When offering condolences, there are plenty of things not to say to a grieving person; finding the right words can be harder. The following suggestions offer kindness and compassion. And sometimes you don't have to say anything at all; when it comes to condolences, a hug is often worth a thousand words.
1. "I'm so sorry for your loss." It's short, sweet, heartfelt, and always welcomed.
2. "Please know that I'm here for you." It never hurts to remind someone in pain of your friendship, no matter how close you are.
3. "You're in my thoughts and prayers." Even people who aren't religious are unlikely to be offended if they know you're sincere (or leave off the "prayers" if you think they might be).
4. "Remember you can call me at any hour." Alternately, be specific: "You know I'm always up till midnight." Or, "It's never too early in the morning to call."
5. "She was such a wonderful person." Don't worry that you'll make the bereaved person think about the loved one by bringing up positive reminisces; you can rest assured he or she is always in mind already.
6. "I don't know what to say." Admitting you're tongue-tied about offering condolences is better than falling back on a platitude.
7. "I can't imagine what you're going through." Candor when you give condolence beats comparing the death with your own stories of loss.
8. "Would you like to talk about it? I'm listening." Provide a gentle opening for the person to share turbulent emotions, if desired.
9. "How are you feeling -- really?" A more pointed invitation to unload may be welcomed by some; just don't press.
10. "I've brought you a meal to eat or freeze; it's in disposable containers so you don't have to return anything." Better than asking, "How can I help?" is to step in with concrete help: bringing a meal, a quart of milk, a carton of eggs picked up when you do your own grocery shopping; or showing up to mow the lawn. Offering condolences is an act of kindness; actionable acts of kindness give both condolence and practical support.