What do you say when someone is crying? You hate it when someone you care about cries.  You feel helpless, awkward and uneasy. You want to do something. So, maybe you say placating “fix-it” things like, “It’ll be okay. Don’t worry.”

Speaker and author Kim Hamer says, “What a person needs when going through a crisis is a witness.  They need someone to acknowledge the fact that what they are going through is very difficult.  Their life is crappy.” Kim is familiar with the pain of loss. Her husband passed away from cancer at the age of 44. She wrote 100 Acts of Love: the Girlfriends Guide to Loving Your Friend Through Cancer or Loss to help others who were suffering. (For more wisdom from Kim, watch her video on What to Say When Someone Cries.)

What do you say when someone is crying?  You could say:

    • “I am so sorry that you are going through this.”
    • “Your pain breaks my heart.”

It is okay if you, the caregiver, also shed some tears.  As theologian Nicholas Wolterstorff states, “Another’s tears are salve on our wounds.”

And sometimes, no words are even needed to show that you care. As retired pastor Chic Broersma writes, “If someone starts crying in front of you, gently touch them on the shoulder, arm, a pat on the knee or a full hug. They are standing there bawling and if you don’t reach out to connect, they WILL experience it as judgment. Even if it’s the furthest thing from your mind, your silence will be experienced as criticism for losing control. They will feel embarrassed and ashamed. You don’t even have to say anything – just touch. It will let the person know that if nothing else, they are okay with you, and it is okay for them to cry.”

Updated 2023

Karen Mulder

Karen Mulder

Karen Mulder is the founder of the Wisdom of the Wounded ministry. She lives in Holland, Michigan with her husband Larry.


  1. Jane Rath Dickie

    Thank you Karen. To be that witness that understands- help me to be that person.

  2. Joyce

    That is so helpful! Thank you for sharing these thoughts as we do run in to that a lot.

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