When we first find out that someone has died it can be incredibly difficult to know what to say in that very moment.
If someone we know has lost a parent, a brother or sister, or a friend, we will naturally worry about saying the wrong thing to them.
We don’t want to offend them or make matters worse or say something that gets taken the wrong way.
There is no doubt it will be a real shock to us as well at first, but through the years this scenario is likely to be one that we are faced with several times – from both friends and relatives telling us that they have lost loved ones.
To help you be prepared to handle future situations when you learn that someone has died, we have put together these 8 ideas you can use to express your sincere condolences without fear of saying the wrong thing or having to stand there in an awkward silence as you try to think of the right words to say.
Things To Say When Someone Dies
1. Acknowledge their death
Instead of remaining in an awkward silence or stuttering out words of an apology, acknowledge the death and state what a terrible thing it is to have happened and that you’re truly sorry they are having to go through this.
You want to say it in a way that feels natural and heartfelt, which should come easy enough as chances are this is exactly how you will feel.
You could begin with something such as “I heard about (insert name) this morning – it’s such terrible news, I’m so sorry you’re having to go through this”.
2. Ask specific questions
Most people avoid asking questions because they feel it is already obvious how distraught they feel following the death of someone close to them, but asking the right questions gives the grieving person an opportunity to express their feelings.
Avoid general questions, like “How are you?”, and instead ask questions that are a little more specific, such as “How do you feel you’re coping with things?”, “What are you doing to keep busy with your days?”, “Do you have people you can turn to for support?”.
3. Show empathy
When you find out someone has died you will probably feel several emotions all at once, most notably shock, sadness, and then panic as you try to muster up the words to say with no real time to think.
Despite these feelings, never assume that the bereaved person feels exactly the same – we all deal with grief in our own way at our own pace.
Saying something along the lines of “I can’t begin to imagine how you’re feeling at the moment” shows you’re empathetic towards their unique experience with grief and that you sympathetically understand they are trying to get through this difficult time in their own way.
4. Express your sorry
Although you need to show empathy with the bereaved, as mentioned above, there is no harm in gently expressing your own feelings of sadness.
The key is to be sure you avoid implying that you feel the same level of sadness as they do, but it’s ok to share that you do feel sorrow about the situation. This isn’t the time to recall similar situations you’ve experienced, such as the time a relative or friend of yours passed away, but instead focus on expressing your sorrow for the situation the bereaved is having to face.
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5. Accept feelings of anger
Another emotion that many people experience during times of grief is anger. Sometimes this emotion arrives quickly, whereas for other people it can be something that is felt later down the line, many weeks or even months later.
Avoid trying to explain or fix the situation, but don’t be afraid to recognise your own anger brewing up or fear that crying may hold you back from expressing your sympathy. You will no doubt want to contribute more than a simple sorry, but if you do feel overwhelmed with your own emotions then saying that you’re sorry and embracing them with a hug or a gentle hand on the shoulder is certainly better than panicking and saying nothing at all.
6. Discuss the person who has passed away
Talking to someone about the person who has passed away can seem like the most difficult thing to do so soon after the event, but the one who is grieving may be finding it incredibly tough to accept people no longer mentioning their loved one.
You do have to understand your relationship with the bereaved and consider how well you truly know them, but if you feel it is right, occasionally sharing memories can present those who are grieving with an opportunity to talk about their lost loved one.
You could attempt starting these conversations by saying something like “they would always make me laugh so much”, or “I fondly remember this about her as if it were just yesterday…”.
7. Don’t fear upsetting them
The fear of saying the wrong thing and upsetting them may tempt you into avoiding them altogether for the time being.
You may want to ensure you don’t remind them of their grief, or feel they are better off left coping alone for a while.
It’s important to understand that the person grieving is already facing tremendous sadness, and many of us appreciate some normality and being surrounded with people who mean the most and care about us during these times.
It is usually far better to keep in touch every now and then by letting them know that you’re always there to tend to anything they may need – be it a conversation or something they’d like you to fetch from the shop.
This goes for after the funeral as well – the grieving process can take a very long time for many people.
8. Ask them what they would like to chat about
It can be very difficult for someone who is grieving to take the initiative by opening up to someone so that they can let their true feelings come pouring out.
Grieving people often feel it’s far easier to bottle things up and choose to take the easy way out by saying “I don’t want to talk about it” rather than “I really want to talk about it”.
This can often be in response to something they feel may trigger their emotions – this doesn’t even have to be specifically about the person who has passed, it could simply be about a related topic.
Taking a small risk and asking them what they would like to chat about at least presents them with another opportunity to call the conversation shots – it’s better to offer yourself as a caring listener and to trust their response.
Here at Thornhill Memorials, we offer a wide range of memorials across Cardiff, South Wales and beyond to help people honour and remember their lost loved ones. If you’d like to discuss a memorial or would like to learn more about our memorial insurance, maintenance or monumental restoration services, don’t hesitate to get in touch to book in your no-obligation consultation by calling 02920 689 595 or by simply completing our online contact form.