What do you say to someone grieving

What to say to someone who has been bereaved

When someone dies, it can be hard to know what to say to those who were close to them. While each bereaved person’s experience will be different, these tips will give you ideas for how to help them feel heard and supported through their grief.

Things that can be helpful

Say how sorry you are

When someone is grieving, it’s important to acknowledge what has happened and express your sympathy. This can be as brief as saying "I’m so sorry for your loss", or "I heard about your dad, I’m so sorry".

Share a memory

If you knew the person who has died, you could also share a memory or say what they meant to you. You might say something like, "I remember your mum’s brilliant speech at your wedding", or "I’ll miss your grandad's wonderful sense of humour".  

Offer them space to talk 

Many bereaved people say it helps to be able to speak freely about how they’re feeling. Saying "How are you doing?" gives them a chance to talk about it if they want to. 

If you know the person quite well, you could ask them directly, "Would you like to talk about it?". Let them know you’re happy to listen to any feelings they want to share.

Tell them however they feel is OK

People who are grieving can experience a huge range of emotions, including shock, sadness, pain, anger, guilt, anxiety and numbness. Their feelings will be unique to them and their relationship with the person who has died.

If they do talk to you about their grief, be open to whatever emotions they are experiencing. Let them know that however they feel is OK – there is no "right" way to grieve.

Recognise how hard it is for them

When someone is going through a bereavement, you may want to take their pain away.

Although this isn’t possible, acknowledging it by saying, "I’m sorry I can’t make things better", "I’m sorry it’s so hard for you", or "I’m sorry things are so tough right now" can help them feel heard and supported.  

Ask if there is anything they need

You may want to help but not know how. Ask the bereaved person if there is anything they need, and let them know you’re ready to support them. If they seem unsure, you could suggest specific things, such as cooking them a meal or doing their shopping. 

Tell them you’re thinking of them

Sending someone who is grieving a message to say you’re thinking of them will show them they don’t have to cope alone. You may not be able to change what they are going through, but knowing you care could give them some comfort. 

Sometimes you don’t need to say anything

When you are with a bereaved person, take your cue from them in terms of how much they want to talk. It may be that just spending time quietly alongside someone can help them cope with their grief. 

Things to avoid saying

Don’t make assumptions about how they feel

You may have experienced a loss in the past and feel you understand what someone is going through, but everyone experiences grief differently. Give the bereaved person the space to tell you how they are feeling, and avoid saying things like, "You must be feeling..." or "I know exactly how you feel".

Avoid trying to fix things

It can be tempting to try and make someone who is grieving feel better. That’s why, if someone has died after a long illness, people might say things like, "It was for the best", or "She’s at peace now". When someone dies in old age, they may say, "At least he had a long life". 

Statements like these aren’t always helpful. The bereaved person might not feel the same way or may not find it comforting, and they could resent being told what to think. 

Don’t tell them they will "heal", "move on" or "get over it"

When someone is first bereaved, they may not be able to imagine a future without the person who has died. They might worry about their memories fading, and find the idea of "moving on" or "getting over it" very upsetting. People often say "time is a healer", but bereavement isn’t about healing so much as finding ways to live with grief. 

Avoid setting expectations around how long grief will last

Most people find ways to cope with their grief and feel better over time. But setting a specific timeframe (for example, by saying something like, "It took my uncle two years to recover after my aunt died") can make them feel they are failing if things don’t improve. In reality, the grieving process is different for everyone and it can take years.

Be careful talking about religious ideas

After someone dies, people sometimes say things like, "He’s in a better place now", or "It was God’s will". But a bereaved person may not believe in God, or may not agree. If they do believe, they may even feel God has taken their loved one, and be angry. When it comes to religion, be guided by things the bereaved person says and only mention it if it feels appropriate.

Video: What can you say to be Grief Kind?

This short video – filmed with Sue Ryder bereavement experts – was filmed as part of our Grief Kind campaign, which aims to help people support their family and friends who are grieving. 

