What to Say to Someone When a Death Occurs
Choosing what to say to someone when a death occurs can be uncomfortable and challenging. While we want to express our condolences, we are also anxious of saying the wrong things. After all, when someone experiences the death of a loved one, they might be overwhelmed with emotions and grief, which can result in different reactions to our words. Often, the most comforting things are not in the forms of words but the generosity of our presence.
Other things like attending the funeral or memorial service, visiting the family, and calling, are all supporting ways to show someone they are not alone in their sorrow. However, knowing what to say when someone dies can also help us avoid uncomfortable moments at funerals and burials.
Finding the Right Words
Some people ramble when they are nervous, so try your best to concentrate on keeping the conversation brief and meaningful. Finding the right words means being genuinely honest, comforting, and able to show sympathy for their loss in as few words as possible.
As you think about what you are going to say, remember:
- Be specific
- Be empathetic
- Express your sadness
- Speak from your heart
- Allow yourself to be upset
Comforting Things You Can Say
If you ever find yourself at a loss for words for the bereaved, be assured you are not alone. Most people find this to be an uncomfortable situation. Think before you speak to make sure you do not say something you will regret later. Regardless of what you choose to say, you want to make sure to:
- Offer your genuine support and companionship
- Share memories and mention the name of the person who passed away
Also, you also want to remember that your support matters. If you do not get the chance to speak to any of the grieving family members during the funeral, take some time to leave a sympathy message on the funeral guestbook, or send a sympathy card after the funeral. Both ways, your condolences will get across to the family, and they will sincerely appreciate your support.
Other comforting things you can say:
- “There are no words to express how sorry I am. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.”
- “My favorite memory of [name] is…”
- “I am so sad to hear about your loss. If you need anything or you need to talk, please don’t hesitate to call me.”
- “[Name] brought so much joy to everyone around him/her. He/she will be missed by so many.”
- “Please know that I am thinking about you and I am praying for your comfort.”
- “I cannot express how my heart aches for you. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.”
- “I am truly sorry for your loss.”
- “I cannot imagine how you feel, but please know I am here to help in any way I can.”
- “I wish I had the right words. Please know I care for you and your family.”
- “[Name] was such a generous person. We will all miss him/her. However, his/her legacy will live on through all the great work he/she did.”
These are things you can say to someone during or after the funeral. You can also use them in sympathy cards. For more things to say to express your condolences or to write in sympathy cards, visit: 15 Best Sympathy Quotes for Passings.
What Not to Say to the Grieving
While finding what to say when someone dies is challenging, knowing what not to say to the grieving family is even more challenging. Of course, when you are offering your condolences and support the last thing you would want to do is offend someone; or even worse, offend the legacy of their loved one. When you are expressing your condolences, make sure to:
- Do not say “I understand” or compare their loss to yours
- Do not begin any sentence with “well, at least…”
- Avoid offering certain religious condolences
Some words are better left unsaid. Although it is easy to say inappropriate things when you are stressed or nervous, what you say can upset those grieving. Remember that any loss is painful, regardless of the circumstances. The last thing you want to do is diminish someone’s pain or loss.
Some things to avoid saying:
- “At least his/her death was not sudden.”
- “Everything happens for a reason.”
- “I believe she/he is in a better place.”
- “Hang in there. Everything will be okay.”
- “It was God’s will.”
- “I understand what you are feeling.”
- “You will feel better when you…”
- “You have to stay strong for…”
- “It was his/her time to go.”
- “We all saw this coming.”
What Else Can You Do?
When someone dies, your words will mean the world to those grieving. So will your actions, however. Ultimately, offering your sincere sympathy and support during such a difficult time is what matters most. Let them know that you have not forgotten them. Let them know they can count on your support. Consider reaching out to them after the funeral or burial, visit them, keep in touch, help them in the house, and be there for them so they can lean on you in times of struggle. They will much appreciate your support.
Writing Sympathy Letters
When someone experiences a death in the family or the loss of a loved one, writing a sympathy letter or sharing your thoughts on a sympathy card can be greatly appreciated by those grieving. But finding the right words to help comfort someone after they’ve lost a love one is always a difficult endeavor. You have to balance the line between showing heartfelt condolences and trying not to upset them further.
We’re going to share several tips on what you should write in a sympathy letter or card, and we’ll explain why they’re important and sometimes necessary.
6 Tips to Writing a Sympathy Letter or Card
By just taking some time to write a sympathy letter or shopping for a good sympathy card goes a long way in helping someone understand how much you care for them in their time of need. Here are a few tips for writing a sympathy letter that will help you get across what you want tactfully.
Short Letters Do the Job
Don’t be concerned about sharing every memory or listing out all the ways someone touched your life. Remember that it’s more important to be heartfelt and genuine than it is all-encompassing.
This is All About Them, Not You
You don’t want them to feel like they have to console you for your loss – so make sure you let them understand how much they are in your thoughts. “You must be going through so much right now,” is a good way to say you’re thinking about them and their current situation.
Don’t Make Comparisons to Your Life
One of the worst things you can do is to compare their loss to a loss you’ve experienced. Eventually, they might ask for your advice, but saying things like, “I know what it’s like,” and “I know how it feels to lose someone,” is just not helpful at this time. Knowing that every person and every relationship is different, try to say something like, “I can’t imagine what they’re going through right now.” You can, however, say something like, “You were there for me when I went through my loss, and I want to be there for you.”
Share a Single Fond Memory
Rather than listing off all the ways your life changed because of this one person, try to just pick out one specific memory that encompasses their love and spirit. Maybe it was something poignant they said to you when you were down. Maybe it was something they praised you for when you were up.
Leave the Drama Behind
If you had some bad experiences with the person that died, now is not the time to acknowledge that. Concentrate your letter on the grieving person and that you are sympathetic with their loss of a loved one.
Offer Specific Help
Don’t just ask them to let you know how you can help – offer specific ways you can help them during their difficult time. Tell them you can pick up their kids from school or let them know you will do some shopping or cooking for them. Think of what they’ll need – and how you can help them.