What To Say When Someone Dies

Friend comforting another friend

Losing a loved one can be devastating, and finding the right words to say to someone who has recently lost a loved one can be complicated. You need to balance sensitivity with your condolence messages, what you say when you say it, and how you say it.

Read on to find out how to support someone grieving, what to say, and what not to say.

How can I support someone suffering from grief?

It is difficult watching someone grieve. Sometimes wanting to alleviate the pain of others and being unsure how to do so could make you feel helpless. While you cannot remove the pain of losing a loved one, you can show your support to make their healing journey slightly more manageable. Read on to find out how to support someone during their grieving process.

Acknowledge their sorrow and provide hope

It's natural to want to ease a loved one's pain. However, it is important not to minimize their sorrow and grieving process. Still, you can offer hope and support by acknowledging their grief and giving them the safe space to work through their loss at their own pace and in a way that works for them.

You could remind them of their inner strength and that they will eventually work their way through this challenging time.

It is extremely important to be sincere and convey heartfelt messages when giving a grieving loved one hope and support. Your grieving loved one may already feel isolated and alone, and any interaction that may seem as though it is superficial or insincere might make them feel even more so.

Be present

Sometimes someone in the grieving process needs to know they are not alone. So it could be a great source of comfort having someone there to listen when they need to speak or to sit together in silence if that is what they require.

People process their grief in different ways. They might just want to sit and internally work through the complicated emotions of having experienced grief and loss. Or they might need to speak about their lost loved one. You can show your sympathy to a grieving person and provide them with comfort by simply being with them and listening to what they need to say – or don't need to say.

Often, when working through their grief, a person may repeatedly tell the same story or speak about the same thing. The person doesn't necessarily need your advice or want you to fix or change anything. They simply need someone to listen as they come to terms with their loss.

Show your support through gestures or actions

Someone working through complicated grief may not think of taking care of things that would typically be a part of their daily tasks. You could show your support by offering to help with these tasks.

Suggest specific things you can do to help your close friend, such as helping with funeral arrangements (like liaising with the funeral parlor or designing the funeral leaflets) or dealing with authorities to obtain the death certificate and submit it to relevant parties.

If the yard needs work like grass mowed or snow shoveled, you could do that or arrange for someone to do it. You can do your grieving friend's laundry, make refreshments for mourners, pick up groceries, or cook a meal while the grieving person comes to terms with the death of their loved one.

If you have special skills, you could volunteer them. For example, suppose you are a lawyer or are knowledgeable about estates. In that case, you could assist the bereaved person with these matters.

Reach out with sincerity

You can send your heartfelt condolences in different ways. Text messages, while they may seem impersonal, could be appreciated. They express your deepest sympathy while allowing the person to read the message and respond when they feel up to it. It is a non-intrusive way to let someone know you are there for them without placing any obligation to respond to them.

You can send sympathy gifts or sympathy cards, which shows the person that you are thinking of them in this difficult time. A gift or card is personal and can communicate your deepest condolences without requiring the grieving person to interact with you if they are still overcome with strong feelings of sadness.

If you know the person well and have arranged beforehand, you could stop by to convey your heartfelt sympathy. If you do, however, be sure not to inconvenience those grieving, and don't stay too long. It is important to read the situation and not become a burden more than a support for your grieving friend.

Give the grieving person space.

Some people need the comfort of others around them while they grieve. They find strength and support knowing there are nearby people they can lean on.

Other people wish to grieve in private. They may find the need to interact with or entertain other people burdensome. They could even feel guilty for not responding to text messages, sympathy cards, or other ways of people reaching out.

Respect these people's wishes and give them the space to process their grief in their own way. It helps to clarify that a response is not needed and that you simply wanted to reach out and let the grieving person know you are there to support them if they need someone.

Show respect

It is human nature to want to know what happens when someone's life has ended. It reminds us of our own mortality. When you speak to someone grieving, do so honestly and authentically without ulterior motives.

Avoid asking about what happened unless the person who is grieving volunteers information or speaks about it. Be careful about speculating or gossiping about the deceased person or how they died. If you know how someone passed, be selective with what you share and whom with. Some people may not want these details to be made public knowledge.

Avoid sensationalizing the person's death. This goes not only for speaking about the death but also about someone's loss and how they choose to deal with it.

Remember that the grieving person has lost a loved one and is likely moving through immensely painful emotions. They will remember people who were sensitive during this time in their lives – and those who weren't.

Be accepting and understanding

Processing through grief is a complicated process that could last for weeks, months, or years. There is no time limit on grieving and no set way that one should deal with their grief.

You may find that your friend or family member is still grieving long after losing their loved one. While you might not always understand this, it is important not to judge your grieving friend. Suggesting that it is time they move on does little to help them heal. Sometimes, it could do more harm than good, making the person feel judged and misunderstood.