They give advice on what to say – and what not to say – to someone who has been bereaved and is grieving, and also discuss why listening is so very important when you're talking to someone who is grieving. Crucially, they also cover what you should do if you feel like you've messed up and said the wrong thing.

Further bereavement support and information

  • Supporting someone who has been bereaved
  • Keep it real: what to write in a bereavement card
  • Grief Kind - a Sue Ryder campaign

64 of the Best Things Ever Said to a Griever

People ask us this question time and again: What should I say to someone who’s grieving? They ask, hoping there is an easy answer or checklist… but I have bad news: Those things don’t exist.

We recently asked WYG readers about the best and worst things anyone has said to them in their grief, hoping for some specific examples that we might then be able to offer as guidance to all those seeking answers. And though they provided some amazing insight, things still remain, well, complicated. In fact, we found that some of the EXACT SAME PHRASES were listed on both the best and the worst lists. Why is this so tricky!?

Well, we’ve said it before and we’ll probably say it a million more times: What feels right and helpful for one person may be all wrong for another. Also, timing can make all the difference—so you may just have the bad luck of picking the wrong moment. Or, you might be the right person to say something to one friend or family member, but the wrong person to say it to another. Eleanor made a super graphic about this over in the post of the 64 Worst Things Ever Said to a Griever, so make sure you check that out if you missed it.

In case that isn’t enough of a disclaimer… Before we dive into the list of “best things,” you can watch the video below for some of our simple, tried and true tips. These won’t necessarily guarantee that you say the “right” thing, but they are a good place to start.

As for those “best things” that we’re shared with us, well, you’ll see that sometimes the items on this list aren’t especially specific. These suggestions are often general statements or ways of being.

We think this is worth noting because people often fixate on having the “right” words to make someone feel better, but often the best thing you can do has nothing to do with what you say, but how you maintain a supportive presence. So, without further ado…

1. “There are no words.”

2. “I will travel to you and stay with you several days.”

3. “You can talk to me about your mum whenever you want—in 5, 10, 30 years.”

4. “Your grief-reactions are normal/appropriate.”

5. “You aren’t going crazy.”

6. “Tell me more about your mother,”

7. Someone gave me a very sincere compliment on how I’ve handled raising my kids as a single mother a few years after my husband died; meant the world to me to hear it. It’s a lonely journey, and I needed that boost.

8. “I’m just really sorry you’ve had to go through this.” She kept her gaze into my eyes as I sobbed… It was so powerful just being “witnessed.”

9. “Your Dad was a wonderful man.”

10. “Learn to live in acceptance of the loss, not in spite of the loss.”

11. “She’s just made a change of address.”

12. “Grief has no expiration date.”

13. “It’s okay to have bad days because it reminds you how much you love them, and the good days remind you they’re right there with you.”

14. “Just talk about your son whenever you feel like.”

15. “You don’t have to talk. I will just sit beside you.”

16. My 81-year-old Father drove quite a distance to just sit with me and, as he sat listening to me completely fall apart, he reached over and put his arm around me and quietly said, “Please know this is only temporary. You will get to finish raising him one day.” Then he said, “I will get there before you and I will carry your messages to him.”

17. “We’ve asked your colleagues and they have donated enough paid time off for you to take the time you need.”

18. “We were just talking about him last night.”

19. “We remember him and speak of him often.”

20. “When you feel that she’s with you, know that she really is.”

21. “She is never far away.”

22. “Let me know if I can help.”

23. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

24. When someone tells you they are there for you, brings you flowers or comfort food, or your best friend comes over after you’ve told her not to (because you didn’t want to be a bother) because she knows you that well… Those are the types of things that make a difference.

25. “I was really mad at God when I found out.”

26. “It f#&king sucks.

27. “We won’t forget him.”

28. “He was such a special kid.”

29. “I don’t know what to say but I can listen.”

30. “He would be proud of you.”

31. “I am praying for you and will always be.”

32. “I love you.”

