What to Say to Someone Who Is about to Go to Surgery: 11 Comforting Words

WhatToGetMy Instructional Article

Moments before going under the knife can be unsettling for patients. Worry and fear sometimes overpower them that it tends to increase their blood pressure. These feelings are not out of place given that anything could happen in a surgery room. However, the last thing any surgery patient needs is to feel too nervous, and lonely and dwell on negative thoughts. As they look to you as a friend or family for comfort and strength, knowing what to say to someone who is about to go to surgery is critical.

Your words contain great power. You never know how the things you say may affect a person.

Your words contain great power. You never know how the things you say may affect a person. (1)

This article has been divided into three subheadings;

  • Tips when deciding what to say to someone before surgery
  • Comforting words before surgery
  • Surgery prayer message

Before we dive into this article, here is something to think about. If medical procedures had a 100% success rate, do you think anyone would be scared or worried about undergoing surgery? We do not think so. Sadly, medical errors contribute to people’s worry. According to a report in The Washington Post, it was estimated that medical errors were the third leading cause of death. Source: The Washington Post

Death in the United States


If you feel nervous and lost for words, we understand. Friends and family of patients undergoing surgery feel the sting of surgery too. The mental torture of ‘what if’; the unending bitter-sweet memories of the past as though preparing yourself for the worst,  the questioning of one’s faith; teary nights for the pain and fear they feel, wishing that you could take it all away for them; the feeling of helplessness and many more will poke at you. What you feel is normal, however, staying positive and courageous is a duty you must take on for their sake.

Your words and actions are most valuable to them in times like these. The right words of encouragement can reinforce positive thoughts and emotions in patients in such difficult times. The right actions will give them hope and strength. When deciding what to tell someone before surgery, try to keep the following points in mind;

1. Ask helpful questions about their diagnosis and their current mental and emotional state.

You will not be seen as nosey if you stick to asking important questions about the patient’s diagnosis and current state. Please do not bombard them with so many questions as they might not be in the mood for long conversations. If they are willing to go into detail, great, if they are not, make use of the briefs they have provided. Example of questions to ask

  • What did the doctor say is wrong with you?
  • What type of operation did the doctor recommend?
  • How do you feel about the surgery?
  • How do you feel about the doctor?
  • Have you been able to get enough rest?

2. There is so much to say but keep it brief.

A few minutes or hours before being taken into the operating room, it is important not to overwhelm the patient. There will be more time for elaborate conversations after surgery.

3. One or two amusing expressions before surgery may be a great idea.

As they say, laughter is the best medicine, and keeping patients in a sharp state of mind and high spirits will help them. If both of you share the same sense of humor, you guys can go ahead and entertain yourselves. It helps to deal with the feeling of nervousness.

4. In case the person going in for surgery is crying, be empathetic.

Telling them not to cry won’t help the situation. Instead, be kind in your gestures. Give them a brief hug, a firm hand-hold, and a few comfortings words.

5. Not everyone wants to hear “I am sorry” because not everyone finds comfort in hearing them.

It is best to avoid the phrase ‘I am sorry’ because a lot of visitors might have said often that it has become annoying to hear. Patients might interpret it as pitying them and not many people fare well when they know they are being pitied.

6. Words like “I know how you feel” are not comforting because they sound more about you than about them.

Even if you have had surgery in the past, ‘I know how you feel’ isn’t the best phrase to use in your conversation with someone about to go to surgery. You can instead say “It is ok to you feel ….”

7. Do not trivialize their situation.

No matter how minor the surgery is. Say words of concern and hope. Do not say “It is not serious”.

8. Reassure them of your unwavering support

The fear of loneliness and abandonment at such critical times is real for many patients. Sometimes they feel like they are a burden to their loved ones and that their loved ones might eventually get tired of them. It is important to reassure them you will always be there for them even after they come out of the operating room.

9. Maintain consistent communication with patients or family of patients even before the day or hour of surgery.

Do not stop calling because you think you are disturbing them. It is ok to let them know you are there for them. This is particularly helpful when you are trying to be there for your friend whose child is having surgery. The absence of communication many times conveys a message that you do not care.

10. Mark the day of the surgery in your schedule and send a message of support in case you would not be there.

Kind gestures like remembering dates and times could mean the world to people. It tells them that you value them. Your words or prayers mean a lot to patients and their family even if they are unable to reply.

11. Notify family, friends, or medical personnel of your location while at the hospital in case they need to see you during and after the surgery.

If you are there on the day of surgery as a friend, you could say “I will be over there….. In case you need me”

12. Inform the patient of how you intend to be of assistance to them and ask if it was ok with them.

It could be telling them about meal arrangements you have made for them, laundry assistance for the family, babysitting arraignments, etcetera. You mustn’t assume that they are fine and can handle everything perfectly. Lots of people find it difficult to ask for help or what they need. They should not have to worry about food, a clean house, or prayers. If you intend to take gifts, you might find our article Gifts for open-heart surgery patients help.

  • Respond to their messages timely.

