I'm Sorry For Your Loss

grief support what to say Feb 08, 2020

"I'm Sorry For Your Loss".

How often have you said the words, "I'm sorry for your loss" in hopes of consoling a grieving person?  How often have you heard those words, as you faced unimaginable grief?  Did hearing "I'm sorry for your loss" comfort you?  Did you feel understood and supported?

These days it seems the universal thing to say to someone grieving the death of a loved one are those 5 words. But, when that phrase is used without emotion or real empathy it sounds empty, and awkward, and ignores the real pain that grief bestows on someone.  Saying "I'm sorry for your loss" does more to make the person sharing the words feel better than comforting the person who is in need.

When someone has experienced the death of a friend or loved one, be honest, don't ignore their pain, don't be afraid to say you don't know what to say!  That revelation is more authentic and appreciated than "I'm sorry for your loss".

I've had two friends die in the past few months and have heard the words "I'm sorry for your loss" frequently. However, I didn't lose anyone, my friends didn't get lost, they died!  I'm sad, I'm melancholy, and I miss them both.  When I heard, "it must be hard to have a friend die" I felt comforted because it displayed an attempt at understanding.

People mean well when they say "I'm sorry for your loss".  It's hard to know what to say in the face of death.  But there's simply no canned words to use in those situations.  Each death is different.

Here are some tips and suggestions to show you care:

  • Don't be afraid to use the person's name who died
  • Say the word 'death' instead of 'loss', 'passed', 'left'
  • Don't tell your story (unless asked), let the grieving person tell their story
  • Don't say "I understand";  you can't really know what they are going through, even if you had a similar loved one die

Try something similar to these phrases to offer comfort:

  • "How are you doing, I hope you are being gentle with yourself"
  • "I'm sad to hear of your loved one's death"
  • "I cannot imagine what you are going through, but I want you to know I care"
  • "It must be hard to have a friend die, how long did you know Peggy?"
  • "I'm sorry to hear of Cathy's death, what was your favorite memory of her?"
  • "It must be difficult to have a parent die"
  • "It doesn't matter how old we are, when a parent dies it's still hard"
  • "what can I do to best support you?"
  • "I don't know what to say, but I'm here to listen if you want to talk"

Do your best to speak from your heart, that's the best gift you can give someone who is hurting.


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