How to Express Condolences

When offering condolences, many times it is very difficult to know what is appropriate to say or do. That person has just lost a loved one, and you may feel that no words or sentiments seem adequate; that there are no words that can ease the pain.  But the truth is, that person will welcome a written word, a spoken gesture or a sentiment of sympathy because it shows caring and concern.

When trying to think of the right thing to say, remember to speak from the heart with the bereaved in mind.  Some phrases that are advisable during a time such as this are, “I’m sorry for your loss” or  “I’m thinking of you,”  Both of these phrases let the person know you care and that you sympathize.  If you knew the deceased well, you can certainly say, “I miss him/her so much,” and even share a nice memory about that individual.  If you are close with the bereaved and have a special relationship, just saying “I love you,” may very well be the perfect thing to say, letting the recipient know how much you care.

On the other side of the coin are phrases that are best left unsaid. Your heart may very well be in the right place, but the choice of words may not be received the way the sentiment is intended.  A couple of phrases that are best to avoid are, “I know how you are feeling,” and “he/she is in a better place.”  Each person’s loss is unique and while it may seem to be a comfort to share your thoughts about heaven, the bereaved has just suffered an enormous loss, and is focused on the grief at hand, and if there was a long illness, avoid phrases such as “you can move on with your life now,” and “at least you had a chance to say goodbye.”  Again these phrases donot help the bereaved with the pain they are feeling at that very moment. In some instances, there are no words you can express that will help ease the pain and it is most helpful to just sit with the mourner and listen.

When words don’t feel like enough, and you would like to send something to show sympathy, give some thought to the deceased or the recipient. Did the deceased love daisies? If so, a bouquet of daisies with a note that says, “whenever I see daisies I will always think of (name of the deceased).”   If you know the recipient loves fruit, a fresh fruit basket would be a lovely idea.  When thinking of something to send always give with your heart and you can’t go wrong.

Always keep in mind that in times such as these the recipient of your sympathy is at a heightened emotional state.  Kindness, caring and understanding are the sentiments that should always shine through any gesture put forth.  As time goes on, let that individual know that you are always there if they want to talk or if they want to share any stories about the deceased.  That may be the greatest gift of all because sharing memories of a loved one that is gone keeps that person alive in the hearts of the bereaved.