In our series “A Helping Hand,” learn to show others how much you care about them through kind acts and thoughtful gestures. Here, we suggest ways you can support your loved ones in their time of need, and offer specific words of encouragement in the form of famous quotes.

Sometimes, it’s really hard to know how to find the right words of encouragement to support and comfort someone who has experienced a loss, endured heartache, or is going through a challenging time. We don’t want to make the situation worse or upset that person further. The nagging fear that we might say the wrong thing often leads us to do nothing. However, according to Brooke James, creator of the podcast The Grief Coach, even the smallest of gestures can have profound benefits for someone in need.

Photo of woman embraced by a friend

Finding the right words of encouragement

James is a grief educator who saw her own friends struggle with how to best comfort her when she lost her father to cancer in 2019. That experience led her to look for better ways to show support.

Today, she consults for national brands, helping them create more empathetic and supportive work environments. Her advice is to always err on the side of showing as much support as you can. “The person who is going through something already feels isolated, so when people leave them alone, thinking that’s best for them, it’s actually the worst feeling.”

Grief educator Brooke James with her father, Beau, who died of cancer in 2019.
Grief educator Brooke James with her father, Beau, who died of cancer in 2019.

James says it’s more than okay to be honest about not knowing what to say. “Rather than an overly emotional ‘I’m so sorry’ or ‘How are you?’ which are well-intentioned but don’t really help the receiver feel any better, there are words that can be more comforting. Saying something like ‘I don’t know what to say. I know nothing I say will change this, but I’m here for you,’ that’s perfect.”

People need words of encouragement for a lot of reasons, both big and small. For James, helping people be heard is an essential part of the healing process. “Right after my dad died, friends would start complaining about something in their life, and then they’d feel apologetic, like, ‘I’m sorry, this is nothing compared to what you’re going through.’ You can still be having a hard time with something even though your dad didn’t die.”

James says validation is particularly relevant during the pandemic, when many people are grieving things they lost or missed out on. “Sharing in these types of conversations gives someone who’s struggling permission to be vulnerable. It’s through that process that they can move on to healing.”

Still unsure of what to say? Let these 48 famous quotes serve as inspiration to help you find the right words of encouragement.

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When words aren’t enough

After offering words of support, James says to take action to show how much you care. This can have an exponentially greater impact, becoming a memory that comforts for years to come. There are plenty of easy ways to show you care:

Focus on specifics

“Rather than say ‘Let me know if I can do anything to help,’ make concrete suggestions that you think the person could use.” James says there’s a variety of mundane chores you can offer to do to lighten their load, such as laundry, house cleaning, or babysitting.

Set a weekly walk date

Getting outside and enjoying the fresh air with someone else — even for as little as 15 minutes — can become an immeasurable source of hope and comfort, James says.

Photo of a man and a woman walking together

Remind someone how special they are

Imagine how good a loved one will feel receiving colorful cookies in a tin with the words “You’re a Gem” cheerfully scrolled over it. Cheryl’s Cookies offers a variety of deliciously sweet encouragement gifts, ranging from comforting You’re in My Thoughts cookie samplers to bright and bold You Are Mermazing! motivational gifts.

Offer a distraction

Although your loved one may not take you up on it, offering them a distraction rather than a serious heart-to-heart conversation can be a refreshing change, James says. “Sometimes you just want to talk about the normal things that you and your friends used to talk about.”

Photo of two women drinking coffee,  eating cookies, and offering words of encouragement to each other.

Continue the support long term

People can be overwhelmed with support during a difficult time, James says, but their phones have a tendency to go silent a few weeks later. It’s at those times when sending a thoughtful reminder, such as A Hug in Every Bite Cookie Card or Sending You Smiles roses, can mean the most.

Be mindful of milestones

James says the lead-up to anniversaries of difficult times can be especially challenging. “You could send something and say, ‘I know this is a hard week coming up, so I thought you might want some pretty flowers to look at.”

Photo of a woman giving another woman flowers

Honest communication and thoughtful actions can take the guesswork out of helping someone through a hard time. When a loved one is in need of encouragement, the best advice is always, when in doubt, do something.

