Knowing the right things to say when someone dies is not achieved through trial and error. It requires common sense, sensitivity, timing, and sincerity to convey the message properly.
You want to avoid being assuming, intrusive, and tactless. You want to avoid saying something inappropriate and ending up making the bereaved feel much worse.
No matter how perfect your words of condolences and sympathies are, you really cannot take away the pain of losing a loved one. You can offer support and guidance or give comfort. You can also let them know that you care, and that you’re not going anywhere. But the pain will always be there.
Things to Say When Someone Dies: What You Need to Consider
When someone suffers a great loss, the pain will be intense and the emotions can be extreme. This makes it more difficult to come up with words that will have the desired effect on the bereaved. This also makes people feel uncomfortable about offering words of consolation for fear of saying the wrong thing.
It’s perfectly understandable. However, don’t let your fear or your discomfort stop you from reaching out to someone who is hurting. This is the time they need your emotional support.
You don’t need to be perfect for them and say all the right things and do the right things. You just need to be honest and sincere in your concern for them, because your loving concern will help them rise from the heaviness of their grief and finally begin their own process of healing.
If you’re thinking of things to say when someone dies, it’s important that you understand where they are in the grieving process.
Are they still lashing out at everybody? Are they still in denial? Or are they still blaming themselves for what happened?
Understanding how they are dealing with their grief will make you better equipped to help them in the best way.
Dealing with a grieving person will be an emotional rollercoaster, so prepare yourself for some highs and lows and ups and downs. To give you an idea on the right things to say when someone dies, here are some helpful examples.
There are no words to tell you how sorry I am for your loss.
This expresses to the bereaved just how saddened you are by their loved one’s passing. There are just not enough words that will convey how bad you feel that they are going through something devastating, and you don’t know what you can say to make them feel better.
It’s simple but sincere, and it’s honest and direct to the point.
Whether you are writing this on your sympathy card or telling the bereaved in person, it will not be awkward, distressing, or annoying. It sufficiently tells them that you are sad and hurting, too, and that’s all that matters.
He / she brought so much joy to everyone he / she knew. He / she will be truly missed.
Knowing that the bereaved was well-liked and loved by friends and family will certainly give the loved ones they left behind some sense of comfort.
It means they are not alone in thinking that this person was the most generous, most loving, most gentle, and most compassionate human being.
There are many other people who think that the world lost a wonderful son, daughter, husband, wife, friend, or boss.
They made the world a better place, and now that they’re gone, they also took with them the magic that once lit the world up.
I feel your pain.
This is better than saying you know how they feel, because you absolutely don’t know how they feel. No one can know how exactly they are feeling, because the impact of losing someone you love will hit you in waves.
You will never know where they are exactly in the grieving process. You cannot assume that you know how they feel.
When you tell them that you feel their pain, you’re telling them that you know the kind of pain that losing a loved one brings because you also experienced a same kind of loss.
It’s telling them that you share in their pain, and that you are as broken and as devastated as they are.
This will sit better with them because it means that they are not alone and that someone understands.
I wish I could take away your pain. Just know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.
This expresses a very kind and loving sentiment because you are telling the bereaved that you cannot bear to see them suffering and in pain. It’s telling them that if it were only possible to bear the brunt of their grief, you would do it in a heartbeat.
But sadly, life does not work this way, and you just have to play the hand that you’ve been dealt. When there’s nothing more you can do or say to make things better for the bereaved, you can always do the next best thing.
It’s also very powerful and helpful to anyone going through something difficult in life, and that is to pray for them.
If you ever just want to talk and have a coffee, I’m just a call or a text away.
Sometimes the bereaved needs a break from their grief and just do something that will make them feel like their normal selves again. It can be a coffee date, if you know that having a cup of coffee relaxes them.
It can be a run at the beach so that they will feel physically invigorated. It can be a long drive, with the windows rolled down and their hair blowing out in the wind. It can be a walk in the park with the dog for some meditative silence. It can even be doing household chores, like doing the laundry, or vacuuming the floor, or cooking their favourite food.
Offer to do activities that calm them. They need a break from their sadness, and the quickest way they can achieve that is by doing the things that relax them. When they’re relaxed, it will be easier for them to open up and talk about their feelings.
I know that you are going through something painful and difficult, but I want you to know that I’m here to help you and your family in any way I can.
Offering messages of support to the bereaved means a lot, especially when you mean what you say and you go out of your way to show that you really care.
Don’t let it just be lip service. Don’t say that you want to help, but when they ask you for help, you can no longer be reached.
Instead of telling them that you want to help and make things better for them, act on it and just help. If their front lawn is in serious need of some mowing, mow it yourself or have someone mow it for you.
If there are bills piling up on their doorstep, or the trash needs to be taken out, or the house needs some cleaning up, don’t hesitate to offer your services. The bereaved family will appreciate all the help that they can get.
Is it alright if I give you a hug?
When words fail to reassure them, you can just hold them in your arms. A good and proper hug is much like meditation, and the exchange of energies between two people hugging can relax the muscles. A good hug boosts one’s oxytocin levels, which heal any feelings of loneliness, depression, anger, or isolation.
