When a friend’s loved one dies, it can be hard to know what to say.
There isn’t anything you can do to change what’s happened, and any efforts to make your friend feel better may be made in vain.
Still, this is a hard time, and you want to offer condolences.
The death of a loved one is never easy; each person grieves in their unique way. Equally, each person needs moral support.
As a friend, you naturally want your friends to know you are there with them as they’re going through such hard times.
However, sometimes it’s hard to find the right words. You want to say ‘sorry for your loss’, but it doesn’t seem to cut it.
You know that everyone and anyone who meets your friend in the near future will say sorry for your loss, and you worry that the message will lose its meaning.
And how does sorry for your loss sound when someone has just lost a close family member? Or a best friend?
Read on to lean how to say sorry for your loss to a grieving person and provide the support in their time of need.
How to say I’m sorry for your loss (without saying it)
There are many ways to offer condolences to your friend, coworker, or partner without the typical cliché. Check out the alternatives we’ve included below:
How to offer condolences to a friend
I’ve been thinking about you.
A friend’s family member’s death can turn their whole world upside down. Whether their loved one passed suddenly or after some time after being diagnosed with a terminal illness, your friend will be going through a challenging time.
Instead of “sorry for your loss,” let them know you’ve been thinking about them.
It’s a small gesture, but letting them know that you’re keeping them in your thoughts may help them feel less alone and isolated in this trying time.
I see how much pain you’re going through.
Grieving the loss of a loved one is never easy.
Grief is one of the most challenging feelings a person can experience.
When sorry for your loss doesn’t cut it, let your friend or loved one know that you see their pain.
Grief and loss are incredibly lonely experiences, so it’s vital for those going through them to have a compassionate support system around them. Be there as a dependable source of love and support for your friend by helping them acknowledge and validate their pain.
Is there anything I can do to help?
During this trying time, your friend likely has a lot on their mind.
There’s the shock of their loved one’s death, dealing with family members and friends, organizing the funeral, and constantly processing and discovering deep layers of grief.
During that time, you can offer your friend support by asking if there’s anything they need.
Maybe they need you to pick up their kids from school one day? Perhaps they need someone to talk to and vent or cry. Maybe they need you to help keep others away for a few hours while they get some alone time.
You can help in many ways, and since each person grieves differently, there may be specific ways to help your friend that you may not have thought about.
Ask them if there is anything you can do to help, but don’t be afraid to get more specific.
See if they need a specific favor like those mentioned above. They may not be in the clearest state of mind, but they’ll appreciate your asking.
I’m here for you.
When someone we love dies, we need a compassionate support system around us to help us process our grief.
Words of condolence and sympathy messages are great, but they’re just words – how do we help the person grieving?
Being present and compassionate is already a solid show of support.
So, if your friend has recently lost one of their family members or someone close to them, one of the best things you can do to help is to let them know you’re here for them.
If they need a shoulder to cry on, you’re there. If they want to release some emotions like anger or frustration, you’re there for them.
You offer them a space to be themselves with all the ugly and difficult emotions they’re experiencing. You offer them a haven to feel however they feel without judgment or expectation.
How to say sorry for your loss to a coworker
A death in a coworker’s family means they need time to process what happened.
As nice as your boss may be and as enjoyable as your workplace may be, it’s going to be a while before your coworker returns to feeling their best.
In the meantime, there are some simple but heartfelt messages you can offer said coworker to help them feel less alone.
Try the following sentiments and condolence messages to let your coworker know you’re thinking of them.
We all miss you, and we hope to see you soon.
Condolence messages are for the bereaved person, not the deceased.
It could be sweet and kind to mention things about the deceased if you knew them, such as how amazing they were or how you spent some great times together.
However, it’s equally important to focus on the message’s recipient.
As mentioned, your coworker is going through an incredibly tough time, and no one needs to remind them of their loved one’s death – they’re well aware of that.
Instead of talking about the deceased, focus on your message to the recipient. Let them know that you’re thinking about them, that you miss them in the workplace, and that you’re looking forward to their return (in their own time, of course.)
Let me know if you need a friend.
It’s work, and everything is a regular day in the office for everyone except for your grieving coworker.
While other employees go about their day and continue their routines, your coworker is trying to make sense of their loss and find the strength to get through it all.
A simple, short message telling them you care and want to offer friendship during this trying time may be the small pick-me-up your coworker needs to get through another day.
Let me know what you need. I want to help.
Depending on their job, your coworker may have projects and deadlines that must be taken care of while away.
Your boss or manager should oversee the changes and substitutions necessary to let your grieving coworker take the time they need, but that doesn’t mean you can’t lend a helping hand.
