What do you say when you offer condolences?

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What do you say when you offer condolences?

Last month we discussed ways to reach out and show support to a friend who is grieving. However, knowing what to say when you do reach out can be difficult.

Be sincere and write what is on your heart. If in doubt, keep it simple, such as: “We’re thinking of you at this difficult time”, “You’re in our thoughts/prayers”, “We’ll miss your (mother) dearly”, or “We are saddened to hear of the passing of your (mother)”. Letting those who are grieving know you’re aware of their emotional pain can help them feel less isolated in their grief. Even if it is a simple message, if it’s sincere, that will come through.

Share a special memory you have of the deceased. It helps those grieving to know that their loved one will not be forgotten and reflecting on memories helps them work through their grief.

If you offer your time or assistance with any tasks or errands, make sure you are offering something that you are really prepared to do.

Try to avoid giving advice or saying “I know how you feel”. Loss is very unique to each person and we can’t ever truly know what someone else is feeling. If you really feel that your own experience with loss could be helpful to someone else, let them know you’re there to talk whenever they’re ready.

Talking about yourself takes the focus off the person you are trying to console, and you can’t expect them to comfort you at this time in their life. Try to seek support for yourself from other friends or family who weren’t as close to the deceased.

A grieving person needs time and space to grieve. Everyone experiences grief differently and in their own time. Support them however you can as they take the time that they need.

Saying something like “At least you had time to say goodbye” can be very hard for the griever to take. It can come across as you telling them to look on the upside and they may just need time to sit with their grief. Telling someone they’ll “feel better soon” or “you’ll get over/through this” can put a lot of pressure on a person who is just trying to deal with the sadness they feel. Don’t pressure someone to get over it, grief needs to be felt and gone through at their own pace. There’s no set time frame for grief – it takes as long as it takes. Just be there for your friend or loved one.

Most of all, just let them know that you are there for them and are thinking of them.

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