What do you say to a dying friend


I have a friend who is dying. I called her tonight and she told me that she is just waiting to die. She has cancer.

I was at a loss of what to say.

She is a convert who has fallen away from the Church. I do pray for her. I will be talking with her again Saturday.

Is there any suggestions on how and what to say.


I don’t know. :frowning: I just wanted to give you a hug while you wait for wiser minds than mine to respond.



Are you close enough to go visit her? If you are, just go be with her. Give her a hug. Hold her hand. Whatever she wants to do, you know.

Wether it’s in person or just on the phone, just let her talk. Let her get her feelings out. Be an ear for her. Or just let her sit in slience, feeling your presence. Sometimes that is what a person needs.

Six years ago my best friend was diaognosed with cancer. At the time the doctors found it, it was already in her bones. They couldn’t even figure out where it started, it had spread so much through her body. I sat in the hospital with her and just let her talk. At first she was depressed and resigned to death. A few days later she was talking about fighting. When she went home, we sat doing crafts together, talking about everything under the sun.

She went fast. She was diaognosed in Oct. and died Dec. 24th. I was with her when she passed. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I wouldn’t give up that time with her for anything in the world. It was a last chance to tell her how much her friendship ment to me.



I’ll tell you my experience and what I wish I’d done differently…
My good friend was dying of cancer several years ago. I only went to visit her a few times, and when she tried to bring up the subject of death, I’d quickly change the subject. Oh, how I wish I’d just listened to her and just been with her more. My own discomfort interfered with our conversations at the end of her life. She knew how much she meant to me, but I was so uncomfortable that I found I avoided visiting and talking with her. Don’t make my mistake because you can’t get this time back, ever. God bless you and I’ll be praying for both of you. Theresa


Thank you.

Thank you for your suggestions. I am unable to go visit with her. I am two hundred miles from her through mountainous roads. I would like to be able to go and sit with her but circumstances will not allow it. I knew before I called that she was terminal but it shocked me that she was so open about it. When she said something I didn’t know how to respond. I don’t want to add to her discomfort. I had another friend who died of cancer. She use to tell me that the hardest thing was what people said to her. I want to comfort her but I don’t know how.


Please accept my sympathy for the illness of your friend. When it comes to talking with her, a lot depends upon how comfortable you are about discussing death – if you aren’t comfortable with it, your friend will sense this and probably hold back. But if you are OK with it, she will sense this as well and you might have some wonderful conversations, depending on how close the two of you have been through the years. Just be “real” about the situation, let her take the lead, and listen in a non-judgmental way. Some days she might want to talk about dying, other days she might want to reminisce or chat about everyday things, and other days she might just want to enjoy your company in a quiet manner. If she is very ill, it’s OK to just sit together in silence. The important thing is that you care enough to be there for her during her final days.

This article might help you:

I lost a dear friend three years ago to a lung condition, so I can relate to what you are going through. God bless you for being a good friend in her time of need.


Thank you. I appreciate the prayers and the encouragement.


I posted my last message before I saw the one where you said that you can’t go and be with her in person. In that case, do call her on the phone when you can. The same suggestions apply for a phone conversation as in a face-to-face talk, but be prepared that as she moves closer to the end, she might not want to talk on the phone very much. In that case, it is perfectly fine to tell whoever answers (or the machine/voicemail) that you are thinking about her and praying for her, and leave it at that. Send her a card every now and then, and maybe flowers or a little gift to let her know that you are thinking of her. May God bless you and give you strength.


Do you know if she would like the Sacrament of the Sick? She may, but not know exactly how to ask.
You could always call the nearest parish and ask a priest to visit her. That would be the greatest gift you could give her.


Perhaps you could send her a rosary along with a pamphlet on the Divine Mercy.

And call her every day. Be honest with her that you are at a loss for words, but that you want to be there for her. She’ll sense it if you try to hide your hesitation. Send her flowers once a week if you can afford it. Maybe you could call her local parish and arrange to have a priest visit her. If she’s a convert, she probably doesn’t have any Catholic family to think of it.

I’m sorry you are losing your friend. You will both be in my prayers.


First off, she ain’t dead quite yet. When I had cancer, alot of people wrote me off. My own brother bought me a cemetary lot :rolleyes:. When I survived, it almost seemed like some where disappointed. I lost many friends because of it. Don’t treat her as if she is going to die, but do prepare her for if the Lord comes. Big difference. If she is that sick, then you two don’t have time to mix words. Tell her the truth, straight out about getting back in communion with the Church even just for the healing benefits of the blessings that come from receiving the Eucharist, the annointing of the sick, the blessing of St. Maurus. That she has to do confession first to get this done. Ask her if she wants you to make the call for her to a Priest and explain to him what needs to take place. Not to be mean, but don’t screw around. Somebody has to take charge and now. Don’t be worried about hurting anyones feelings. When you are sick like that, you need support. Support her, not baby her. Prayers for all involved, Tim


My mom’s best friend had Luekemia and was scheduled to recieve bone marrow. My mom flew out to California from Chicago for about a day and a half. She stayed overnight in the hospital with her friend (something her friend’s children couldn’t understand since they don’t “do that” whole over night vigil thing). They were up all night and about an hour or so after they fell asleep there was an earthquake and the hospital had some damage. My mom’s friend’s husband was one of the top LA police officers so he got her out of the hospital (even though no one was allowed to enter or exit) in order for her to catch her plane. Less than a week later, her friend passed away about 24 hours after her bone marrow transplant. To this day, my mom has no regrets about making that quick trip out there to spend all those hours with her best friend. This past week, another one of her friends passed away from cancer. We’ve had many in our family die of cancer, and like others have said, just be there as best as you can.


If she’s fallen away from the faith, I’d think reciting a formulalic prayer or rosary might not be so meaningful.

How about something more personal and specific to your relationship…like telling her you love her and are praying for her every day…or telling her how special she has been in your life and specifically what it is you’re going to miss about her…her sense of humor, or adventure, good listening skills, optimism, kindness, loyalty, whatever…
Take some time to reminisce about when you were together–whether it was in school, growing up, etc…Let her know she holds a special place in your life and heart that will be empty except for the wonderful memories you will always keep. If you have a photo of the two of you together–make a copy and send it to her. Maybe jot down some of your favorite memories of the things the two of you did and send it along~it’s sure to brighten her day.


I’d want to try to assess if she is at peace with dying or not, that can be the major factor on what you should do. Other than that, I’d say don’t worry about what to say. Just be there for her when you are with her – where she’s at or on the phone. Its easy to say if you need anything, but you also have to say it with your non-verbal communication. If you cannot handle it say so, but tell her you are thinking of her and love her. I am sure she’s in a position where she’ll ask for help to those whom can help, and console those that need to be consoled. It can be harder on the by-standards than on the actual person going through it, especially once the person has peace with the situaiton. I might also see if she wants a priest or a chaplin; one actually going through dying might have a different outlook on life than before. Don’t go nagging about it though.

Basicly when you are with her, be with her. Don’t worry so much on what you say, what needs to be said probably will be said.


If I was sick/dying, it would be so comforting to know that friends/family are praying for me. I would make a short call each day and let her know that you are praying for her. Let her know you are having Masses said for her. Simply let her know that she is in your thoughts and prayers every day.


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