When someone close to you experiences a loss, it can be hard to know what to say. You can see that your friend or coworker is hurting, and you want to express your sympathy in a graceful way. Finding the words to tell someone that you care and that you want to be there for them in their time of hurting is a struggle for many people. We worry about saying the wrong thing or that what we say won't mean very much during someone's time of need. Remember, even simply being there to listen to your hurting friend can be a great gift.
This phrase is straightforward to use at any time. You acknowledge that your friend or acquaintance has lost someone dear to them, and you're offering shared sympathy. Telling someone that you're sorry for their loss is a simple way to share your sympathy when you aren't sure what else to say. "I'm sorry for your loss" also helps open a conversation about the positive things that the deceased brought to your friend's life. Perhaps she was a loving aunt, or he was a supportive father. You might say something like, "I'm sorry for your loss. I know that your aunt meant a lot to you and your family."
When a friend experiences the loss of someone close to them, they might feel as though no one cares, or that life is moving by without pausing. Letting your friend know that you're keeping them in your thoughts and prayers helps them feel as though they aren't alone. It reminds them that caring friends surround them. This phrase can also segue into an offer to be a listening ear, such as "Your family is in my thoughts and prayers. Would you like to tell me more about your aunt? I'd love to hear your favorite memory of her."
If you, too, knew the deceased, then sharing how much you liked them with your friend helps to show that you care, and reminds your friend of how many people were touched by the deceased. You might have an especially fond memory of this person, and using this phrase, you can share your favorite memory with your friend. Saying something like, "She was a wonderful person. I always remember how much she loved baking treats for her family to show you how much she loved you." Make sure that your words are heartfelt and sincere - try to find something positive and special about the deceased.
Sharing your condolences can also mean sharing the understanding that your friend is experiencing a rough loss and going through a lot of emotional stress at this time. Although it can be tempting to try to cheer someone up who is grieving, saying things like "I hope you feel better soon" or "Time will make things better" doesn't show respect for the pain that your friend is experiencing now. Instead, by admitting that you understand their loss and grief, you can actually console your friend better. They will know that they aren't alone in their feelings of sadness and shock. There's also the gift you can give of allowing your friend to fully feel their loss, without having to pretend that they are okay.
If you're close enough to your friend, or if you've experienced the loss with a family member, then reminding them that you love them and that you care can help ease the pain of their loss. In fact, knowing that they are loved by others, in addition to the recently deceased, can help the grieving people feel supported. Grief can leave people feeling isolated and bereft - by telling your hurting friend or family member how much you care, you're showing them that they are not alone during this painful time.
If you didn't know the deceased, or if you aren't especially close to the person who's recently lost someone, expressing your condolences, from a place of sincerity, can acknowledge their pain while not seeming artificial. Your friend likely knows how well you knew the deceased - if you've never met them, for example, then saying "They were such a wonderful person" can come off as fake, and may actually make your friend feel worse. Instead, focus on properly addressing your friend's loss. For example, "Please accept my heartfelt condolences. It is never easy losing a parent, and your family is in my thoughts during this time of your loss." This addresses the pain your friend is feeling without false emotion.
Your grieving friend may have difficulty getting through their daily life. Things like helping with grocery shopping, light housekeeping, or taking children to school and activities are small things that you can do to ease some of the burdens of your friend. When you tell someone that you are sorry for their loss, following it up with "Please let me know how I can help" is another way to show that you care. There are specific things that grieving people typically need. A listening ear and the gift of your time to simply give your friend company are valuable and can help with some of the feelings of sadness and loss. Other tasks, such as organizing funeral services, finding accommodations for out of town mourners, or even providing meals for the family are other ways that you can be there for your friend.
If you knew the deceased, it's very acceptable to tell their friends and family that you, to, are saddened by the loss. Your relationship with the deceased might not be as close as your friend or loved ones, but that doesn't mean that you, too, aren't hurt and sad to lose them. In fact, shared grief can be very helpful to your friend that's experiencing the loss of a loved one. Although you might feel uncomfortable telling your grieving friend that you are sad, sharing your authentic feelings can help them realize that they aren't alone. Grief can be isolating, and when you're able to express your own hurt, it can let your friend know that they are not alone.
Some people choose to experience their grief by sharing their memories of the deceased. These can include situations like a wake, where friends and family gather to share their favorite stories and happy memories of time spent with the departed person. Other times, your friend might just like to keep the memory of their loved one alive by talking about them. If you feel close enough to your friend, you can say something like "I would love to hear some stories and memories about your aunt when you would like to share."
If appropriate, express your sympathy by acknowledging your friend's belief in the afterlife. Many people are spiritual, and even though they've lost a loved one in their life, they can rest easy knowing that the deceased is in a better place. When you take the time to respect your friend's beliefs, you are showing them that you care about their loss and that you are offering them words of encouragement.