What to Tell Someone Who's Loved One Passed Away

Written by: The Circles Team

Sep 14, 2021

Have you ever gone to a funeral or memorial service and been tongue-tied as you approach the griever because you’re not sure of what to say?

We’ve all been there.

Whether the person is grieving a parent, child, sibling, or friend, it’s so hard to see the tremendous amount of pain and sadness they’re experiencing as they’re missing a loved one. How can you find any words to alleviate what they’re going through? What if you slip up and say something that makes them feel worse?

Navigating what to say to someone who just lost a loved one can be difficult. It might even be tempting to avoid talking to them altogether, justifying it to yourself by saying they need their space. But they do need you. Offering your sympathy, empathy, and support during this emotionally tolling time is so important. You can also try to understand what they’re going through, like reading quotes on missing someone, so you can get a better idea of what they’re experiencing.

You don’t have to say the perfect thing, because the truth is the perfect thing to say doesn’t exist. Sometimes just saying a few words, giving a hug, or holding their hand can be therapeutic for them. A simple “I am so sorry” may be all they need to hear. There are a few things you can tell someone who has just lost a husband, lost a wife, lost a parent, lost a child, or lost a friend. We’ve written down a few of them.

Loss of a Husband or Wife

“I am here to help in any way I can”

When someone is grieving the death of a husband or wife, they’ve lost a partner. The person they’ve shared their life with. They’ve become so accustomed to having someone by their side, that in addition to the sadness and pain they’re experiencing, it can be so disorienting to no longer have them in their life. Stepping up to the plate and offering your help is so important during this time. We know a classic way of offering help is to say “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” but instead of putting the onus on the griever, take the initiative. You could say, “I’m doing some grocery shopping this afternoon. What can I bring you from there?” or “I have leftovers from dinner. When can I come by and bring you some?” Don’t make your help conditional on them. Just help. Even sending them a poem can be helpful.

Loss of a Parent

“I wish I had the right words, just know I care,” or “You and your loved ones will be in my thoughts and prayers”

Losing a parent is never easy. The person who created you and raised you, and the person who has always been there, no longer will be. It’s a destabilizing and devastating time. What to say to someone who lost a parent can be a hard thing to think about. Expressing your care and being thoughtful of their experience is so crucial. Them knowing that you’re thinking of them and care for them can be incredibly comforting, especially after their primary carer is no longer with them. Make them know and feel your care.

Loss of a Child

Give a hug instead of saying something, or just be with them

Losing a child is indescribable. It defies all the expectations parents set for the chronology of their lives. There are no words, truly. When there are no words, you don’t need to try to come up with them. Give the parent a hug, be their shoulder to cry on, hold their hand, or just simply be there for them. Literally, just be there. The presence of their loved ones will be comforting in and of itself.

Loss of a Friend

“My favorite memory of them is when…”

Sometimes the griever wants you to talk to them about the friend that they lost. A thought that crosses people’s minds is that the griever doesn’t want to talk about the friend they lost, they want to be distracted. But the truth is, their friend is always in their mind. By talking about them, it’s like a release valve for the griever. It can also be comforting for the griever to know the impact their friend had on you. If you don’t know the person, just make it a question. Ask about them. It’s an opportunity to memorialize the person that they lost.

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