Do you know what you should and shouldn't say?
When offering condolences, there are plenty of things not to say to a grieving person; finding the right words can be harder. A risk we take is to be well-intentioned but our words come out misguided, suggesting to the bereaved person that there’s a “right” way to grieve. (There isn’t.)
Today we explore part two of this series, last week we looked at 10 Things to Never Say to a Grieving Person.
Here Are 10 Helpful Phrases to Say to a Grieving Person
- “I’m so sorry for your loss.” It’s short, sweet, heartfelt, and always welcomed.
- “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.
- “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).
- “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.”
- “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.
- “I don’t know what to say.” Admitting you’re tongue-tied about offering condolences is better than falling back on a platitude.
- “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” Candor when you give condolence beats comparing the death with your own stories of loss.
- “Would you like to talk about it? I’m listening.” Provide a gentle opening for the person to share turbulent emotions, if desired.
- “How are you feeling — really?” A more pointed invitation to unload may be welcomed by some; just don’t press.
- “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, or some basic groceries the next time 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.
The previous suggestions offered kindness and compassion. However, there is one thing I would like you to keep in mind, sometimes you don’t have to say anything at all; when it comes to condolences, a hug is often worth a thousand words.