If someone you know recently lost a loved one, it may be difficult to find the right words to say.
The intense pain that accompanies grief often makes others feel uncomfortable about offering support to those grieving. But, don’t let discomfort prevent you from reaching out to those closest to you.
Your friends and family members will take comfort in knowing you care by attending services and expressing your sympathy.
As you prepare for the funeral or memorial service, consider these topics to ease into conversation with the people you love.
1. “I am so sorry for your loss.”
If at a loss for words, this phrase is short and simple. It shows that you recognize the emotional difficulty of this situation, which can help surviving family members and friends feel less isolated in their grief experience.
2. “My thoughts are with you and your family.”
The grieving process can be vastly different from one person to the next. It’s important to remind those grieving that you care about them and are thinking about them during this difficult time. This reassures them that they’re not alone, which can aid the healing process.
3. “I'm just a phone call away.”
Each of us grieves differently. While some people choose to cope with grief on their own, others find comfort in sharing their thoughts and feelings.
Sometimes, after services, a person realizes just how painful their loss is. A small gesture—like a phone call—can reassure him or her that they’re not alone. So let a grieving friend or family member know that you are available to talk anytime they need a listening ear.
4. “I feel so lucky to have known him / her.”
It can be difficult for surviving family members and friends to focus on the positive after a loss. While the funeral or memorial service can be extremely emotional, it’s important for grievers to celebrate the life lost.
If a fond memory comes to mind, take time to share it with others. As more stories are shared throughout the service, the aura of the room will change. This can help those grieving feel connected to the deceased.
5. “I'm here to help. Is there anything I can do?”
Having to complete everyday tasks—such as preparing a meal—while grieving can be exhausting and emotionally draining. A small gesture like offering to make a meal, stopping by the grocery store, taking the dog for a walk or mowing the lawn can make all the difference in a person’s day.
When you offer to help, know that they may have trouble accepting it at first. If he or she turns you down, try again another time. People are more likely to take you up on something specific, as it sounds more sincere. Plus, it’s a great way for you to check in on them and see how they’re doing following services.
6. “I'm here to listen.”
Oftentimes, just being present at a funeral or memorial service helps surviving family members and friends mourn. If an individual engages you in conversation, let him or her speak first. Take time to listen to what they’re saying and respond when you feel it’s appropriate. Reach out to hold their hand and give them a hug. Just being present is a sign of comfort for the bereaved.
While you want to say the right thing to those who are grieving, it isn’t always easy to find words in the moment. Keep these conversation topics in mind the next time you attend a funeral or memorial service to honor the deceased and show your support to their loved ones.
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2017, and has been updated to be more comprehensive.