What to Say When Someone Dies | Words of Comfort | Beyond (2023)

Wanting to comfort someone who is hurting is the most natural thing in the world. But it can be hard to know what to say when someone dies. That all-too-familiar worry⁠— what if you say the wrong thing?⁠— can leave you frozen, unable to make a peep (good or bad).

So, what do you say when someone dies? And what are the phrases to avoid? Let’s take a look.

What to say to someone who is grieving: Dos and don’ts

DO: Say something

Don’t hold back because you’re not sure what to say. It happens a lot, and it can make the mourning period a very lonely time for those who are grieving.

So, reach out. You don’t have to drop by (in fact, this can seem a bit intrusive in the first few days) but a phone call can mean a lot. A sympathy card or email is also okay. Even a text is better than silence.

Here are some things to say when someone dies:

  • I was so sorry to hear that Susan died.
  • I can’t imagine how you must be feeling.
  • We love you and we want you to know we’re thinking of you.
  • I just wanted to say that if you need to talk, I’m here for you.
  • I know how much you loved him.
  • We’re always here for you, if you need anything. Big or small.
  • I don’t know what to say, except that I’m so sorry. There are no words.
  • Your dad was such a kind and thoughtful man. He’s going to be missed so much.
  • This must be so hard for you.
  • We all loved Laura. She had a way of making people smile. We’re going to miss her.
  • I wish I had the right words for you. All I can say is that I’m here if you need someone to listen.

DON’T: Try to “fix” it

Yes, it’s hard to see someone you love in pain. But remember that there are no words that can fix grief. Especially not clichés!

So, remember NOT to say things like:

  • Everything happens for a reason / This is God’s plan / God never gives us more than we can cope with.
  • You will find someone else one day / You’ll have another child.
  • At least he isn’t suffering anymore (or anything else starting with “at least” — there is no bright side).

DO: Listen, listen, listen

This is one of the best things you can do for someone who is grieving. They will need someone to listen to them just as much as they’ll need words of comfort when someone dies. So, let them talk it out. If they cry, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Give them a hug and let them say what they need to say.


DON’T: Make it about you

Plenty of grieving people have heard someone say, “I know how you feel” and wondered, Do you? Do you really?

It’s best to avoid using this phrase, even if you’ve lost someone yourself. No two people grieve alike. And if your dog has died recently, your grief is valid — but you definitely don’t know how a bereaved partner or parent or child feels.

DO: Share your memories

You might feel like it’s bad manners to mention the person who has died to their grieving family. But you’ll often find that they’re actually pleased to hear something new about them. If you have a special memory to share, share it. These are pure gold to someone who is grieving.

DO: Remember that actions speak louder than words

When you’re not sure what to say to someone who has lost a family member, a partner, or a friend, remember this: you don’t have to say anything much, as long as you show up for them.

A hug goes a long way. And small errands speak to how much you’re thinking of them. Drop off some meals they can pop in the oven or microwave. Do their laundry. Clean up a bit. Watch their kids for an hour or two while they get some sleep.

Don’t wait for them to ask for help, either. A lot of grieving people will attempt to struggle on without help. Or they’ll simply let everything slide, forgetting to look after themselves. Find something you can do and ask them about the best way to do it.

Due to the current Covid-19 outbreak, it isn’t always possible to hug or even spend time the person who is grieving. There are other ways you can show that you care, though. You could offer to do their weekly shop for them, order them some wellness-style treats online, or call them regularly for a chat. It’s important that they know they haven’t been forgotten.

DON’T: Tell them how to feel

You might think you’re helping when you tell someone not to cry, or to “be strong”. “Tom would want you to be happy” is another well-meaning thing people often say when someone dies.

(Video) “Words Of Comfort For Grief” Jonathan McKnight

But when you’re grieving, it’s important to be able to express yourself. Crying can be a healthy part of that. They might not even be able to help it. So, it’s kinder to say things like, “That’s okay, just go ahead and cry”.

At the same time, try not to put pressure on someone to cry! Some people simply can’t cry after a death. The shock is too great, or they express their grief some other way. There’s no right or wrong way to mourn.

DO: Stay in touch

When someone dies, a lot of friends and relatives turn up and lend their support. After the funeral, this support tends to slowly drop away. And yet grief lasts far longer than a few weeks.

So, try to check in with your grieving friend or relative regularly. Remember that special occasions like Christmas, Easter, weddings, birthdays and anniversaries can be especially hard.

What to say when someone dies unexpectedly

Because of the sheer shock of it, it can be especially hard to know what to say when someone dies suddenly. But it’s okay to express that surprise. Here are some simple things to start with:

  • This is such a tragedy. I can’t imagine how you must be feeling. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.
  • I can’t believe Sam is gone. You must be devastated. I just wanted to say that I’m here for you.
  • I’m thinking of you. This is so unexpected and so sad. Lucy was the kindest, sweetest person. I’m here if you need anything.

A quick note on “I’m here if you need anything…”

See also “let me know if I can help at all.” These are kind words to say when someone dies. But don’t let them be your only offer of help. Rather than putting the burden on the person who is grieving to reach out to you, try to some up with something concrete and specific to offer them.

