Most people are unsure what to say when someone’s been bereaved and sometimes this can feel overwhelming if you’re trying to support a friend or family member through their loss. You might feel worried about saying the wrong thing, or you might feel helpless or trapped in your own fears. But distancing yourself or not reaching out can lead people to feel even more isolated.
Start by being honest. Acknowledge the news by sharing your condolences and your thoughts and feelings about the person who has died. Sending a card, text or email can mean the world.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable or unsure of what to say, share this with your loved one and then follow their lead. They may want to talk about the person who has died, about how they’re feeling or about what happened, or they may not. But remember, reaching out to the person is the most important part. Don’t worry too much about saying the right thing.
Here are some suggestions if you’re finding it difficult to find the words:
- “I don’t know what to say but I’m so sorry to hear this”
- “I’m so sorry for your loss. Please know that you’re in my thoughts”
- “I’m very sad to hear about your loss and I’m here if you need to talk”
- “I can’t imagine how hard it is for you”
- “I remember when…” (describe a memory you have of the person who died)
- “I miss them too”
- “I’d like to do something to help. What do you need?”
There are also some things it’s usually best not to say:
- “I know how you feel.”
(While you may also have experienced grief in your life, everyone deals with loss in their own way and their experience is likely to be very different to yours.)
- “Call me if you need anything.”
(Most people struggle to ask for help. It will easier for them if you ask specifically what they need or offer some concrete support, for instance: “I’ll bring dinner for the next few days”, or “Are there any calls I can make for you?”)
- “You need to move on/get on with it/pull yourself together/ put your grief away.”
(Everyone goes through the grieving process differently and at their own pace.)