When someone dies, it can be hard to find the right words. You could be writing a eulogy or a sympathy card, or having that first conversation with a grieving relative … knowing what to say is difficult.

It’s important to acknowledge someone’s loss and for them to know that they are in your thoughts. The emotion of the situation can mean that meaningful, helpful words elude you.

What to say

Usually, a conversation is your first contact with a grieving relative. Sunlife offers a helpful range of phrases to consider:

  • I’m so sorry for your loss
  • You are in our thoughts and prayers
  • They will be so missed
  • I’m very sorry to hear this tragic news
  • I’m shocked and saddened by this devastating news
  • I can’t imagine how you must feel right now
  • I’m thinking of you in this heart-breaking time
  • She/he was a wonderful person, I’m so sorry they’re gone

Offering your time and help is often appreciated, such as: ‘If you want to talk, I’m here at any time.’ Remember to focus on your friend/relative instead of your own grief.

What to write

When someone dies, writing can be easier than talking. A card, letter or email – even a text – can let someone know that you’re thinking of them (even if they don’t feel up to replying). Helpful phrases to consider are:

  • I can’t begin to imagine your loss.
  • May you find comfort and healing in the love of those who remember with you.
  • Please know that we are thinking of you and your family during this time of sorrow.
  • Our hearts are filled with sadness and tears, but our memories are filled with smiles of the good times we shared over the years.

As well as including your condolences, offering support within written words is helpful. For example: ‘Let me know if there is anything I can do.’

If you’re writing a card for funeral flowers, short messages are helpful, such as:

  • Forever in our thoughts.
  • Gone but never forgotten.
  • Thinking of you always.
  • May you rest in peace.
  • With love and fond memories.

Most importantly …

Worse than saying the wrong words is saying nothing. While it’s difficult to know what to say, keeping quiet can make someone feel ignored. It’s important to consider what you say. It’s absolutely essential to say something.

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