Everybody needs help during times like this. Know that I’m here if you ever need anything.
The bereaved will have a lot on their minds. More often than not, there will be something in their lives that they will neglect or forget doing. With their permission, you can step in to help them manage their household or their workload. This way, they will not end up being overwhelmed by what’s waiting for them when they go back to reality.
You can take over their job responsibilities while they are on bereavement leave and not discuss any personal matters with work colleagues. You can clear their inbox and leave emails that are important. Keep their work desks neat and organized, and just update their clients on when they can expect them to be back to work.
At the home front, you can help with running the household so that the kids’ routines will not be disrupted.
You can offer to watch the kids when they need some quiet and rest. You can help deal with friends and family who are offering their condolences, especially when the bereaved is not up to talking to people.
Anything that can make things easier for them, you can do if you will just offer to do it.
I will miss him / her for the incredible person that he / she was. His / her legacy will live on through you and your family, and all the amazing work that he / she did.
Sentiments like these are always appreciated because they put the deceased in a very good light. They focus on all the wonderful things that they have accomplished, both professionally and personally.
They celebrate the life that they lived, and they honour all the good work that they did when they were still alive.
I will be coming by with some lasagne and some freshly baked bread. Is there anything else you want me to pick up at the store for you?
It’s a very kind and thoughtful sentiment, both in words and action. You are anticipating what the bereaved needs, and you are offering to give it to them so that they will not be troubled to go to you.
When a person is in grief, they will lose focus on the little everyday things, like eating, taking a bath, or changing into clean clothes. They will have little or no energy to clean the house or shop for groceries.
You can tell them that you will be dropping by at a specific time with some freshly cooked meals so that they will have enough notice. Ask them if there are any errands that they would like you to run. Even if they don’t have any, just the fact that you asked is something that they will really appreciate.
Take care of you, and I will help you take care of the house and the kids.
When the grief is too much to bear and you can barely focus on anything else, knowing that someone can help take care of the kids and manage the house for you can put your mind at ease.
This will allow you to spend a day or two with your own grief and deal with your loss. When you’ve had a good and proper cry, you will feel a little bit better, and you can take on more tasks again slowly but surely.
It’s okay to cry.
It’s a reassurance that you don’t need to put a brave front. You’re allowed to cry because you suffered a great loss, so just go ahead and cry.
If you’re not going to cry, you’re keeping all those emotions bottled up, which is never healthy for anyone, grieving or not.
Take as long as you need.
There’s no wrong or right way to grieve. There certainly is no schedule that you need to follow to complete the grieving process. It may take months, or it may take years. No one knows how long it will take you.
There’s no rush. You loved this person for a long time. Of course, healing from the pain of losing them will take a long time, too.
You will never get over the loss but you will be able to live with it.
You will never get rid of the pain, but you will find a way to manage it in the weeks, months, and years to come.
A lot of fears and anxieties can make you fear expressing your sympathies to someone who has lost a loved one. It’s really hard to tell what’s the best thing to say to someone hurting.
Here are a few more suggestions on words of sympathy that will help show that you care and that you are thinking of them during this difficult time.
Helpful Words of Sympathy
I wish there was a way that I can remove the pain that you’re feeling right now. But all I can do is be here for you and let you know that you are not alone.
He was someone truly admired and respected. He had a way touching people’s hearts by his kind words and deeds. He was the kind of man who will get out of his car in the middle of morning traffic to help a stranded kitten or help an old lady cross the road. He was very special, and he will truly be missed.
Don’t worry about the house or the kids. I’m looking after them right now, and the house is fine. Please take all the time you need. We’ll be here when you get back.
I know that it’s the last thing on your mind right now, but I’ve made you something in the kitchen. Please eat something, even if it’s just a sandwich. It will make you feel less lightheaded.
There’s nothing that I can do or say that can take the pain away. But please know my whole family and myself are here for you if you ever need anything. Anything at all.
I’m truly very sorry about your loss. I am heartbroken. I know how much you loved her. I’m thinking about you in this very difficult period.
I heard about what happened. My heart breaks for you and your family. She was an incredible woman. We will all miss her.
I can’t imagine what it must feel like for you right now. Please let us know if there’s anything we can do for you or your family. You are in our thoughts and prayers.
How are you coping? If you ever feel the need to talk or get away for a few minutes, or if you just want to sit in silence while someone holds your hand, I’m right here.
She was a lovely woman who made everyone feel right at home. I remember the many times she was there for me. There’s no one quite like her and I’m going to miss her very much. You are so blessed to have shared a life with her.
I’m thinking of you and all the loved ones he left behind. Please know that we are here for you and we are joining you in your time of grief and sadness.
I’m heartbroken at the news. I cannot imagine the pain that you are going through right now. I’m very sorry.
I don’t know what to say that will make the pain go away. But I’m right here if you ever need a hug or someone to sit beside you. I will be with you through it all.
I run this blog to bring light and joy to people across the world. When I am not coming up with new wishes and quotes I enjoy walking my dog with my husband Max and I also sing in our local gospel choir. If you like my website the best compliment you can give me is to share it with your friends and family. Thanks so much for reading, sharing, tweeting and pinning all my work! Susan xx