Thursday, 12 November 2020
At some point in our lives, we will all have to offer our condolences to someone. And when this time comes, what will you say?
Why not trying something a little different, with more meaning? Something a little more personal and authentic than the old “sorry for your loss”?
Let’s make this clear: There is nothing wrong with saying “I’m sorry for your loss.” Because it’s true; they lost someone, and you are sorry that it happened.
Don’t worry about it if that’s what you choose to say. Or maybe this is something you’ve said a lot in the past, or it just slips out when you’re not prepared to say something better.
That’s ok! It’s not a hurtful thing to say. It’s simply a well-worn phrase that has become a little overused.
So with that said, let’s think through more thoughtful condolence phrases to use instead.
10 Things to Say Instead of “I’m Sorry for Your Loss”
I am so sorry to learn about John’s passing.
Always remember that someone loved this person. Make it personal by mentioning their loved one’s name.
My heart breaks with you at the loss of your daughter, Bethany.
Remember, when someone dies, they are a son, daughter, spouse, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, and so many other things for someone else.
Make it personal by giving them a title.
Your mum lived a long life! What a beautiful legacy she is leaving behind!
It is always so heartwarming to see a family bond at the time of death. Make sure those left behind know that you see the support they are offering each other.
Make it personal by acknowledging their family legacy.
No words I can offer will make this hurt go away. Know that I am here for you at this devastating time.
Don’t tell someone you “know” how they feel. You don’t. Even if you have been through the “same type of loss” you don’t know exactly how they are feeling.
Still, you want to show your sympathy and support. So, tell them that your friendship remains strong and deep even in the tough times.
Make it personal by acknowledging their unique pain and grief, and by offering your support.
Even though we can’t be together during this difficult time, I am holding you close in my heart.
It’s not always possible to travel to get to a funeral, but you can still express how much you care for them.
Make it personal by being there however you can, even if it’s just by text, a phone call, or sending a sympathy gift.
Please let me offer you my support at this time.
Almost offering your condolences, but a little softer. You can make it more personal by thinking through each word you say.
Such a tragic loss. I am so sorry. Tim was a wonderful friend.
The use of the word “tragic” lets the family know how deeply this has affected you.
The family may not be aware of how well you knew their loved one; this is an opportunity to share some aspects of the person’s life that they didn’t know about.
Make it personal by telling them how deeply you have been affected.
We never have enough time.
This phrase is better used when someone loses a parent or even perhaps a spouse. It is also appropriate if there was an expected death.
Make it personal by acknowledging the loss of potential.
What you are going through is unimaginable. Know that my thoughts are with you at this sudden loss.
Let people know that you are surprised or shocked, but regardless, you are standing with them.
Often, when the loss is unexpected, people don’t know what to say and therefore don’t say anything. When this happens, the grieving person feels even more alone in the pain and confusion.
He/She was in so much pain. This was the only way they could see to stop it. I am here for you, always.
This is something you would say to a family that has lost someone to suicide. This is always so tragic.
Some families will never mention the “S” word because of the stigma. Just stand beside the family. Let them know that regardless of the circumstances, death is a loss to everyone.
Make it personal by (compassionately) overlooking the stigma of tragedy.
Non-Verbal Ways to Convey Condolences
Keep in mind that everyone handles death differently. Sometimes no words need to be spoken. A hug, a holding of hands, a gentle pat on the shoulder will convey more than words ever could.
Some ways to convey condolences in a non-verbal way are:
- Drop off a hot meal for the family.
- As appropriate to your relationship, use a comforting touch. If you’re unsure, simply ask – “Would you like a hug right now?”
- Send flowers or a gift; it can be anything from a personalized memorial to a beverage from their favourite coffee shop, a succulent to a self-care spa gift set.
- A sympathy card may be your way of offering your thoughts in written form. Some use beautiful artwork, others use poems or Scripture verses, and still, others use humour. You can personalize it by adding a remark of your own.
- You can shoot someone a text to let them know you are thinking of them at this time. Here are some examples of condolence text messages.
- Post a feeling of sympathy/condolences on Facebook.
- Go to the funeral home website and leave a message to offer your feelings.
If you don’t learn of death for a few days or perhaps weeks, it is never too late to offer your sympathies. Grieving families will appreciate your thoughts and concerns.
Always keep in mind that someone loved this person. This was a husband or wife, a son or daughter, an aunt or uncle, a brother, sister, father, mother, or simply a beloved friend.