What To Say & What Not To Say When Expressing Condolences

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Death can be an uncomfortable thing. As humans, we’re social and emotional creatures. We’re empathetic and can understand the sadness people experience when they lose a loved one. However, when it comes time to express condolences, it’s easy to become tongue-tied.

There’s no right way or wrong way to express condolences, but there is a right way to tailor your message for the individual.

First, think of how the loss has affected them. Have they lost a parent and feel like they’re going to be navigating life alone? Did they lose a friend and feel sad that a life ended too early? During times of grief, we all reflect on the could-haves and should-haves, but it’s important to think of the specific situation experienced by each individual.

Next, you never really want to inflict your personal advice when expressing condolences. Everyone deals with grief and loss differently. The best thing to do is to encourage people to go through all the feelings. Tell them it’s okay to be sad while their mind processes the loss. Encourage them to take time, reflect, and truly grieve.

We all have to go through grief to get back to a healthy state again. It’s unavoidable, and in condolences, it’s often relieving to give the other person permission to feel however they want to feel.

Lastly, the greatest gift that you can give is to listen and take action. Maybe all that person needs is a shoulder to cry on. Or maybe they don’t have the strength to cook and just need a healthful, microwaveable meal. Take note of the cues and read between the lines, because when you’re going through that cloud of grief, it’s the gestures that often mean the most.