My Best Friend's Dad Is Dying; What Do I Say?

When your friend's dad is dying, you can let her know you care.
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When a friend grieves because a loved one is dying, it’s hard to know what to say. Being there for her in her grief can bring comfort to your friend, even when you are unsure of what to say, according to the website. The nonverbal comforting touches, such as holding her hand, patting her back or a quick hug, often speak the loudest.

1 Elephant in the Room

It can seem like acknowledging the approaching death is crass or will make things worse, but that isn’t true. Let your friend know that you are sorry that he is losing his dad with authentic words such as, “I’m sorry you dad is dying,” or “It must be incredibly difficult to watch your father die.” Your honest approach to the situation lets your friend know you understand what’s going on and that you aren’t afraid to face the facts. Your words can invite your friend to express authentic emotions or talk about what’s really going on, suggests

2 Concern and Support

You can always express your concern and support for your friend. Ask if you can run errands or help out with chores while your friend sits with her dad, suggests the Harvard Medical School website. Only offer to do things you are really willing to do. Ask if you can drop off a meal for the family or take your friend out for a quick meal to give her a break away from the hospital or hospice care. Remind your friend that you are there for her and she can call if she needs something. Offer to pray for and with her if prayer is part of your spiritual life. Don’t take it personally if your offers aren't readily accepted. The time for your help might come later after her dad is dead.

3 Invitation to Talk

Ask your friend if there is anything that he needs to talk about, and be willing to listen. It might be too soon or too overwhelming for him to talk right now, but assure him that you will be there for him if he does need to talk. You might drop off a poem, a prayer or a note you found that is specific to losing a parent. If he’s keeping up with his social media pages and posting updates on his dad, leave a note there, suggests The Wall Street Journal article “When a Friend Grieves, How to Get Sympathy Right.” If there is no reference to the father’s condition, don’t make it a matter of public record.

4 What Not to Say

Avoid words such as “must,” “should” or “need to,” suggests The Wall Street Journal article. Don’t say, “I know how you feel,” even if you have lost a parent, because everyone is different. Don’t tell your friend how she ought to feel or what she ought to do. Allow her to decide how she will process her father’s death.

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.