Allow them to grieve at their own pace and in the manner that feels right to them. Telling them how to grieve—like saying they should cry it out or find something to distract them—might not be well received.

Continue to provide your support

Losing a loved one alters someone's existence, and sometimes the grieving process, although changed, lasts the rest of their life. However, most people offer their sympathies and support soon after someone's passing and eventually move on with their lives.

Those closest to the deceased person are then often left to grieve alone. It could be comforting to them to have someone who continues to reach out after the first few weeks or months. They may appreciate your phone call or visit or offer to run some errands for them.

This could be especially true for widows or widowers who now find themselves living alone and needing to handle many of the tasks their spouse used to handle. Mealtimes might be incredibly lonely and bringing a meal to share is a thoughtful way to show you care after the passing of someone's loved one.

Stay focused, and don't make it about you

A bereaved parent doesn't want to hear how the loss of their child made you appreciate what time you have with your children even more. Allow them to speak about what they are going through. Refrain from turning the focus of the conversation back to you and your experience of the loss.

Making comparisons of your own experiences might not be helpful unless you can share stories or information about times when you experienced grief. Even then, this should be shared with sensitivity and respect – always focusing on the person who is grieving.

For example, a story of your grandmother peacefully passing in her sleep may not comfort someone who lost a husband or wife at a young age and now has two kids to raise on their own.

Sharing this story may make the grieving person feel more isolated and misunderstood.

Use social media sparingly

Nowadays, so few things are sacred and do not make it onto your social media pages. A 'Rest in Peace' post on a social media platform might seem an excellent way to show respect. Even so, it could be very difficult for grieving friends or family members to process the death of their loved one if they keep seeing pictures of them on their social feeds.

The same goes for speaking to the media. Again, while you may have good intentions, any statements published in the media should come from (or be approved by) the family.

What should you say when someone dies?

It may be challenging to think of what to say to someone who has recently lost a loved one. You may find it tricky to find the right words and worry about saying the wrong thing.

Sincerely showing someone that you care about them and are there to support them will be appreciated even if the person is not in the space to acknowledge it. Even so, you may wonder what the right thing to say is.

Sometimes saying: "I am sorry for your loss" might seem insincere and generic. It doesn't quite convey your deep and sincere condolences. So here are some alternatives for sorry for your loss.

Occasionally we are afraid to name or speak about the deceased person. This is because we think that by bringing them up, we may remind the bereaved person of the death of their loved one and cause them more pain and sorrow.

In most cases, it is quite the opposite. The truth is, a grieving person is nearly continuously thinking of the person they lost.

Many people who grieve might feel that the person who had passed will pass from memory if they don't speak about them. Perhaps, to them, all they have left of the passed loved one are their memories of that person. So it could help in their bereavement process to speak about the person who died.

You can tell them how much you will miss the person who has passed or share some of your memories of them. This could help someone who is grieving process their grief instead of ignoring it.

You don't need to wait for the grieving person to bring up the subject of the deceased person. Instead, ask them about one of their favorite memories or what they liked best about the person. This tells them that they are in a safe space to share and that you want to hear and share these memories with them.

Mainly, treat the grieving person like a person. Speak directly, and don't sugarcoat things. Many times, when someone has recently lost a loved one, they may not be bothered about niceties or euphemisms (although some may be). Take their cue and speak to them on the level where they are.

They will feel when you are being authentic and appreciate your honesty, openness, and understanding. When you show genuine sympathy instead of simply saying clichéd things to try to make them feel better, it is less likely that you will say something “wrong.”

What not to say when someone dies?

We want to offer our grieving loved ones some comfort after they have lost someone dear to them. We want to ease their burden of bereavement, but it is so difficult to know what to say when someone dies.

Often when we greet each other, we automatically ask them how they are. While this has become a part of a usual greeting, it might not be appropriate to say it to someone who is grieving.

The obvious honest answer to this question is: "Not good." Asking it and putting the bereaved person in the position where they have to answer this phrase could lead to an awkward situation where you both feel uncomfortable.

Asking how they are could seem as though you are ignorant of the other person's pain and loss. It might come across as though you are treating them and the conversation as you would a conversation on any other day and in any other situation.

On the other hand, while you may avoid asking this question out of sympathy and trying to evade a situation where the person must admit that they are not doing well, it could leave them feeling invisible.

Not asking how they are will rob them and you of the chance to connect over your mutual sadness.

Instead of asking how they are, you could ask how they are feeling. This can create a space for them to share their thoughts or emotions or speak to you about something pressing on their hearts.

When you ask someone who is grieving how they are feeling without expecting a generic "fine," you can open up a conversation about your shared grief. It could lead to a vulnerable conversation where you both could find some comfort, healing, and peace.

