I have dealt with a number of what I call "pseudo-deaths." You know, like when your health ups & dies, your parent disappears, or you break up with someone after dating them for years & years. The problem is that society doesn't provide landmark events for these. "There's not an app for that" sort of thing. There is no funeral if your dad abandons your family. There is no fundraising & general panic if you have chronic but not-life-threatening pain. And there are no divorce parties if you break up with a long-time love. You just suck it up, and go it alone.
Because society doesn't validate these events as tragic, when it comes to supporting people in these categories, there are no guidelines to follow. So let me suggest one. If you are interacting with someone experiencing a pseudo-death, and you don't know what to say, check out the following list. This magic trifecta of verbiage avoids foot-in-mouth syndrome & prevents you from saying all kinds of landminey things.
Just try the 1, 2, 3 steps below...
sorry to hear that"
2. "How are you doing?"
If you want to be really great do what my boyfriend does & say
3. How can I support you?" (See why I am with him?! He came up with this one all on his own.)
If you use these verbal support statements effectively, you will win the medal of support by your person in pain, because you provided grade-A service in earning the Relating to Pain (RTP) degree.
And in regard to all those things you would have LIKED to say but that weren't on this list? To quote me, "Be nice, not right." You can't go wrong with that.