What Should You Say To Help Someone Who Is Grieving A Loved One?

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated March 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Bereavement, the process of grieving a loved one that dies, can cause unexpected changes and emotions to arise. When someone you love is experiencing bereavement, finding the right words to comfort them can be difficult. Even with positive intentions, you might worry that your words will make a grieving friend feel worse.  

In approaching these situations, it may be helpful to aim for thoughtful and sensitive language and be cautious of overstepping boundaries. Having a few ideas on how to offer words of support may also help you avoid awkward or uncomfortable conversations when someone dies.

Understand and navigate the complexities of grief

Words for a grieving person

Below are a few phrases you might consider saying to a person grieving the loss of their loved one. These statements recognize the seriousness of the loss and the impact that it can have on the bereaved person. Even if you haven't felt the heartache of missing a loved one yourself, there may be ways to be present for someone who has.

Note that each person grieves differently, so what helps one person might not help another. It may also be helpful to ask what someone needs if you are unsure or don’t know what to say in a certain situation. 

Offer empathy 

There are a few ways to offer empathy after a loss. Some statements you can try that aren't "I'm sorry for your loss" include the following: 

  • "I can't imagine what you're experiencing right now."
  • "My heart goes out to you and your family."
  • "I am sending love your way." 
  • "I'm thinking of you." 
  • “You and your family are in my prayers”
  • "I empathize with your loss." 
  • "I'm so sad to hear that this happened. Can I support you in any way?"
  • "They were such a good person; I'm sending empathy your way." 

These statements may let them know that you acknowledge the situation and have heard their feelings. Some people might not be looking for more than knowing that friends are thinking about them and have their best interests in mind. However, even if they don't want to talk at the moment, they might be ready to in the future. Letting them know you are available can be a way to show sympathy.

Ask if there is anything you can do to help

Immediately after a loss, some people try to inject themselves into a person's situation, in an attempt to show bereavement support. However, many people are still trying to process their feelings and emotions and may not know how to respond. Try to accept this, and instead, offer a helping hand and let them know that you are there for them whenever they’re ready to express themselves.

Consider letting this individual know they can reach you any time over a phone call, text, email, or social media message, you’re always there to listen to their needs. If your loved one is isolated and you're worried about them, you might offer specific support. Some grieving people may struggle to find ways you can help, so try to offer a suggestion they can understand. For example, you could say: 

  • "Would it be alright if I pre-made some dinners and brought them over this week?" 
  • "Would it help you if I walked your dog this weekend?" 
  • "My house has a spare room if you need a place to stay while you process this." 
  • "My spouse has a cleaning company and would love to help you clean for free." 
  • "My children have been wanting to check out a local park. Would your kids like to go with them this week?" 
  • "Would it help you if I assisted you in making an appointment with a grief counselor or drove you to a supprt center for grief groups?"

Asking direct questions may help take the pressure off the individual while offering them the chance to say "no" if needed. 


Offer positive statements about their loved one

Even if you didn't personally know the deceased person that your friend, family member, or significant other is grieving, consider mentioning how they've made a positive impact on the world and people around them.

They may have been a loving friend, parent, or sibling to the people in their life—and you can recognize this while speaking to them. If you have a favorite memory with them, it may be a great time to share it. Perhaps the person was an excellent cook and was the life of the party at family get-togethers. Maybe they had an impeccable sense of humor that put a smile on everyone's faces. Even though the individual is gone, and it may be hard to cope right now, favorite memories like these may be helpful in a moment of grief. 

Potential ideas

You might also add that their relationship with those around them will be cherished, and their qualities will be missed. Reminding someone that the person they're grieving was appreciated and will be missed might be beneficial. As the saying goes, “time heals all wounds,” but if the person finds these memories make them feel worse at first, consider evading the subject until they're ready to discuss it to avoid saying the wrong thing. 

Write a sympathy card

While the above suggestions can be effective ways to show support to someone whose life has turned upside down, it can be difficult for many people to speak face-to-face with someone who is grieving. They might experience a loss of words, or the person may not be someone close enough to them that they spend time together. In these cases, a sympathy card might offer a sense of support. 

With a sympathy card, you can take the time to think about what you'd like to say and write a longer and more thoughtful message. Once you have written your thoughts, send them to their address or deliver them personally at a viewing, memorial, or funeral. A person receiving many memorial cards may feel that people are thinking of them, which could help them feel less alone. 

