5. "Now, now, don't get yourself all worked up."
Your loved one is scared, angry, or in tears, and you want him to feel better. But unfortunately, a statement like this makes it sound as if you want him to put his feelings, which are natural and unavoidable, under wraps. "In this situation, it's okay to get worked up, and it's okay to vent," says Knajdl. "We have this fear of feelings getting out of control. But sometimes a patient needs opportunities to cry or get angry or get upset, and if you can help him express these feelings and get them out, in the end he'll feel better."
What to say instead: If you don't know what to say, it's okay not to say anything at all, Knajdl says. Just offer the comfort of your presence, a hug, or an arm around the shoulders. Allowing some silence without rushing to fill it gives the person a chance to say what's on his mind in his own time. Perhaps he's afraid of pain, afraid of letting you down, or frustrated by feeling incapacitated by his illness. "One patient surprised his son by saying, 'I feel frustrated lying here in the hospital because I feel like I'm wasting my time,'" Knajdl says. "It turned out he was actually upset that he didn't have his legal affairs in order. The son responded by saying, 'Would you like me to get a lawyer to come in so we can take care of that?' That made his father feel much better."