What do you say when you get a message, text or phone call that begins; "I just wanted to let you know...?" Someone you care about is telling you they are suffering. Here are of few tips on how to respond gracefully.
Take a deep breath, ask a question, make sure you understand.
"I just wanted you to know, I got the test results back and it's not good." Don't panic, breathe. A moment of silence is appropriate if you need it. Ask a follow up question such as: "When did you find out," or "What's the next step?" If you don't understand what the person is saying just say so, "I'm sorry I didn't know, what test did you have done?"
Resist the temptation to give advice.
"Oh, that same thing happened to my sister's brother-in-law." No matter what you've been through, or who you know who's been through something similar, this is not the time to launch into advising. Right now just hold the space. Don't divert attention away from this moment. That person is asking you to see them, stay with them in the now. It's perfectly alright to say, "I know someone who experienced something similar. Let me know if you want to hear how they handled it."
There is no right thing to say.
"When God closes a door, he opens a window." You are not a greeting card. Sometimes our discomfort causes us to want to say just the right words and we end up coming across cold or insensitive. This person is exposing their pain or fear to you, just be real. "That's awful," is a perfectly acceptable response to someone sharing bad news. You may follow up with something like, "How are you holding up?" or "Do you need a hug?"
"Let me know if I can do anything to help." Think about a practical way you can help and offer that. "I could pick up the kids from school on Wednesday if you need me to," or "Why don't you let me cut your grass Saturday?" If it is not practical or possible to actually offer a service, you can invite the person to contact you again if they have an update or just need to talk. Most importantly, "thank you for letting me know," validates their decision to open up to you.