Statements to avoid after someone experiences loss

It may be beneficial to note some statements that could be seen as unhelpful during someone's grieving process. Although each person is different, some statements could come across as invalidating or assuming. Although you may have positive intentions in trying to "fix" someone's situation or offer relief, consider whether the situation calls for validation or a solution. Often, there are no easy solutions to immediate grief, and it's a process that people may benefit from passing through instead of ignoring. 

“They are in a better place now”

While this phrase can have pure intentions behind it, it may reinforce the idea that the person is gone and won't come back. It may not provide constructive results aside from letting them know that their friend or family member has gone, which they may already know. In addition, some people don't believe in an afterlife, which may go against their beliefs.  

“They lived a long life”

While it can seem harmless, this phrase may not be helpful. A person's lifespan isn't a competition, and it can be vital not to undermine the death by stating that their death at least occurred later in life, as opposed to an early one. It may appear insensitive to someone who feels profound pain after their loss. 

“It was their time”

Even if a person was terminally ill, telling someone their loved one's death was on a timeline can be perceived as rude. It may also be harmful to involve religion in this statement if the deceased or their loved ones were non-religious. Try to avoid mentioning God, heaven, or an afterlife if you don't know whether the person is receptive to this. In addition, death can be painful regardless of whether it is expected. 

“You can always try for another baby”

Some parents experience the loss of a young child, whether due to a miscarriage, illness, accident, or another challenge. Not everyone understands or relates to nurturing and bonding with babies during pregnancy. However, it can be incredibly significant and heartbreaking for the individual, regardless of when the baby was lost. Try not to tell the person that they can try for another baby. If they experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth, research how these experiences can be traumatic and difficult for a parent before offering support. 

"It'll get better soon"

People may cope with loss on their own terms, and there is no set time frame in which someone gets over a loved one who has passed away. Depending on how close they were to their loved one who passed, some continue to grieve for many years. However, there are ways people move forward and through their grief when they're ready. Try not to assume that grief "should be" a quick, linear process or insinuate that someone is grieving for too long, even if you've experienced a shorter grieving process in your life. 

"Be strong"

Telling people to stay strong might seem innocent. However, vulnerability may be essential if a person loses a loved one. If someone uses "be strong" to ask a grieving person not to feel their emotions, they might gain messages that their grief isn't valid and that their emotions should be kept inside. As suppressing emotions is associated with poor physical and emotional health, this type of advice may not be helpful. 

“At least it wasn’t worse”

Telling someone their friend or family member's death wasn't as bad as other people's deaths could cause them to feel invalidated and upset. For example, if you've lost a parent and tell someone who lost their grandparent that their grief isn't "as bad," it may make them feel alienated and hurt. Grief can be powerful and painful, regardless of whether the loss was expected during old age or an extended family member or friend. Grief can also be associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for some people when complicated grief develops. 

Understand and navigate the complexities of grief

Counseling options after losing such a good person 

Grief is a common human experience, but it can be painful and challenging to navigate alone. Many people who experience a death in the family or the loss of a person close to them choose to turn to therapy to address their emotions and find coping strategies. Since grief can involve significant changes, isolation, and difficulty caring for oneself, online therapy may be helpful for those who don't want to leave home to receive mental healthcare. 

Online options for support

Through an online counseling platform like BetterHelp, grieving individuals can reach out for support through phone calls, video chats, or in-app messaging. Counselors often have the knowledge, expertise, and skill set to help people cope with the death of a friend or family member and make the process more seamless for those struggling.

Online counseling can also be effective for various mental health challenges and life stressors. In one study, researchers explored the effectiveness and feasibility of an internet-based intervention for treating grief after bereavement. They found that the intervention successfully reduced symptoms of grief and depression and, in some cases, improved post-traumatic stress symptoms. Additionally, participants reported high satisfaction with their treatment. 


Each grieving person reacts to loss differently. However, you may be able to find ways to be there for them, and knowing what to say when someone loses a loved one could be important. You may be a part of their healing process by attempting to be thoughtful and allowing them to reach out to you in specific ways. 

Since loved ones may not be trained to deliver mental healthcare, those experiencing prolonged or complex grief can consider contacting a professional for support. Regardless of the circumstances of your loss, you're not alone, and many compassionate grief specialists are available to support you.

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