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How To Express Condolences For The Loss Of A Loved One

When your friend or family member loses someone, what can you do to support them?

Posted on March 16, 2022 by Chris Cambridge
Expressing condolences

How do you find the right words to express your sympathy for someone’s loss? When someone you care about is grieving, you might feel helpless.

Nothing you can do will take their pain away. What you can do is help them manage it by offering your condolences and support during what may be the most difficult time of their lives.

In times like these, actions can be more powerful than words. We’ve put together a few ways that you can support a loved one while they grieve:

Spend Time Together

Sometimes, the hardest part of losing someone is feeling alone. If your loved one lost a partner, a parent, or a child, they might have spent a considerable amount of time with that person. Being alone is a painful reminder of their loss.

The company of another person is so valuable during the grieving process. Offer to visit your loved one whenever possible. Make it clear that they aren’t “hosting” your visit in any way. You can simply bring a book and read together, watch TV, or listen to music.

Offer Your Help

If your loved one has been named the executor of someone’s will, they’ve got a lot of paperwork to do. Try to see if there’s any way you can ease their burden. For example, you might help them compare the costs of cremation services and burials.

Oftentimes, cleaning and cooking are the first things that fall to the wayside when we’re grieving. You can offer your help by taking care of their housework. Ease your loved one’s burden by:

  • Bringing by a home-cooked meal or take-out
  • Buying their groceries
  • Washing their dishes
  • Walking their dog or changing their cat litter
  • Driving their kids to and from school

Check In

Check in on how they’re doing. After a loss, your loved one might get plenty of phone calls. But in the weeks that follow, people may forget that the person is still grieving. 10-20% of grievers experience complicated grief, which persists for months after a loss.

These phone calls don’t need to be long. You can simply check in on how your friend or family member is doing, talk about your day, and end it there. They might not feel up for talking, but they will appreciate that you checked in on them.

If they prefer to text, you can send them regular messages. Texting gives them the freedom to respond when they’re ready. Even if they don’t reply, they will be grateful for your concern.

Calling friend to express condolences

Listen

Our words can’t heal the pain of losing someone dear to us, whether that’s a sibling, a partner, or a parent. Instead of trying to make things better by finding the right words, consider letting your loved one talk instead.

When they feel ready, you can ask them questions about the person they lost. What was their life like growing up? If they lost a friend or partner, how did they first meet? What are some of their favorite memories together? It may bring them some peace to reminisce about happier times. Let them do the talking and listen attentively and with respect.

If the topic becomes too upsetting to speak of, you can try to change the subject. Otherwise, let the conversation go on as long as they need it to. Talking about fond memories might help them heal.

Write a Letter

There’s something so sincere about a handwritten letter; it’s more personal than a store-bought card or a Facebook message. In a letter, you can express your deepest condolences to your grieving friend or family member.

Once you start writing, you might realize that you’re not sure what to say. It can be hard to find the right words. To help get you started, consider writing the following phrases:

  • “I love you, and I’m here for you.”
  • “[Name of the deceased] lived an incredible and beautiful life. I feel privileged to have known them.”
  • “I am so sorry for your loss. [Name] will always be missed.”

In your letter, there are a few phrases you should try to refrain from using. To help you navigate the writing process, we’ve compiled these phrases that you might want to avoid:

  • “I know exactly what you’re going through.” Every loss is unique. Rather than stating that you have dealt with a loss of your own, consider writing about how feeling grief is difficult and that you will be there for your loved one.
  • “Your pain will pass soon enough.” Grieving can take months or years. This phrase may put pressure on someone to recover quickly.
  • “How are you doing?” Even though this question is entirely well-meaning, the response of someone who is grieving will probably be, “I’m not well.” Instead, write about ways you plan to support them.

Losing someone is always painful, whether it’s at the end of a long illness or an unexpected loss. For each person, grief is a unique experience; we all process it in our own ways. We hope the above suggestions help you when supporting someone you love.

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