When someone close to you loses someone they love, whether it’s a relative, friend, partner or colleague from work, you want to show you care. However, it can be hard to know what to say. Whether it’s because you’re worried you are going to say something that will trigger emotions or say something that sounds too general and not expressive enough.
Most grieving people would tell you though, as long as you are not going to say anything mean or unkind, it’s better to say something rather than nothing at all. Often, people remember the things that people said to them closer to the time of their loved one dying, after the haze of bereavement has passed somewhat. If you are concerned about putting your foot in it or making the person experiencing grief feel even worse, we’ve put together a helpful list of what to say when offering condolences.
Remember the aim of offering condolences and sympathy for the bereaved is to show concern and compassion. It’s often a good tact to either tell them how much you will miss the deceased or share a personal memory of them, something happy.
Although it may not sound like the most helpful thing in the world to say, the fact you are letting them know you understand they are in emotional pain right now, may help them to realise they are not alone and stop them from becoming too isolated.
You are reminding them, after all, that you care about them enough that they personally and what they are going through are a matter of your thoughts.
Okay, so this has become somewhat cliched over the course of time. That doesn’t take away from the fact that this is simplest and direct way to communicate the empathy you feel for the bereaved. If you really can’t think of anything else to say, this is the best way to let them know you care.
You may not feel comfortable saying this because you are worried that you are making it all about you. For a person grieving though, that is not how this comes across. It’s a reminder that the person they are grieving over was loved and cherished by many people. Knowing that their grief is shared by others can help them to feel less isolated and alone.
Again, this is something that a lot of people seem to say, right? Sometimes it can come across as ungenuine. However, it can be a nice reminder that they were not the only person who thought the person who died was special and is worth grieving over. It’s also a good reminder to the person grieving that it is a sad thing and they should feel sad about it.
The time around death, especially in those immediate days, weeks and months can be especially taxing and stressful for those grieving. It can be reassuring to them knowing you are not going to abandon them and are willing to support on their terms. Plus, showing interest in the person they’ve lost is a big sign that you really care about them and are interested in them.
Another cliché, to some extent, but never dismiss the power those three words, with the right meaning, context and motivation behind them, can have. Especially when someone has experienced loss. Grief is incredibly effective at making people feel alone and isolated. By reminding that person, even if you’ve told them it a thousand times in the past, that you love them, can be all they need to remember they’re not alone.
You don’t need to have the wisdom of Solomon when expressing condolences. You don’t need to say anything big and grandiose. Rather, when wondering what to say when offering condolences, you should think about the above statements and speak to the person from the heart.