33. “Thank you for giving us the most beautiful, generous, loving person we’ve ever known.”

34. “We loved her like she was one of the family.”

35.“You’ve been a good dad to them.”

36. When my Mom passed, a good friend of mine looked me in the eye and, with such love and concern, said “I am worried about you. I think you should consider grief therapy.” I did so because of her genuine concern and courage to say that to me at the time.

37. “One day you will be talking about Jessica and a smile will come to your face first before a tear.”

38. The best thing was from a chaplain who gave me permission to be mad as hell and instead of asking ‘Why me?’ asking ‘Why not me?’

39. My mom made me socks and a hat for my baby gone-too-soon in pregnancy. She said, “Every baby deserves to be celebrated, no matter how long they are with us.”

40. “A part of your loved one lives in you and all those he loved.”

41. “Be as kind to yourself as you are to everyone else.”

42. I received a card from a former college classmate of my husband. In the card, she wrote about how proud my husband had been of me and how happy I had made him. She wrote that, every time their paths crossed over the years, he always spoke so highly of me. She was in awe of how proud he was to have me as his wife.

43. You will never get ‘over it’, but you will get through it.”

44. “I can see by these pictures how much you loved each other. She must have known every day she was loved.”

45. “There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Your life has been changed forever.”

46. “You’re allowed to feel and be exactly as you are because this is your experience and no one else’s.

47. “I wouldn’t be alive today if your dad hadn’t helped me get sober by giving me a reason to be sober.”

48. The best thing is when someone says, “I remember…” and then goes on to share a memory of the person you’ve lost.

49. “I cannot possibly understand how you feel. But I’m here”.

50. When I told a friend my heart is broken she said, “I will lend you mine ’til yours has mended.”

51. “It’s okay not to be okay.”

52. “Look for signs. He will show you he is with you.”

53. “He/she is with you always, and is proud of you for the way you live your life.”

54. I love when someone hears a song that reminds them of him and they reach out to tell me.

55. “Come rest a minute. Let’s talk about and remember all those sweet memories. Your dad was a great man and father.”

56. “We’ll get through this together.”

57. “Now you’ve got someone up there watching out for you. k? How can this be?”

61. “He was so loved and my life is better because he was in it.”

62. “You are a good mother and his death with never change that.”

63. “You are not moving on you are moving forward.”

64. The woman cleaning out my father’s absolutely vile condo, when I admitted how embarrassing I found the state of his living space and apologized to her, said: “I don’t judge. Everyone has different priorities. He was clearly a wonderful father who was deeply loved.”

What would you add to the list of best things to say to someone grieving? Leave a comment with the best thing someone said to you in your grief or a general tip you have about how to support someone grieving. 

Condolences on the occasion of death

Condolences are words of support that are usually said to those who have suffered a loss. They are designed to show that the person is not left alone and can count on all possible assistance from you. In today's material, we will talk about how to properly express condolences on the occasion of death, and give examples of some possible formulations.

When is it appropriate to offer condolences?

It is appropriate to do this immediately after you know that the person has died. It doesn't matter how much time has passed since death. Whether you received sad news a day or a year after the death of the deceased, you still need to somehow respond to it. Of course, many of us are lost when we hear about the tragic event. It’s hard for us to find the right words, it’s scary to hurt other people’s feelings. However, do not be afraid. If you are suddenly informed that someone has died, and you do not know what to answer, it will be enough to say: “I did not know about this. I condole".

It is also customary to offer condolences at funerals, civil memorial services, and memorial dinners on death anniversaries. When relatives and friends experience a loss, they need sympathy and help. Therefore, do not hesitate to show participation in relation to them.

How can condolences be expressed?

We all have access to a lot of means of communication: social networks, instant messengers, regular and e-mail, SMS messages. Sometimes it can be difficult to choose the right way to communicate. Below we will talk about how to do this.

In person

Personal meeting is preferred. Words are words, but non-verbal support also means a lot. A text message will not allow you to look at the person sympathetically, pat him on the shoulder reassuringly, or take his hand.