Phrases like "It's God's will" or "It's for the best," No matter how well intended, seldom do much to alleviate grief. Avoid saying these are similar phrases unless the grieving person says them first.

While you may be saying this with good intent, some people don't want to hear it, especially not when they are working through one of the most painful experiences of their lives.

Be cautious of using religious references, particularly when you are not sure of the grieving person's religious beliefs. Trying to comfort a non-believer by telling them that their loved one is now with God will do very little to provide them the peace and relief that you hope to offer.

More than that, avoid trying to convert mourners to any religion during this time of bereavement. Trying to scare or motivate someone who is grieving into converting to a particular religion is insensitive and may offend them.

How can I explain death to children?

Speaking to kids about death can be difficult. When you speak to a child about death, be direct while creating a safe space for them to process and ask questions.

Euphemisms aren't always helpful when speaking to children. It could cause confusion when you say something like: "Grandpa is no longer with us." Don't be scared to use words like 'died' or 'dead,' as long as they are accompanied by short explanations of what they mean.

If a child is confused about what happened to a loved one, they could become scared. Being uncertain of where they are, kids could continue looking for the person who died.

Children think in concrete ways. They cannot always distinguish between euphemisms and reality. Using phrases like: "gone to sleep" can make a child scared to go to bed in case they never wake up.

Answer any questions that your child might have openly and honestly while providing age-appropriate information. You may need to ask clarifying questions to ensure you fully understand what they are asking before you answer.

You don't necessarily need to give your child all the details straight away. They especially don't need to know all the medical details. Start by telling them only the basic details, give them time to process, and then let them know you are available if they want to speak some more. Allow them to guide this process; they will let you know when they are ready.

Avoid making up things if you don't know the answers to some of their questions. Instead, admit that you don't know and assure them that you will try to find out.

You can help your children process their grief by grieving alongside them. This teaches them that showing and feeling their emotions is safe as they work through them.

Share memories of the lost loved one with your children. As with adults, this could help them find comfort and deal with overwhelming feelings of loss and sadness.

Let the conversation unfold naturally. Avoid trying to deliberately steer it in a specific direction or having an agenda. Instead, give your child time to process through silence and give them opportunities to ask questions.

It may be difficult to speak with children about the death of a loved one while you are trying to manage and regulate your own emotions. However, it is important to show them that you are also sad and that crying is acceptable.

How can Spoonful of Comfort help me?

Spoonful of Comfort care packages can help you send your condolence messages to someone who is grieving. They specialize in putting together packages that their service can deliver directly to your bereaved loved one, friend, or colleague's door.

The Sympathy Soup Gift Basket includes everything you would make if you were to cook a meal for your grieving loved one. This basket contains four to six servings of hearty soup or mac n' cheese, half a dozen Bacci rolls (or bread bowls if you order certain soups), half a dozen cookies of your choice, a serving ladle, and a card with a personal sympathy message from you.

The Peace and Pampering Care Package could help a bereaved person take their mind off their loss by giving them some self-care items. This package includes a Cozy Comfort Throw, Cozy Comfort Socks, pure goat milk hand cream and lip balm, a soothing tea trio, lavender fields candle with a wooden lid, calming coloring book and pencils, and a personalized note from you.

Spoonful of Comfort's Sympathy and Solace Care Package includes a Cozy Comfort Throw, Healing After Loss book, soothing tea trio, raw honey with a wooden dipper, half a dozen cookies of your choice, and a personal message from you.

Children might find some comfort in the Cookies and Cuddles Care Package. This package consists of a cozy blanket, a warmable stuffed monkey filled with soothing lavender, half a dozen cookies, a Cuddle Monkey book, and a note card with a thoughtful message from you.

Reaching out a few weeks or months down after the passing of someone to tell their loved one that you are still thinking of them could make them feel less alone. The You're One Tough Cookie Package could brighten someone's day and remind them that you care and that they are in your thoughts. You could include one of these thinking of you messages. It might even encourage them to reach out to you if they need someone to talk to.

This package included either one or two dozen cookies. If you choose one dozen cookies, you can send two flavors (half a dozen each). If you send two dozen cookies, you get to send them four different flavors.

Sending a pie or two could take some of the responsibility of entertaining off a bereaved friend's shoulders. You can choose between apple streusel or mixed berry streusel pies if you send the Comfort by the Slice Pie Package. Each pie is ready to bake and delivers between six and eight servings. The pie comes with a streusel topping, pie server, and Blue-ribbon packaging that can be used as a serving tray. A sympathy card from you can accompany this.

Finding the right words when someone dies may be tricky. The most important thing is taking the grieving person's lead and giving them a safe space to work through their emotions. Being sensitive and authentic will allow you to connect more deeply with other mourners and be appreciated by those closest to the deceased.

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