Sometimes, we simply don’t know what to say.

A friend’s mom died. We want to know what to say and do. It’s easy to get stuck.

We’re visiting a friend in the hospital. We want to know what to say or do. Because we hate hospitals.

We need some guidance from someone who understands hospitals and people and maybe something about figuring out what to say.

I’ve been helping people find words in hard times for most of my adult life.

And, as a hospital chaplain, I have those conversations every week.

“Finding Words in Hard Times” is a newsletter with stories and tools to help you be more comfortable as you help others in hard times.

When you subscribe, you’ll get 5-7 emails a month with articles like how to write a eulogy, why you can’t win an argument with dementia, and thirty-one things to say and do to help someone when their loved one has died (other than sending flowers.)

I’ve archived some really helpful work here.

I’ve been building content around these topics for a long time. I’m making the most helpful stories and tools in the archives so that they are available as part of this project.

I’m doing more research.

In September 2022, I started working on a research project to see what people find helpful after they’ve lost a loved one. I’ve done one survey as part of the project and will continue to do research. You can visit the project site at

And all the content is free.

At the moment, the newsletter and all the content are free. Eventually, I’ll turn on subscriptions. (If you want to support my work, visit Sustaining)

But how do I know these things?

I spent more than fifteen years in higher education, fifteen years as a pastor, and now working as a hospital chaplain since 2015. My PhD is in rhetoric, so I’ve been teaching and studying words for a long time. I’m also a research consultant with Arbor Research Group.

To find out more about the company that provides the tech for this newsletter, visit

Subscribe to Finding Words in Hard Times - with Jon Swanson

A place with stories and tools to help you be more comfortable as you help others in hard times.


15 years in higher ed, 15 years as a pastor, hospital chaplain since 2015. Heard and said lots of words. Married since 1983, Indiana since 1985. Kathryn is buried here. Andrew lives in Germany, Hope and Dan live nearby with Ben (our grandson).