Offering Condolences

10 Helpful Things to Say to a Grieving Person
consoling

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.


7 days ago, said...

This last spring my older brother, my twin sister and I were at our second sister’s memorial service. My twin was standing at my side and quietly said to me, “I don’t have any more sisters.” That took me back a little. I thought about that for a few seconds. Our oldest sister had passed away several years before. I put my arm around her shoulders and with a little hug, said “Your brother and I still have a very dear one.” …I was lucky that day. During a time of grief displayed by a friend or loved one, I have racked my brain and searched my heart trying to come up with some words of condolence. …I’ve never found any to answer my desire nor anything that will match a heartfelt hug. …I’m not sure we need to do better.


18 days ago, said...

I agree and disagree with things on both lists. After the death of a loved one you won't forget the wonderful gestures or the odd comments. Most people in the south do say, "I'm so sorry for your loss." The reply back is usually "Thank you." When my friend's father died I witnessed this comment being said to her mother. The look on her face taught me to be aware of NOT saying that phrase. The other phrase......"At least he/she is not suffering anymore." It's such a crass thing to say. My husband died 5 years ago 12 hours after outpatient surgery. I want whoever is reading this to take note about the drug Plavix. The doctor who performed his surgery had my husband stop taking this drug for longer than 20 days! Plavix is a blood thinner. When I went to bed my husband asked me to get his nitro glycerin from his pants pocket. I did. He spilled a few on the blanket. He handed the metal vial back to me and I returned it back to his pants, walked around the bed and got in and turned off the lamp. I hear a guttural sound.....turned the lamp on realising he was in distress. At 1:00 a.m. no one wants to do CPR on their spouse. He was dead......that quickly. The woman on the phone (after calling 911) stayed with me telling me what to do. Does anyone know that you shouldn't breathe into the patient's mouth anymore?. You should count to about 61 doing chest compressions until help arrives. Then start again counting up to 61.. I know this is a long "essay" but I wanted to mention a few unforgettable. After his death my siblings and their spouses came to the hospital and back to the house. I was crying and taken a xanax. My husband was a truly beloved teacher and human being. I said I just couldn't go through with whole funeral thing. One of my sister's-in-law simply said, "A, it's your call." That's all I needed to hear. So...a private burial and few weeks later a memorial visitation. The other thing I want to mention is the supremely thoughtful condolence from a long-time friend and co-worker of my husband. She sent me a sympathy card with a $100 check in it. I will never forget that. That wonderful lady just had her 100th birthday.


5 months ago, said...

Grieving is not predictable. But I beleive it is proportion to the amout of love you felt for the person. For children this is not even measurable and there for must be accessed by the parents via what they see and hear. The more we can get them to talk the better.


over 1 year ago, said...

Can you say my condolence to the family of some one sick and in the hospital? or you use this word only for death situation?


over 1 year ago, said...

Our daughter died at age 43, it's been five years since she died. My wife seems to be handling this much better than I. In my mind it seems she has been gone only a few weeks. Some days I have to go away and cry. I still have to be wary of talking about her in public or will begin to cry. The mind is strange when it comes to accepting the loss of a child.


almost 2 years ago, said...

Wow! I really appreciated reading the 10 Things Never to Say to a Grieving Person, and 10 Helpful Things so Say to a Grieving Person! My Mom died 14 months ago, & I sure heard a lot of the "Nots" and didn't appreciate them much. But the "Helpful Things" were greatly appreciated. It helped me to be more considerate to others from now on. I hope I haven't done too many of the "Nots" in the past. I won't from now on. People would say Mom was better off and not in pain anymore etc., trying to be comforting, but in my mind I kept screaming, "But what about me? I know she's ok, but I am the one that is Hurting, with a hole in her heart." I don't know what they could have done anyway that would have really helped ease that hurt. Acts of kindness helped a lot. Talking about memories, especially funny stories, cheered me up & made my heart feel warm. I hope we all are more sensitive to others who are grieving. I know my Faith and Religious Beliefs are what kept me strong & what helped me travel through it all. That, & prayers for strength & comfort, and my family, but they were grieving as much as I was.


about 2 years ago, said...

