You rack your brain to think of the right thing to say, but nothing comes. “What would I want to hear?” you ask yourself. But the truth is, there’s just not a perfect sequence of words that encapsulate the emotions and tragedy of this type of loss.

Because when someone close to an individual dies, it’s not only an extremely overwhelming experience but very personal. Everybody goes through it in a distinctly different manner, and for every person it is the most important thing in the world during that moment.

But You Should Say Something

It’s not easy, but when people are mourning, they really do want the support of their loved ones. Perhaps reaching out is also a way for you to deal with your own grief. And no doubt you care about this person and want to be there for them in their time of need, even if you don’t know quite what to do with your presence.

It gives you a chance to check how well they’re taking care of themselves.

Even in cases where it’s not someone you know well, we empathize with one another. We can all relate to the pain of loss and feel a need to console.

Lost a loved one

Figuring Out How to Reach Out

There are no black and white rules in these tough moments. But here are some tips to keep in mind.

  1. Pose Well-Meaning Questions – One way to say something when you don’t know what to say is to put your sympathy in the form of a question. “How are you doing?” “Did you get any sleep last night?” “Are the kids in town?” “How is so and so hanging in?” This shows them that you really care about what’s going on and gives them a chance to express themselves, which is what they need. Be sure to listen.
  1. “I Know How You Feel” – This cliché is typically in poor taste; avoid anything along those lines. It just seems cold and unsympathetic to a person in mourning when you focus on your own painful experience. If someone asks for advice regarding something you went through, on the other hand, you’re okay to draw parallels.
  1. Offer Help – Don’t just say that you’re there if they need anything. Offers of assistance seem more genuine and are more likely to be acted upon if they are specific.
  1. Say a Name – If you’re going to express your condolences, make it a point to actually verbalize the deceased person’s name. Anybody can and will offer a kind word to a grieving person, but saying the name of the person who has passed away makes the expression of sympathy more personal and genuine for their loved ones.
  1. Stay in Touch – When someone close to you dies, everyone notices. Then a couple weeks go by, and for everyone else, life goes back to normal. But if it’s someone close to you – a brother, a parent, a spouse, a child – that feeling never goes away. If you truly want to show your sympathy, get in touch from time to time and see how they’re doing. Especially on birthday, holidays, and other special occasions.
  1. Keep it Brief – In cases where you really don’t know where to start, the mourning individual is a loose acquaintance, or they are busy with other people, simply walking up and saying something like, “I’m sorry for your loss” goes a long way. Sometimes it’s the best we can do. Try to follow it with a hug or a handshake to make it more meaningful.

Finding Those Perfect Words

There’s a reason we struggle with these moments. Because there are no perfect words.

All you can do is your best. Offer a bit of genuine sympathy and make your presence known – you’re part of a support system, no matter how on the fringes of that network you may feel.

It takes courage to face the discomfort. But the grieving really do appreciate it.

An Internet Marketer and Freelance Content Writer with quite a few years in the biz, Mark Harris leverages his online freedom to lounge around in coffee shops and spend time at the beach with his wife. He’s a tourist in his own backyard who can’t get enough of the epic kayaking and hiking to be found on Canada’s beautiful West Coast. When it comes to life’s more serious challenges, like planning for his future arrangements, Mark finds his answers at


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