How to Know What to Say when Someone Passes Away

Опубликовал Admin
8-03-2021, 17:00
The death of a loved one is something everyone will experience at some point, and when someone you know is grieving, it can be really hard to know how to comfort them. It’s normal to feel afraid of saying the wrong thing, but do your best to let the person know you’re thinking of them and are there to support them. Listen to them if they want to talk, offer to help with household tasks, and check in with them often. Your presence and efforts will make a huge difference in letting that person know they’re not alone.

Being Present with Someone in Grief

  1. Say something even if you feel uncomfortable or unsure of yourself. It’s important to acknowledge the person’s loss, even if it feels awkward. Call them and leave a message, send them a text, or write an email if you can’t see them in person. Don’t let the fear of saying the wrong thing keep you from being supportive.
    • It’s okay to admit you don’t have the right words. Try saying something like, “I’m not sure what to say, but I care about you and am here for you.”
  2. Encourage them to feel whatever they are feeling. A grieving person experiences a lot of different emotions, some of which may not make sense to someone on the outside. Give them space to have those feelings without expecting any “typical” expressions of grief.
    • Try saying something like, “Whatever you’re feeling is valid and okay. I’m here for you.”
  3. Let the person grieve rather than trying to point out a positive. It’s tempting to approach loss with a look-at-the-bright-side mentality, but that can be frustrating for the person experiencing the loss. Say something like, “This is hard,” or “I know this hurts,” and simply be with the person.
    • Avoid saying things like, “At least they are no longer in pain,” or “At least you have other children to comfort you.” These kinds of statements minimize the loss, which can be really frustrating for the person who is grieving.
    • Avoid encouraging a grieving person to look at what they still have to be grateful for. Doing so can make them feel guilty or judged for feeling deep grief and loss.
  4. Be okay with silence. It’s understandable if you feel the urge to fill the silence with words of comfort or distracting chatter, but sometimes it’s okay to just be silent. Depending on how close you are to the person grieving, you could hold their hand, hug them, or simply sit near them.
    • If you’re unsure if your presence is wanted, say something like, “I’m happy to sit here with you. Just let me know if you’d prefer to be alone.”
  5. Reach out continually and don’t take things personally. If a friend or loved one is grieving, they may not respond to texts, emails, or calls, because of their grief. Give them a couple of days or weeks and then reach out again. And again. Try saying something like, “No worries if you don’t respond to this message. I just wanted to let you know I’m thinking of you.”
    • It can take weeks, months, or years for a person to come out of the haze of grief. Be gentle yet consistent—once they are ready to talk or go out again, they’ll appreciate your persistence.

Asking Questions and Being a Good Listener

  1. Acknowledge a person’s loss and ask them if they want to talk. Try saying something like, “I know this is a really hard time for you. Would you like to talk about it?” Asking a question rather than saying something like, “I’m here if you want to talk,” gives them the opportunity to share if they feel like it.
    • If the person says no, respect their boundaries and don’t pressure them. It’s great that you asked and you can always ask again in a few weeks if the moment seems right.
  2. Ask for stories and memories of the person who passed away. Don’t worry that doing so might remind the person of their loss—chances are, they are almost always thinking of it. Asking them for stories gives them an outlet and a way to share about their loved one without focusing solely on their grief.
    • Try saying something like, “I didn’t know your father very well. What was he like?”
    • This is a good conversation to have in the weeks and months following someone’s death but might not be appropriate on the day of a funeral or memorial.
  3. Keep the conversation focused on the other person. It’s easy and normal to want to talk about your own experiences with loss. However, doing so asks the person who is grieving to in turn become an emotional support for you. Avoid comparing their loss to something you’ve experienced.
    • If you feel the compulsion to start talking about your experiences, take a deep breath and say something like, “I know this is a hard time.” When you’re alone, take a few minutes to think through or write out what it was you wanted to say. That way, you get to process your feelings without encumbering the grieving person.
  4. Avoid asking questions about the details behind someone’s death. If a person wants to share details, they will. You can ask if they want to talk about it, but avoid pointed questions like, “Was he in good health?” or “Did she smoke?”
    • Everyone is different. Some people may want to talk about the actual death over and over again, while other people may prefer to keep that information private.
  5. Be respectful of the grieving person’s religious or spiritual beliefs. If you don’t know what the person believes, avoid making assumptions and offering platitudes like, “God never gives us more than we can handle,” or “You’ll see them in Heaven someday.” Similarly, if you have different beliefs about the afterlife, now isn’t the right time to have that conversation.
    • Stick with statements of support like, “It’s okay that this is hard,” “I’m so sorry,” or “I know this hurts.”
  6. Keep comments at a funeral or memorial short. Funerals and memorials are typically very tiring events and aren’t the time for in-depth conversations. Your presence at the event and a few kind words are completely appropriate for the setting. Here are a few examples of what to say if you feel at a loss for words:
    • “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
    • “I don’t have the right words, but I know how much you loved them.”
    • “It’s hard to imagine what you’re going through. I’m here if you need a friend.”

Offering Help

  1. Offer an act of kindness if you don’t have the right words. Instead of saying, “Let me know if you need anything,” just do something instead. A grieving person might not know what to ask for or what would be helpful. Try to think of the basic day-to-day things that need to get done and offer your help. Here are some examples of things you could do:
    • Send someone a gift card so they can go out to eat.
    • Drop off a hot meal but don’t linger.
    • Stop by and do the dishes and a load of laundry.
    • Offer to walk pets or watch children.
    • Drop off groceries.
    • Shovel their walkway when it snows.
    • Take their car for an oil change.
    • Clean their bathroom.
  2. Remember important dates and holidays. Birthdays, anniversaries, major holidays, and year-markers of the day of death can be very difficult. Ask them to get together or send a card, flowers, or a kind message. You could say something like, “I know this time of year is hard and you’re probably missing your loved one. Thinking of you.”
    • If your friend or loved one lost their partner or will be alone during the holidays, invite them to join you.
  3. Share a fond memory in writing of the person who passed away. Take a few minutes to write out a memory or two that you have of the person who died, and then give those stories to their loved ones. It’s a nice way to keep memories alive and will be something that can be revisited time and time again.
    • This can be an especially nice thing to do several months after the initial loss. By that time, the surge of friends and well-wishers will have mostly subsided and the grieving person will appreciate your thoughtfulness.


  • Try to remember that it’s not your job to solve anything emotionally for the grieving person. They have to go through their own process. Just do your best to be present and supportive!
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