Words are difficult for me and finding the right ones to say at my dear friend's hour of grief can be awkward. The best thing I can do is simply DO. Clean up, help put food away, find a warm blanket for my friend in tears. Doing says a whole lot more than words and I think is remembered above all the noise and efforts to show empathy. Do not EVER leave the person or family with a mess. They have so much to sort out, the last thing needed is to stress over a sink of dirty dishes, uneaten food, cigarette butts in the plants, wadded up paper towels and napkins left on the floor or unfinished drink glasses staining the piano. Just do it.


over 2 years ago, said...

Great piece of advise in a vey difficult situation.


almost 3 years ago, said...

Thank you.


almost 3 years ago, said...

I lost my husband suddenly , unexpected .Motorcycle accident .Six weeks later my precious brother died unexpected and three months later my other brother passed unexpected .I couldn't absorb the pain ,I was in shock But one thing I heard over and over was "He died doing what he loved, he died happy , It was fast " .He didn't die happy and he s not riding a Harley in heaven with my brothers on the back of it .If I can do anything to help you ,just let me know. Well evidently this is only a myth. Soon as the service is over ,you're on your own until the wills are read anyway. If you truly want to help someone at a time like this ,don't ask what you can do . Look around perhaps the lawn needs mowing ,the house needs dusting and all the paper plates that have accumulated needs to be disposed of .A person who is grieving doesn't think about the upkeep of the home at this time ,believe me I know the feeling of loss of a loved one and I also know the disappointment that follows when you are alone and all is gone. Where are the do gooders that would do anything to help out .So remember when the service is over the food has been devoured ,there is a lonely soul left alone . The need and hurt doesn't go away when the casket is closed and you go home to your life .A visit , a call just to say I'm still here for you.


almost 3 years ago, said...

I hate the phrase "so sorry for your loss." The person isn't lost-he/she is dead. It sounds so insincere. I want to scream every time I hear it.


almost 3 years ago, said...

Very good and helpful


almost 3 years ago, said...

I increased my knowledge of how to console folks who are grieving by reading these suggestions. Thanks so much.


almost 3 years ago, said...

I always offer help. I am glad it is one of the correct things to say.


about 3 years ago, said...

My son died 6 years ago, at the age of 40, of a sudden heart attack. I was in shock, of course. One thing I learned was that, no matter what anyone said to me, it was OK. It was the best they could do at the time--no one tried to be cruel or hurt me in any way. I was so grateful for the presence of all those wonderful people who took the time to come and stand beside me and my husband and daughters in our time of great sorrow. The fact is, no one knows what to say at a wake -- but people show up, and that is the greatest gift. I am so thankful to everyone who held me up when I felt like just falling over -- any words were words of support, even if some of them were not perfect.


about 3 years ago, said...

I cringe at "thoughts and prayers" - it is so cliche and almost more thought-less. It is just too easy and not heartfelt to me. I would rather just hear, "I'm sorry". Thoughts and prayers is so over-used that it has lost its significance and I would rather not hear it at all.


about 3 years ago, said...

its good to know what is a kind thing to say i tend to put both feet in my mouth at the wrong time. thanks for the help. H


over 3 years ago, said...

When my mom died in October 2003, she died on my birthday, at the wake some sent a large black jack floral display and it was very nice. Another person who came in to pay their respects asked me if my mother had a gambling problem! She and my dad like to play blackjack, but didn't have gambling problems.


over 3 years ago, said...

'Love is never lost.' An old English friend mentioned this to me 60 years ago, after my grandfather died. I have always thought it beautiful and true.


over 3 years ago, said...

dealing with situations.


over 3 years ago, said...

For me, the appropriate way to show your condolence for a death is to express your self that you are concerned and considerate fo your feelings. That is warming based from my experience. You should know his or her loss and to show that deeply understand it which is very essential. Talking helping her out and even pay a visit to the funeral is also great. It is also good to send a card if you are far away to express your condolence words.