48 Quotes to Help You Find the Right Words of Encouragement

Did you know positive words of encouragement can actually have a positive effect on how the brain works? Research shows thoughtful phrases build resilience and motivation.

Looking for the right words to send to someone in need of encouragement? If you’re at a loss for the perfect words, try using a famous quote that feels right for the situation.

Here are several to help you get started:

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.

Albert Einstein

Your past does not equal your future.

Tony Robbins

If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.

Oprah Winfrey

“The struggles along the way I only meant to shape you for your purpose.”

Chadwick Boseman

“Sometime, when you least expect it, you’ll realize that someone loved you. And that means that someone can love you again! And that’ll make you smile.”

Homer Simpson

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”

Truman Capote

The first rule of truly living: Do the thing you’re most afraid of.”

Rebekah, The Vampire Diaries

“What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”

Helen Keller

“Life is tough, my darling, but so are you.”

Stephanie Bennett Henry

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Nelson Mandela

“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life.”

Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.

Samwise Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings

“Show me a person who never made a mistake, and I will show you a person who never did anything.”

William Rosenberg, founder, Dunkin’ Donuts

Life is an improvisation. You have no idea what’s going to happen next, and you are mostly just making things up as you go along. And like improv, you cannot win your life. Even when it might look like you’re winning.

Stephen Colbert

“Picture a wave. In the ocean. You can see it, measure it, its height, the way the sunlight refracts when it passes through. And it’s there. And you can see it, you know what it is. It’s a wave. And then it crashes in the shore, and it’s gone. But the water is still there. The wave was just a different way for the water to be, for a little while

Chidi Anagonye, The Good Place

“Death ends a life, not a relationship. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on  ̶  in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.”

Morrie Schwartz, Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

“The only thing worse than starting something and failing…is not starting something.”

Seth Godin, founder, Squidoo

“You must always have faith in people. And, most important, you must always have faith in yourself.”

Elle Woods, Legally Blonde

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly — that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

Anne Lamott

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

Albert Einstein

Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.

Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones

There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.

Stephen Hawking

“Stop thinking about what I want, what he wants, what your parents want. What do you want?”

Noah Calhoun, The Notebook

“You know what the happiest animal on earth is? It’s a goldfish. Know why? It’s got a 10-second memory. Be a goldfish…”

Ted Lasso

“What is grief, if not love persevering?”

Vision, WandaVision

You cannot live your life to please others. The choice must be yours.

White Queen, Alice in Wonderland

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”

Napoleon Hill

Don’t be afraid of fear. Because it sharpens you, it challenges you, it makes you stronger; and when you run away from fear, you also run away from the opportunity to be your best possible self.

Ed Helms

If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels.

Tennessee Williams

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

Alice Walker

Everything negative — pressure, challenges — is all an opportunity for me to rise.

Kobe Bryant

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

Fred Rogers

“In the garden of memory, in the palace of dreams … that is where you and I shall meet.”

Lewis Carroll

“Soon, when all is well, you’re going to look back on this period of your life and be so glad that you never gave up.”

Brittany Burgunder

The night is always darkest just before dawn, but I assure you, the dawn is coming.

Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight

“Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you see it, you’ll never make it through the night.”

General Leia Organa, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

“It’s not how far you fall but how high you bounce that counts.”

Zig Ziglar

“Gotta have opposites, light and dark and dark and light, in painting. It’s like in life. Gotta have a little sadness once in a while so you know when the good times come.”

Bob Ross

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.

Helen Keller

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that’s why I succeed.

Michael Jordan

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”  

Winnie the Pooh

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

George Bernard Shaw

“If good things lasted forever, would we appreciate how precious they are?”

Calvin and Hobbes

It’s not about how hard you can hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.

Rocky Balboa, Rocky

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” 

J.M. Barrie

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…

Dr. Seuss

But you know happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.

Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

Steve Jobs, co-founder, Apple


Jackie Rupp is a longtime writer and editor who enjoys covering home, family, and lifestyle topics. She usually writes with at least one cat by her side and juggles fostering kittens with dabbling in handmade crafts. A connoisseur of pancakes, you can find her brunching when not writing or working on home renovation projects.

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