  • I’d like to cook something for you and the girls. Is it okay to drop it off Tuesday morning?
  • Now I’m here, do you have any laundry/tidying/errands I can do for you? I know you won’t have had much time lately.
  • You must be exhausted. Would you like me to sit with the kids for a bit while you take a nap?

When someone close to you dies, it’s natural to start thinking about getting your own affairs in order. And a will is the best way to make sure your family and friends are taken care of.

At Beyond, you can make your will online at home for just £90. It’s a simple service that can give you peace of mind in as little as 20 minutes. Try out our online will service here.

(Video) Words of comfort for grief | loss of a loved one

For more advice on what to say when someone dies…

There are lots of guides to help you support a grieving friend here on the Beyond site.

If you struggle with finding the right words, we have advice on writing a sympathy card or a message to go with the funeral flowers. If it’s etiquette that keeps you up at night, we have tips on what to do, take and wear to a funeral. And our section on grief and bereavement here can help you understand some of what they’re going through.

Not found the guide you’re looking for? Ask the Beyond community on our funeral forum.

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(Video) Prayer When Someone Dies | Get Comfort and Peace From The Lord

(Video) Words of Comfort to the Bereaved Family


What to say to someone who is deeply grieving? ›

Things that can be helpful
  • Say how sorry you are. ...
  • Share a memory. ...
  • Offer them space to talk. ...
  • Tell them however they feel is OK. ...
  • Recognise how hard it is for them. ...
  • Ask if there is anything they need. ...
  • Tell them you're thinking of them. ...
  • Sometimes you don't need to say anything.

How do you respond to empathy when someone dies? ›

1. Express sympathy for their loss
  1. “I'm sorry for your loss.”
  2. “My deepest sympathies to you and your family.”
  3. “Words can't describe how sorry I am for your loss.”
  4. “Thinking of you at this difficult time.”
  5. “So sorry to hear about your mother…”.
Aug 16, 2021

How do you comfort someone after a death with words? ›

You can acknowledge the situation and express your concern by saying the following:
  1. "I'm so sorry for your loss."
  2. "I'm here for you."
  3. "My favorite memory of your loved one is..."
  4. "I don't know how you feel, but I am here to help in any way I can."
  5. "God has a plan." or "They're in a better place now."
May 26, 2022

What can you say instead of sorry when comforting someone? ›

What to say instead of sorry for your loss?
  • “I'm thinking of you during this difficult time”
  • “You are in my thoughts, and I'm here if you need to talk or hold my hand”
  • “I'm sorry you're going through this”
  • “I was saddened to hear of Michael's passing, and my thoughts are with you and your family.”
Jul 23, 2021

How do you uplift someone who is grieving? ›

Here are some ways you can give support to someone who is grieving:
  1. Be a good listener. ...
  2. Respect the person's way of grieving. ...
  3. Accept mood swings. ...
  4. Avoid giving advice. ...
  5. Refrain from trying to explain the loss. ...
  6. Help out with practical tasks. ...
  7. Stay connected and available. ...
  8. Offer words that touch the heart.
Jul 1, 2018

What is a good short sympathy message? ›

Short sympathy messages:

Those we have held in our arms for a little while, we hold in our hearts forever.” —Unknown. “I am so sorry for your loss.” —Unknown. “We are with you through this difficult time.” —Unknown. “May the sorrow you feel in your heart lighten by the love that surrounds you.” —Unknown.

What do you text a grieving family member? ›

  • “We are so sorry for your loss.”
  • “I'm going to miss her, too.”
  • “I hope you feel surrounded by much love.”
  • “Sharing in your sadness as you remember Juan.”
  • “Sharing in your sadness as you remember Dan.”
  • “Sending healing prayers and comforting hugs. ...
  • “With deepest sympathy as you remember Robert.”
Apr 20, 2022

How do you express sympathy without saying sorry? ›

Examples of Empathetic Responses
  1. Acknowledge their pain. Perhaps the best thing you can do is to acknowledge how the other person feels. ...
  2. Share how you feel. ...
  3. Show gratitude that the person opened up. ...
  4. Show interest. ...
  5. Be encouraging. ...
  6. Be supportive.
Nov 1, 2017

How do you express empathy in words? ›

OhMD's guide to showing empathy over text
  1. “I'm here for you.”
  2. “What do you need right now?”
  3. “I'm happy to listen any time.”
  4. “I'm sorry you are going through this.”
  5. “That sounds really challenging.”
  6. “I can see how that would be difficult.”
May 11, 2022

What are some common responses to grief? ›

Your emotions or feelings from grief may include shock, numbness, sadness, denial, despair, and/or anger. You might experience anxiety or depression. You can also feel guilty, relieved, or helpless.

Should I text someone when they are grieving? ›

The answer is yes, if you are comfortable doing so. Texting a condolence is an efficient way to immediately reach out to friends and family. A heartfelt message lets those who are grieving know we are thinking of them. Receiving these short, meaningful messages allows the bereaved to feel comforted and supported.

