Advice on What to Say When Someone Passes Away

It’s normal to feel uncomfortable or anxious about how to console the bereaved. Knowing the exact words to say or how to comfort someone who has lost a loved one can be extremely difficult because everyone deals with grief and loss differently. To help guide you, here are a few suggestions on how you can offer condolences.

The best way to express your feelings is through sincere, honest words that show compassion and support. Your feelings will be shown on your face and heard in your voice. If you still feel uncertain, consider one of the following expressions as a way to show support:

I’m sorry for your loss

You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers

I’m here for you if you need anything

Please accept my sympathy

My heart goes out to you during this difficult time

In some instances, such as following a lengthy illness, a loss can be a relief for family members who find comfort in knowing their loved one is no longer suffering. It’s best if you refrain from making this suggestion and let the family reach this conclusion, if appropriate, in their own time. Even in these situations, families may still grieve deeply that their loved one is no longer with them.

Take note of how the family is dealing with the loss to guide your words and actions. If they share memories or stories about their loved one, offer a special memory of your own. Regardless of your words, most families will appreciate your recognition of their loved one and their loss and may find that speaking about their loved one helps them heal.

As time passes, you may be hesitant to reference a family’s lost loved one for fear of reminding them of the loss. Remember, though, that the family likely lives with reminders of their loved one daily and may instead appreciate your words of support or care as time goes by, particularly during holidays or other important anniversaries. They might find comfort in knowing you are thinking of them and their loved one, too.

Nowadays, many people also offer condolences by signing online guest books that families can read again for ongoing emotional support. Your entry in an online guest book can mirror what you would say to the family in person. Write a sentiment from the heart, express your sympathy and support, and share a special memory of the family’s loved one if you wish.

Remember, sympathy can be expressed through actions as well as words. Nice gestures, such as offering to deliver food, are a great way to show support. See the Funeral Etiquette: What to Do section to learn more.

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