If you live in the same city as the bereaved, find an excuse to see each other for at least fifteen minutes. A short conversation won't take up much of your time. Choose a suitable environment, make sure that you are comfortable listening to the interlocutor and that both of you are not in a hurry. Condolences can not be on the run or in between times. If you are interrupted, step aside so that no one else interferes with the dialogue. Say, “The other day I found out about something that happened in your family. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Feel free to contact me if you need help."

Try to maintain eye contact and speak in a way that gives you confidence. Another important point: condolences must be properly accepted. If you are sympathized with, thank the speaker and show that you appreciate his sincere gesture. You can say, “Thank you. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. I'll be sure to let you know if you need anything."

By phone

You can make a phone call if you do not see the person regularly or live in different cities/countries. Make sure you choose the right time to talk. Someone who recently faced the death of a relative has enough trouble: he has to prepare for the funeral, support the rest of his family, and also accept condolences from many other people besides you. So ask if you're on time.

The purpose of your call must be clear to the person. As with a face-to-face conversation, it's best if you offer to help. It is also possible to exchange short phrases “I am sorry” - “thank you”, but this sounds like a formality. You can say: “If you want to talk, I always have time. I am ready to help with any questions with documents, I understand this ”(here you can name any area in which your participation is at least somehow useful to the family of the deceased).

If you're choosing between a phone call and a meeting, it's best to opt for a meeting. Perhaps your interlocutor is a boss or another person with whom you have only a business relationship. Then it is better not to distract him once again, just call.


You can also express condolences online: via instant messengers, by e-mail or via SMS. This method is less desirable than the previous two. However, it is permissible to use it if:

  • the person does not get in touch for a long time, it is impossible to get through to him or see him personally;
  • your communication in general is more often via e-mail. It has always been like this and you are sure that it is convenient for him.

In these cases, it will be appropriate to write SMS or messages in WhatsApp, Viber. All the same wordings as in a telephone conversation will do: say that you recently learned about what happened, that you are ready to offer your help in preparing for the funeral or household chores, and if necessary, talk heart to heart and listen. Better not send ready-made pictures from the Internet, like a mourning card with a burning candle. On the one hand, they are specially created for such cases, but on the other hand, a person will see that you just took the finished image from the network so as not to waste time and effort.

How to find words?

Even those who are good at expressing their thoughts may not find the right words when it comes to bereavement. This is a natural psychological reaction. We are all afraid to talk to people who are going through deep stress. It’s scary to say something wrong, to take a back seat, to feel awkward. To avoid such a situation, we will give at least some recommendations on how best to prepare condolences.


  1. Condolences on death are best expressed in your own words. The person should feel that your message is addressed to him and no one else.
  2. When condolences are expressed, they speak simply, sincerely, without pathos. It is advisable to behave at ease, but at the same time show that all your attention is directed to the interlocutor. Try to make eye contact, keep a comfortable distance (if appropriate, stay a little closer than usual).
  3. It is customary to express condolences in prose. No need to read poetry - neither one's own composition, nor written by other authors. It will be inappropriate.
  4. It is better to prepare the text of your speech in advance. You can write it on paper and repeat it several times at home before pronouncing it. It should be short, but meaningful enough so that the person understands that you empathize with him.
  5. Try not to dramatize the situation. It is better if your speech expresses calmness. You should not say "it's so terrible", "nothing more terrible can happen." Better say: "I'm always there", "contact me at any time."
  6. The one with whom you are talking should feel support and support in you. So speak with confidence. Do not talk too much about your grief, about how hard it is for you. Give the person the impression that you are coping with the situation and that you can help them cope.

Find on the Internet

Ready-made text of condolences can be found online. However, it will be just a sample, on the basis of which you will need to come up with something of your own. Remember that the Internet is not only available to you. It is likely that other people will also search for examples of condolences, go to the same sites and see the same results as you. If two people come to the funeral and say exactly the same words to the mourner, it will be immediately clear that they simply memorized them. This is an undesirable and unpleasant situation. Therefore, use templates from the web only to understand the general principle of composing your speech.


