drowning in sorrow. This means that you have to be a pro-active friend.
    The quiet person seeming to just be ‘getting on with it’ in most instances isn’t getting on with it at all. They often aren’t saying anything out of a fear of ‘burdening’ friends with their grief, or mistakenly feeling that after months, or even years, they should be ‘over it’ and that after a certain period of time it isn’t ok to to continue to ask for help.
    This is what I have learnt: Keep checking in with your sad friends. Be proactive in caring for them. Don’t wait for them to come to you.

    • Reply Melissa Gaggiano July 18, 2016 at 11:50 AM

      This is so true. I think there’s a culture of ‘don’t mention-don’t ask’ when it comes to depression. Sadly some people would prefer to pretend that everything is fine. When I see the signs in others I try talking to them.

  • Reply Melissa Gaggiano July 18, 2016 at 9:59 AM

    ‘Let’s talk this through’ approach is good. Often people in a state are like this because they can’t see where the emergency exit signs are in their mind. When a friend is there to talk it through, bounce thoughts and ideas, suddenly those doors and windows will open. The pressure can alleviate by having that conversation.

  • Reply Gilly Maddison July 17, 2016 at 11:13 PM

    Beautifully said! And all so true. How many people have had a black eye through saying ‘Cheer up luv!’ Grrrrrrrrrrh!

    • Reply Meet Me At Mikes July 18, 2016 at 6:22 AM

      Cheer up is the worst. Go directly to jail, cheer-uppers! Do not pass go! Do not collect $200!

  • Reply susan July 17, 2016 at 11:05 PM

    #4 but only if you really really mean it
    10, 12 and 19 absolutely . Well done.
    Lose #7 though please. It sounds like the facile platitude likely to drip from the lips of a therapist not a friend.

    • Reply Meet Me At Mikes July 18, 2016 at 6:19 AM

      Thanks for reading! My friend has been dealing with some serious stuff over the last nine months and question 7 has really helped pull him out of panic and overwhelm, back into reality where some kind of relief may be achievable. So number 7 is really not facile or a platitude. It’s so far from that. It’s actually a GREAT one for making sense of something that feels too big and out of control to make sense of, especially if the person in question is unable to see a therapist as often as they should.

  • Reply Nanette July 17, 2016 at 10:37 PM

    Oh Pip what a lovely comforting list. You would be a rad friend to happy to share the joys alongside the glum times. Thanks for sharing !!!

    • Reply Meet Me At Mikes July 18, 2016 at 6:21 AM

      Hey! Thanks for reading, Nanette! xx

  • Reply Little White Dove July 17, 2016 at 7:45 PM

    So lovely Pip! Such great helpful things to say/do… I love so many of your suggestions… some of them remind me of how my mum often makes meals for family/friends when they are going through stuff, they are delivered in a big washing basket all wrapped and packaged in little bowls, dishes, jugs and pots, often still warm, and come smothered in so much love and care… there really is something lovely about providing a meal for someone who needs a little extra help in life… we all have to eat right? I’m adding some of your ace suggestions to mums meals with love thing and my random flower delivery thing and hope to not feel so quashed with ‘I don’t know what to say’ next time someone I know needs a little extra something x

    • Reply Meet Me At Mikes July 18, 2016 at 6:20 AM

      Your random flower delivery is such a lovely idea, LWD. And your MUM. Gee. What a lovely person she must be. Thank you for these ace ideas! x

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