They may not have the time to talk to you face to face, they will find great relief whilst in the hospital and reading through your messages as a constant reminder that they are loved, cherished, and not forgotten.


1. “I know today is an important day for you, I will be waiting here for you.”

If you have trouble with what to say before the operation, this is one of the simplest phrases. You assure your partner, or friend that no matter what happens, they have your unwavering support.

2. “You might be scared, and it is ok, but you’ll be fine.”

Your friend or loved one will feel comfortable and less frightened about the surgery if you acknowledge their emotions but reassure them that everything will be fine.

3. “For every second you spend in that operating room, I will be out here praying for you and the success of the surgery”

Many people believe in the power of prayer. Your friend or loved one will be comforted knowing that you are praying for them. They will draw strength from the fact that the presence of God will be in the operating room with them. This mindset will help the patient to feel comfortable and relaxed about the surgery.

4. “You are one of the strongest fighters I know, you will survive this”

Reminding them of their inner strength can be helpful. A phrase like this will inspire them to remain strengthened and in the winning spirit.

5. “You are in good hands, everything will be fine and you will be better than when you entered.”

They need to be reassured that the health professional that will be operating on them are competent and would handle them with the utmost care. This helps to relax before and during the surgery.

6. “Before you know it, you will be out of the operating room”

They will be relieved that the operation will only last so long, and they will be eager to complete it.

7. “You will survive this! I can’t wait to hear you tell this crazy story.”

Everyone loves to tell good stories about how they survived gloomy experiences. Telling them this will make them laugh because they know they already have an audience waiting to hear them tell their tale.

8. “When you are discharged from the hospital and you are ready to walk again, we will go and have fun. A big celebration if you wish”

Giving them something to look forward to is a good way of keeping them in high spirit.

9. Talk about the things they love and how you will get some of them ready for them after surgery. Keep their minds on the “later,” after recovery. Help them stay optimistic even when things look gloomy. Encourage them that they will come out of it and enjoy much better days to come.  Be sensitive of course, especially in situations where the surgery might more critical, and perhaps, reduce the hype around the surgery and focus only on its success.

“I need to start getting our things ready for the trip to…”

“I will take you to your favorite restaurant and allow you to order all your favorite meals when this is done and dusted”

“I can’t wait to get you that bicycle you always talk about, what its name again?”

10. Do not let the surgery get to you, you are stronger than you think

A lot of people fear the pricking of a needless talk more being cut open. The thought of being operated on might be wrecking their nerves. A phrase like this will help them to be calm.

11. “The moment you get out of the operating room, we will be out here cheering for you”

Reminding them that a lot of people believe in them and are waiting for their success story will be a source of strength to them.


If you wish to send prayer messages and you do not know what to say, here are a few powerful prayers you could consider;

1. Father, you said that if we ask anything in your name, you will grant it to us. I ask for safety for your daughter who will be entering the operating room soon. I ask that you oversee everything that will be done to her. I pray that every activity in the operating room will be carried out smoothly and successfully. At the end of it, may you alone be glorified, in Jesus name; Amen.

2. Father, we know that all that concerns us touches you most and we are the apple of your eyes. You love and care for us deeply and that is why you have given your angels charge over us. Father, we ask for special protection over your son as he goes in for surgery. Father, we pray that you take away costly errors and that your spirit directs the doctors that will be operating on him, in Jesus Mighty name. Amen.

3. Lord, you are the source of life, health, hope, love, and strength. We seek these from no other source but your throne. Lord, strengthen your son in times of weakness, healing in times of sickness, peace in times of trouble, hope on gloomy days, love in times of loneliness, and joy that surpasses all man’s understanding. Father, in this present situation, show yourself mighty in his life that our mouth is filled with testimonies of what you have done for him, in Jesus name, Amen.


1. What to say to someone whose child is having surgery?

  • I will bring your meals throughout tomorrow and do your laundry on Saturday.
  • I know you are worried, your child is in safe hands
  • I will be praying for you and the family
  • This will be a thing of the past soon. You and your family will be happy again

2. What to say to a friend before surgery?

  • For every second you spend in that operating you, I will be out here praying for you and the success of the surgery
  • You are one of the strongest fighters I know, you will survive this.
  • You might be scared and worried, I want to assure you that you are in safe hands and you will be out of the operating room in no time
  • You might be scared and that is understandable, everything will be fine
  • We will be out here waiting for you and the moment you come out of the operating room, we will be cheering for you.


If there was any other option than surgery, most surgery patients will hop on that alternative. Nobody looks forward to having surgery in their lifetime, so such an announcement leaves a sore taste in one’s mouth. Patients need the support of their friends and family to help them scale through. Your words and actions will mean a lot to them and therefore it is important to be mindful of your words and actions around them. Be positive in your conversation, offer to help out where and when you can, constantly keep in touch with them, send prayers and words of encouragement to them, and even get them gifts if you wish. If you were struggling with what to say to someone who is about to go to surgery, we hope that you found this article helpful.





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