How To Know What To Say When Someone Is Grieving A Loved One

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated July 27, 2022

Bereavement, or grieving the death of an individual, is never easy. Knowing how you can provide support for a person experiencing these feelings while grieving can be very challenging. Finding the right words can create a sense of worry and anxiety. Even if you have the right intentions, the possibility that you might express the wrong thing may be looming in your mind. In general, in approaching these situations, you should aim for thoughtful and sensitive language, and be cautious of overstepping any boundaries. In this article, you will learn some more specific ideas about what to say to a grieving friend including phrases, the reasoning behind them, and some things not to say.

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Good Things To Say To Them

Below, you will find some appropriate ideas to say to bereaved people so that they know you support them. These statements recognize the loss and the impact that it has on the individual, even if you haven't felt the heartache of missing a loved one. They don’t attempt to fix or change anything but listen to their feelings and make themselves available to discuss more.

Offer Your Condolences

Simply telling someone you know who has lost a loved one and is grieving, “I am deeply sorry for your loss,” is one of the easiest and most effective ways to show your support. This statement lets them know that you are acknowledging the situation and their feelings, and is also incredibly effective when talking to a grieving man.

Many people don’t require anything other than just knowing that people are thinking about them and have their best interests in mind. However, even if they don’t feel like talking much right now, they might want someone to talk to in the future. Letting them know you are available is another excellent way to show sympathy and that you care for their well-being.

Here are some common questions about this situation:

What to say to someone who is grieving a loss?

How do you comfort someone who has lost someone?

What do you say to someone when a family member dies?

How do you text condolences?

What can I say instead of I'm sorry for your loss?

What is the best condolence message to a friend?

Ask If There Is Anything You Can Do To Help

One mistake that people may make is to try to inject themselves into a bereaved person’s situation. Early on, many people are still trying to process their feelings and emotions and may not have a lot to say at the moment, and that’s completely okay. Accept this, and instead, offer a helping hand and let them know that you are there for them when they need it.

Always be sure to let them know that they shouldn’t hesitate to reach out through a phone call, text, email, social media, or whichever way they prefer to communicate. They might not need something right this minute, but you never know if they will need it in the future. Just letting them know that you are available to them can make a difference and help them cope.

Explain What Their Loved One Meant To People

Even if you didn’t personally know the deceased individual that your friend, family member, or significant other is grieving, it is a good gesture to briefly mention that they had made a positive impact on the people around them.

They may have been a good mother, father, brother, sister, friend, or anything, and their relationship with those around them will be cherished, and their wonderful qualities as a person will be missed. Don’t be alarmed if this makes them sad or cry, because reminding them the person was loved and will be missed will mean a lot to the person that you are trying to comfort in the long run.

Share Your Memories

If you happen to have known the individual who has passed away, another thoughtful idea is to talk about some of the fond memories that you’ve shared.

Perhaps the loved one was an excellent cook and was the life of the party at some of the 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, memories like these will live on forever. Hopefully, your friend or family member will be able to recall them and appreciate the good times they had when they were here.

Write A Sympathy Card

While the above suggestions are simple and effective ways to show support to someone who has lost a loved one, it can also be difficult for many people to speak face-to-face about it due to a loss for words, or they might be unable to reach them directly. In these cases, a sympathy card can also be a viable option.

With a sympathy card, you can take the time to think and write a longer and more thoughtful message than what can be done verbally. Once you have written your thoughts down, you can send them to their address or deliver them personally at a viewing, memorial, or funeral.

Statements To Avoid Saying

What’s arguably more important than trying to figure out what to say to a loved one is knowing what not to say to them. Unhelpful statements may involve rationalizing why the death happened, but they can also include fixing the issue or their discomfort. Below you will find some examples of things not to say to someone who is grieving.

“They Are In A Better Place Now”

While this phrase can have good intentions behind it, especially if the person’s loved one was suffering and in pain, it only reinforces the idea that they are gone and never coming back, all in all, it doesn’t provide anything constructive aside from letting them know that their loved one isn’t suffering anymore.

“They Lived A Long and Full Life”

Similar to the previous statement, while it can seem harmless, it isn’t completely helpful. However, it can potentially be made worse when statements like “some people never reach that age and die young” are used. A person’s lifespan isn’t a competition, and you should never compare them to others, and it can appear insensitive if you do.

“It Was Their Time To Go”

Even if a person was terminally ill, telling someone that their loved one’s death was on a timeline can be perceived as rude. This is especially true if religion gets involved, and both your friend or family member, as well as the deceased, were non-religious. Therefore, it’s best to try to avoid saying, “there was a reason for it happening” or, “God said it’s time to be with him.” Even if you share the same religious beliefs, it’s better to be on the safe side because of the reasons above.

“You Can Always Try To Have Another Baby”

One of the most tragic situations is if a mother suffers the loss of a child in any way, whether it’s due to a miscarriage, illness, an accident, etc. Not everyone can understand or relate to the physical and emotional energy of nurturing a baby, but it is incredibly significant and heartbreaking for the mother. During this time, support the mother is grieving the loss instead of providing other options that are not appropriate at this current time.

“It’ll Get Better Soon”

People cope with loss on their terms, and there is certainly no set timeframe in which someone gets over a loved one who has passed away. Depending on how close they were with the friend, family member, or spouse, some people never fully recover, but they can find ways to move forward. Therefore, never assume that grief should be a quick, linear process or try to insinuate that they should be ‘over it’ by now.

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“Be Strong”

These kinds of phrases can seem innocent and good-natured. However, if a person loses a loved one, it should be a time to allow themselves to feel vulnerable. If they feel the need to stay strong, especially to set an example for others, they might never really learn how to cope with these feelings and emotions because they get bottled up in an attempt to ‘keep it together or remain in control. Let them feel weak for the time being, and over time, they can build themselves back up. Let them know that you are there for them if they need it.

Additional Help For Coping With Grief

No one has to go through the grieving process alone. With your help, you can make it easier for your friends or a family member to cope during this difficult time. However, professional help is also available and can make a big difference.

There are many licensed counselors and therapists who specialize in assisting people in dealing with grief. Finding a mental health professional who is caring and sensitive to a person’s needs is easier than ever through BetterHelp’s online services.

Online therapy is convenient and affordable and is designed to be stress-free. All you need is a stable internet connection and a computer, mobile device, or a tablet that can connect to it.

It can seem daunting to suggest that suffering people benefit from seeking out counseling, but professional help is supposed to do just that – help. Counselors and therapists have the knowledge, expertise, and skill set that others don’t have in helping people cope with the death of a loved one, and therefore, can make the process more seamless for those who are struggling.

Conclusion

Sometimes a bereaved person may want to be alone during this time, but they don’t have to be. By being thoughtful and allowing them to reach out to you in their time of need, you can be a part of their healing process as well as counselors and therapists. Hopefully, this article has provided you with ways to communicate with the person you care about so that they know that you are in their lane.

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