When enough time has passed that the death is no longer a shock, but your coworker has not yet returned to work, send a brief text or phone call and ask them if there’s any way you can help concerning work.
How to console a partner or family member
I love you, and I’m here for you.
It can be incredibly difficult to deal with a partner’s loss. Whether it is their friend, one of their family members, or a close colleague, the non-grieving partner must know how to approach this delicate situation carefully.
As a partner, one aspect of your role in your partner’s life is to offer care and support during the hard times.
You may want to fix everything for them because you love them so much, but when a loved one dies, there isn’t anything you can do to change that.
Instead, emphasize to your partner that you love them and that love isn’t going anywhere. It’s right here when they need it.
[The deceased] was such an amazing person. I remember when…
In the immediate aftermath of your partner’s loved one’s death, it’s best not to bring up too many memories right away, even the joyful ones.
However, by mindfully observing your partner’s feelings and emotional state and noticing when the shock of the death has faded, you may be able to help them through this challenging time by speaking fondly of the deceased.
Recall times when that person said something hilarious or made everyone feel happy. Talk about how caring and compassionate they were or times when they demonstrated just how much of an amazing person they were.
I can’t imagine what you’re going through. Is there anything I can do to help?
Again, you can’t fix everything for your partner and can’t bring their loved one back.
Instead of being Mr. Fix-it, ask your partner what they need from you right now.
It may be taking care of the kids for longer than usual, taking on some of their other responsibilities until they feel better, or simply giving them space not to talk.
There are many ways to help a grieving person, and not all are obvious, so it’s best to ask.
Remember that emotions will run high after their loss, so give them space to breathe and process without judgment.
How to write a sympathy card
A sympathy card is a short condolence message for a loved one, coworker, or acquaintance when faced with a loved one’s death.
Of course, a card is a small gesture and won’t do much to change the person’s situation, but sincere condolences and thoughtful messages from those in their life will remind them of how much they’re loved, cared for, and appreciated.
So, if you want to write a sympathy message but are unsure where to begin, check out some of the following prompts and templates below.
If you like, rewrite them in your own words to better fit the situation.
The deceased was such an amazing person; I can’t believe they’ve gone. I feel so grateful that I got the chance to know them.
We were so sorry about [the deceased] ‘s passing—what a wonderful person with a beautiful heart. We’re keeping you in your thoughts and prayers.
There are no words to describe how deeply sorry we are to hear the news. [The deceased] was always a dear friend to us, and we’ll never forget our time together.
I was shocked and upset about [the deceased] ‘s passing. I understand that you’re going through a hard time right now, so go easy on yourself and let me know if there’s any way I can help. Sending love and support.
[The deceased] will be deeply missed. They brought so much joy to everyone they knew, and the world will be a lonelier place without them. Sending our heartfelt condolences during this difficult time.
So sorry to hear that you’re going through such a difficult loss. I offer my deepest sympathy and would like to let you know that I’m only a phone call away if you ever need someone to talk to. I love you.
How NOT to offer condolences
As tricky as it may be to craft the perfect condolence message or offer the ideal support for your grieving friend, it’s just as important to know what not to do or say.
This is an incredibly challenging time for your friend, and their emotions will be through the roof. Consider the following tips to avoid making your friend feel worse than they already do:
- It’s not about you – don’t explain to your friend how difficult the experience is for you. Turn your focus to them.
- Don’t try to fix it – You literally cannot bring that person back. Nor can you feel the grief for your friend, which they must go through. Trying to fix things for your grieving friend is frustrating, so ease up on being the hero and try to tune in to their needs and feelings.
- Be mindful of religious messages – not everyone shares the same belief system as you, and trying to impose your beliefs about God, an afterlife, or souls may strike the wrong chord with your grieving friend. Understand their religious beliefs and, if possible, help them with the relevant sentiment, but go easy on it.
If you’ve ever experienced the death of someone you love, then you know just how upsetting, confusing, and overwhelming that situation can be.
If it’s been some time and you’ve had the time to process that loss and can revisit it now without getting overwhelmed, try to remember what you were going through and keep your friend in mind.
What helped you when you were struggling? Was there something you needed help with but that help wasn’t available? Can you offer that help and support to your friend?
It’s wise to avoid over-relating your own experiences to your friend’s current situation because even though everyone’s loved ones die, each experience of loss and grief is as unique as the relationship one had with the deceased.
Still, if you can remember what was helpful (and not helpful) to you, you can offer better support to your friend.
If you’ve never experienced the loss of a close loved one, you can still help.
You don’t need to understand exactly what your friend is going through; sometimes, it’s better when you don’t.
Just ask your friend what they need, offer them a compassionate ear when they need to talk, and even distract them for a while if that’s what they want.