Learn to offer heartfelt condolences with our guide to finding the right words during grief and loss.

As a trusted partner in your family’s grief, we know that sometimes it’s hard to find the words to say to someone who’s lost a loved one. Most of us want to comfort a grieving friend and express our sympathy and condolence messages but are afraid of saying the wrong thing. When someone experiences a loss, he or she might feel overwhelming grief, disorientation, and hopelessness. Often, the best support we can give does not come in the form of words but in the generosity of our presence.  

Letting your friend know that you care by attending the funeral, visiting, calling and offering a hug can show them that they are not alone in their grief. Sometimes, a touch of the hand and a sympathetic look or hug can communicate most powerfully at a funeral or visitation service while also bringing comfort. When speaking, be sure to use words that are genuine, and know that some well-intended comments are best avoided. 

Some things you can say  

  • I’m really sorry. I know this is painful.
  • I was so sad to hear about your mother.
  • Your brother was really special. I know this is hard.
  • I want you to know that I’m here for you. Call or text me anytime.
  • You’re in my thoughts.
  • My heart aches for you.
  • I love you.
  • I can’t begin to understand what you’re going through, but I am here for you.
  • Your dad was such an amazing person and role model. I’m sorry.

Keep in mind 

  • Don’t let feelings of awkwardness or fear stop you from reaching out to someone you care about. Even a simple expression of support may mean a lot. 
  • Acknowledge the situation as soon as you hear 
  • As soon as you hear that a friend or family member has lost a close loved one, call, write a note or visit.
  • Don’t put it off, and don’t worry about being eloquent.
    • Simply pick up the phone, a pen or your car keys, and say what’s in your heart.
    • Just show you care—your good intentions will be seen on your face and heard in your voice.
  • Be kind and sincere 
    • A sweet smile, a warm hug, and a kind statement are often the best condolences.
  • Leave a memory or condolence on an online obituary, attend the funeral, sign the guestbook, send a card or gift, or email/text/call your friend.  

Share Memories 
For a person in grief, hearing stories and sharing memories of their loved one can bring comfort and help in the healing process. Just hearing the name of the person they have lost can be comforting and foster healing. Share what you remember and listen when they share their memories. Ask good, sensitive questions and give your friend the opportunity to talk. Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is simply sit, offer a tissue, and listen.  

Be Helpful

Instead of saying, “Let me know how I can help,” consider a concrete act of service. Take your friend a couple of bags of groceries, tidy up the house for them or help sort their mail. Babysitting and pet sitting are excellent ways to be helpful. So is washing someone’s car, making them dinner, running errands, or taking out their trash.  

Offer Companionship 
Grief can feel isolating. Just being there is a wonderful way to lessen the loneliness and stay connected.

  • Ask your friend to coffee or tea in the afternoon or offer to stay the night.
  • Invite your friend to take a walk with you or spend an hour with them at the cemetery or somewhere in nature.
  • Offer to go to a place of worship with your friend.
  • Ask them to go to a movie, a museum, or an outdoor festival.

The point is simply to spend some time with your grieving friend if they’re up for it.  

Follow up 

It can be extremely helpful for a grieving person to know they are not alone in the days immediately following a death. It can be even more so in the weeks and months that follow when the rush of support subsides, but difficult emotions can persist. As time continues, let your grieving friend know you haven’t forgotten them.

Remember Important Dates  
Holidays, important dates, and certain occasions can bring up many emotions for grieving people. Remember the anniversary of their loved one’s death or mark a holiday like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Christmas with flowers. Send your friend an email or card to let them know you are thinking of them and their loved one on that day.  These gestures say so much more than “I remember.”  

Avoid offering simple cliches 

Though you may share similar beliefs, it’s best to avoid offering condolences like “Everything happens for a reason” or “God has a plan.” These simple solutions can sometimes feel trite, as the bereaved is confronted with a magnitude of pain over their loss.  

As the weeks and months pass, continue to be a gentle, dependable presence that can be counted on in moments of sorrow and struggle. Consider times when you’ve experienced loss or grief, and think of what was said by others that you appreciated most. This insight can help you comfort and support someone who’s experienced a loss. 

Contact Fitchett-Mann as we become like another family member willing to give you a hand to help and a shoulder to lean on. 

Questions? We Can Help.

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