It is possible to order a text of condolences in the funeral service. Its employees are professionally engaged in the compilation of mourning speeches. If you cannot find the right words yourself, it is quite normal to turn to a specialist for this purpose. This service is inexpensive, but it guarantees that you will be given competent recommendations.

Condolences on the occasion of death - examples

“I know that your mother has recently passed away. We knew each other well, and this news shocked me. My condolences. Everlasting memory".

“I knew your father for many years. Yesterday I was informed that he is no longer with us. For me, this is hard news. He was a bright man, kind and sympathetic. I will always remember him."

“I knew your grandmother for many years, she was my colleague. I sympathize with your loss. Feel free to contact me if I can help you in any way."

“Hello, my name is N, I am a friend of your late grandfather. I know that he recently left us. I still can't get used to this idea. Please convey my condolences to his wife, children and great-grandchildren. Everlasting memory.

“When a relative dies, it's always hard. Our entire family mourns with you. You can count on our help in any daily affairs.

“The other day I was informed about your brother's death. We went to university together and then worked in the same company. He was a very bright and sympathetic person, the backbone of our team. I will always remember him. Accept my condolences.

“Your sister was my close friend, I mourn with you. During our lives, we have always helped each other, so if you need help, call at any time. I can buy food, go somewhere with the children for a while so that you can rest. It's not difficult for me at all.

“I was friends with the late N for many years, and recently I found out that she is no longer with us. It's hard for me to find words to express how I feel. Just know that she was dear to me, we communicated closely. If there's anything I can do for your family, don't hesitate to give me a call. Here is my phone number.

Yesterday my wife and I were informed that N. had died. We both knew him from our school days. He helped us more than once, often came to visit, always found time to listen and support. We will miss him greatly. We would love to help your family in some way. Tell me what can we do for you?

Hello. I am shocked by the news of N's death, I am very sorry. How is your husband feeling? How are you? […] Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. If you don't mind, I could come and check on you next week.

We mourn and condole - words of support

You see that I am near. If it gets hard or bad, you can write to me. I'm online all the time, ready to listen to you.

N and I used to talk on the phone for hours. You can also call me whenever you want. Do not be afraid to disturb - even if I'm at work, I will find time to answer. On weekends I am always at home.

Call me when you want to unwind. We will take a walk in the fresh air, go to the park, talk. If you need help with your car, please get in touch. I can take you where you need to go.

I know you don't have time right now. If you want to entrust me with some household chores, I will only be happy. I can clean up, buy groceries, walk the dog.

Which phrases should be avoided?

  • try not to use prohibitive expressions (“don't be upset”, “don't be sad”, “don't worry too much”). Grief is a natural process and one must live through it;
  • do not say "calm down", "find the strength to live on", "it's time to think about the good that surrounds you." No need to tell family and friends what to do. Just accept their emotions;
  • Avoid the phrases "I can imagine how you feel" or "I can't even imagine how you feel." The first is not true, and the second is a banality that will only once again remind you how isolated a person is from everyone in his grief;
  • if the deceased died under some difficult circumstances, do not remind about it once again. No need to discuss the details of the tragedy and death.

In summary, when expressing condolences, it is desirable to:

  • offer help;
  • to speak and show that you are nearby, that there are no barriers and social distance between you, you can always be contacted;
  • to remind you that you are ready to listen;
  • share good memories of the deceased.

At the same time it is undesirable:

  • once again to discuss how hard, bad and gloomy everything is;
  • give advice, share your experience when you are not asked;
  • try to "rebuild" a person in a positive way;
  • speak empty phrases (“what a loss”, “unbelievable, I can’t believe”, “terrible loss”).

Is it possible to express condolences in a non-verbal form? Yes, condolences can be expressed in writing or by postcard. The main thing is that this method is convenient for the addressee. It is better not to write detailed letters. If you have a lot to say, say it on the phone. Otherwise, keep the message concise.

