What to Say When Someone is Grieving

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What to Say When Someone Dies

It is common to feel uncomfortable about what to say when someone you know has recently been bereaved.

Reaching out to bereaved people

Responding to a friend after they have been bereaved can feel overwhelming. It is normal to feel worried about saying the wrong thing.

It is normal to feel helpless, or trapped in your own fears. But if you find yourself unable to reach out, or not able to talk about the person who died, it can result in the bereaved person feeling even more isolated. They might also start to feel like a burden or even push down their grief to try and not make others feel uncomfortable. 

It is normal to feel worried about saying the wrong thing.

If you are finding it very difficult (perhaps because you have been bereaved yourself) we have some suggestions below which might help. Acknowledge your worries and fears, but try not to let them stop you supporting your friend or family member. There is a lot you can do to make them feel less alone, more loved and supported.

What can you say when someone dies?  

Be honest. Acknowledge the news by sharing your condolences, saying how sorry you are that their friend or relative has died. Share your thoughts about the person who died (if appropriate), tell your friend or relative how much the person will be missed and that you are thinking of them. Remind them that you are there for them, as much as you can be. Sending a card, text or email can mean the world.

Don’t worry too much about saying exactly the right thing. The feeling will come across and it is more important that you say something than that you find the perfect words.

If you  can't think of the right words, here are some examples:

  • I don’t know what to say but I am so sorry to hear this news.
  • I am so sorry for your loss – you are in my thoughts.
  • I’m so sad to hear this and I’m here if you need to talk.
  • They were such a wonderful person/so selfless – full of positivity/kindness [whatever feels appropriate] – they will be hugely missed.
  • They will be missed so much – they were so special. You are in my thoughts
  • I am so very sorry to hear this sad news. I cannot imagine how devasted you are.
  • I cannot imagine the hole that she/he will have left. If you need anything, let me know.
  • So very shocked and saddened by this sad news. Hard to believe [name] has gone. I am here when you need me.
  • This is so heartbreaking – I wish I could be there to give you a hug.

What to expect

After a death it is common for bereaved people to want to go over the events leading up to the death, sometimes many times. They may want to talk about the person and tell you stories, they may cry through these stories or just cry down the phone. Again some people find this really hard to hear but just being there can be a great comfort.
 
Know that you can’t fix their pain but you can make it a little less lonely by listening or asking more about the person, and what has happened, and allowing them to talk. Many people can find this challenging to do. But just listening, and allowing someone to share their feelings with you, can make a real difference. 
 

If someone else’s situation is causing you distress then we are here for you too. Confronting someone else’s grief may bring up difficult feelings from your own bereavements and that’s OK and normal.

Even if you haven’t lost anyone close to you, you may be very fearful that it might happen. At the present time there is so much in the news about death and dying, and many of us are feeling anxious.

It might help to line up someone you can call yourself, after speaking to your bereaved friend or relative, to share your own feelings. You can also call our helpline and talk to someone about how it’s affected you.

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