What is a comforting quote about death? ›

Sorrow is so easy to express and yet so hard to tell.” “A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our loved ones are sealed inside to comfort us.” “Grant but memory to us, and we lose nothing by death.” “There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.”

How do you console someone who is sad? ›

76 Ways to Comfort Someone When They're Feeling Down
  1. #1 Text a photo of a fun memory.
  2. #2 Start a project together.
  3. #3 Acknowledge their feelings.
  4. #4 Bring them a surprise dessert.
  5. #5 Ask 36 Deep Questions.
  6. #6 Pick up the phone.
  7. #7 Send a thoughtful text.
  8. #8 Show gratitude with a handwritten letter.

What's a stronger word than sorry? ›

adj.remorseful, regretful. adj.sad, heartbroken. pathetic.

What is the strongest word for sorry? ›

  • ashamed.
  • remorseful.
  • apologetic.
  • regretful.
  • repentant.
  • contrite.
  • penitent.
  • grieving.

What are some good encouraging words? ›

Upbeat Affirmations
  • “You got this.”
  • “Good luck today! ...
  • “Sending major good vibes your way.”
  • “I know this won't be easy, but I also know you've got what it takes to get through it.”
  • “Hope you're doing awesome!”
  • “Time to go kick cancer's ass!”
  • “Keep on keeping on!”
Aug 25, 2022

What is the best empathy statement? ›

Top Empathy Statements to Paste into an Email or Live Chat

I would be upset too. I realise how complicated it is to… I can imagine how frustrating that would be. That would be disappointing, especially when…

How do you empathize instead of sympathize? ›

Empathy and sympathy are both ways we respond to the suffering of people around us. But there's a crucial difference: Sympathy is acknowledging someone else's pain, but empathy is choosing to feel the pain with them. Sympathy says, “I care about you,” and empathy says, “I'm hurting with you.”

How do you express empathy and sympathy? ›

Ways to Express Sympathy
  1. Look for an immediate need and fill it. ...
  2. Be there when needed. ...
  3. Provide food. ...
  4. Sending flowers or donating to a charity. ...
  5. Reach out and touch (literally). ...
  6. Listen. ...
  7. Send a note, card, letter, or make a phone call. ...
  8. Encourage the bereaved to get out of the house.

What are 5 examples of sympathy? ›

Examples of Sympathy
  • Telling someone you're sorry for their loss of a loved one.
  • Sending a sympathy card to your friend who just lost their mother.
  • Sending flowers to a funeral.
  • Reassuring your friend that things will get better.

How do you respond compassionately to someone's suffering? ›

There are many types of responses that you can use to show compassion when someone is hurting:
  1. Offering support. ...
  2. Asking for elaboration. ...
  3. Exploring fears or worst-case scenarios. ...
  4. Reducing isolation. ...
  5. Encouraging problem solving. ...
  6. Eliciting additional support. ...
  7. Stimulating coping resources. ...
  8. Understanding cognitive factors.
May 1, 2018

What is short sentence of empathy? ›

Example Sentences

He felt great empathy with the poor. His months spent researching prison life gave him greater empathy towards convicts.

What is a typical response for friends when dealing with a grieving person? ›

Support a bereaved friend by actively listening to them or sitting with them if they don't want to talk. Be present and hold nonjudgmental space for them to feel their feelings. Avoid comparing their loss to your own experiences, saying platitudes or trying to get them to “snap out of it.”

What is exaggerated grief response? ›

Exaggerated grief is the exaggeration of the normal grief process, either through actions, words, or mental health. Exaggerated grief may include major psychiatric disorders that develop following a loss such a phobias as a result of hyper-grieving thoughts, actions, words, etc.

What are the five emotional responses people go through after a loss? ›

Grief is typically conceptualized as a reaction to death, though it can occur anytime reality is not what we wanted, hoped for, or expected. Persistent, traumatic grief can cause us to cycle (sometimes quickly) through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

What are thoughtful words about death? ›

Honoring the Lost Loved One

"Good men must die, but death cannot kill their names." "As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us, as We remember them." "Only love gives us the taste of eternity." "The only truly dead are those who have been forgotten."

How do you emotionally comfort someone? ›

Express your concern for them. Show your friend that you care by expressing your emotions. Let your friend know that you're sorry about their situation. Hearing someone's concern might make your friend feel better, and it will show that you want the best for them.

How do you respond to a text when someone is sad? ›

  1. “Whenever you need to call, I'm here.” ...
  2. “I wish I could be there right now.” ...
  3. “You're still in my thoughts. ...
  4. “Your family is lucky to have you through all this.” ...
  5. “Maybe I can't be there, but there's definitely something I can do. ...
  6. “Hey, get well soon. ...
  7. “You're doing a great job with a major responsibility.
Nov 19, 2022

What to say to someone who lost a loved one quotes? ›

Short Sympathy Quotes and Sympathy Sayings
  • “Gone from our sight, but never from our hearts.”
  • “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”
  • “I wish you healing and peace.”
  • “I hope you feel surrounded by much love.”
  • “We are so sorry for your loss.”
  • “We are thinking of you during these difficult times.”
Dec 15, 2021


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