Questions and Answers

Is it possible to sympathize with a stranger?

If you're sure it's appropriate, then yes. Sometimes it happens that you know a person in absentia, but communicated well with his deceased relative. Then, in order to avoid an awkward situation, be sure to explain who you are. For example, say, “You may not remember me, I'm your mother's school friend. My condolences".

What to say to relatives on the anniversary of death?

Suffice it to say: "Today is the anniversary of N's death, I'm sorry." Long speeches are given at a funeral or memorial service, and short words are more suitable for an anniversary.

Is it possible to donate money for a funeral?

When a person has died, he can be offered material assistance from the team or a separate family. It is best to collect money in advance and hand it over in an envelope. You can say, “This is from all of us. Please take. You need help now."

Finding the right words of condolence for death is not an easy but important task. Thus, you will show the mourner that he was not left alone in this world, that he is surrounded by understanding and caring people. If it is difficult for you to compose a suitable text, you can always contact the Ritual.ru service. Our staff will help you express condolences verbally and in writing, and, if necessary, prepare a mourning speech for a funeral, memorial service and commemoration. You can get a free consultation on a single number +7 (495) 100-3-100. Operators receive calls 24 hours a day.

June 9, 2021

You might be interested:

  • What they say at funerals and commemorations
  • How to respond to condolences
  • Words of support on the occasion of death
  • Condolences on the death of mother
  • Condolences on the death of the father
  • Condolences on the death of a colleague

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90,000 Today, bleak Europe mourns. And her grief is immeasurable and deep, like all the oceans of the world.: takoe_nebo — LiveJournal

All this happening in Ukraine is bizarre, only at first glance, this is the most common event, no more complicated than those that happened before. Once, in the same way, they made Uniates out of the Orthodox, leaving the external form for the eyes and replacing the internal content. Now the call to kill is normal, even from the lips of a priest right in the service. Commandments? I beg you, this is not a church, this is a sect, a sect of the Ukrainian party. People thought? Naive.
Everything that happens is very similar to schizophrenia, and it seems that schizophrenics are sane, and you have gone crazy. Such a psychological experience on a national scale, the main thing is that the violent ones are enough to complete the task. And they are, the doubters have already fled to the country of the aggressor for safety and do not want to return to die for Nenko.

So we need Russians, even if they are not the smartest or the most talented. But a lot. What difference does it make what meat goes to slaughter? Let the Russians kill the Russians. And they go and they kill. Blaming it on propaganda is stupid, it's not about that, it's about the emptiness inside a person, no, not in the brain, inside. Perhaps where the soul that remembers the commandments, or rather, should have remembered. I understand that a person can be accustomed to the fact that he is Ukrainian, that he is a Uniate, that he is not Russian, although he speaks Russian, all this is possible. Only here it is impossible to convince a person that he is an abomination, and it is impossible to deceive, for this a person must know that he is an abomination. Do you think Ukrainians do not know that they are an abomination? They know. Do you think they don't know they're killing their brothers? They know. Do you think they're sorry? No, they are not sorry. If they win, they will forget all this. And they will even be happy, although they are still happy from the opportunity to kill. They kill because they know that they are lower, more insignificant, meaner, therefore they destroy everything that is better than themselves, this is the rule of Ukrainians, parties, sects.

The experience of forgetting is a truly European trait, which makes Europe look neat even standing waist-deep in the blood of innocent people, that's how it is. She just tries not to remember that the blood of the killed natives flows on the walls of all her palaces, she just turned gray from time to time, and in some places she just painted over with fresh paint, so Ukraine plans if at least one of the carriers of this idea survives.

They believe that they will be helped and they will win, hardly anyone will upset them and dissuade them, the honor of the entire fascist world is at stake, no less. To do this, they will even invite Bandera and policemen to the victory celebration, and they will also tell everyone that this is their holiday, the holiday of the Nazis, scum and underdogs, and not at all the mythical Red Army.

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