Words of comfort: Supporting someone whose loved one has died

November 2023

Family Support

Losing someone important to you can be an incredibly difficult experience and during such times, finding the right words to say can sometimes feel overwhelming. When someone close to you is grieving, it’s natural to want to offer comfort and support, but it can be challenging to know how to express this in a way that is both meaningful and sensitive. Here, we will explore some helpful guidelines and suggestions that you may like to consider when offering support to someone recently bereaved.

Acknowledge the loss

Start by acknowledging the loss directly and expressing your sympathy. Simple phrases like “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “Please accept my heartfelt condolences” can go a long way in conveying your support. Be genuine and sincere in your words and let the person know that you are there for them during this difficult time.

Offer specific support

Instead of making general offers like “Let me know if you need anything,” try offering specific ways that you can help. For example, you could say, “I’m here for you if you need someone to talk to,” or “I can pick up groceries for you if that would be helpful.” Specific offers of support show that you are willing to go the extra mile and provide practical help during their grieving process.

Share memories

If you knew the person who died, sharing a fond memory or story can not only be a beautiful way to honour their life but can provide comfort for those left behind. Recalling a special moment you shared or something that made the person unique, allows those grieving to know how much that person meant to you as well. Sharing memories can provide a sense of connection and remind those grieving that their loved one will continue to be remembered by others.

Use active listening

Sometimes, the most powerful way to support someone who is grieving is simply by being present and listening attentively. Let them express their feelings, memories and emotions without judgment or interruption. Offer words of empathy, such as “I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for you” or “It’s okay to feel however you’re feeling.” Active listening demonstrates your willingness to understand their pain and validates their grief.

Avoid clichés and assumptions

While it is natural to want to offer comfort, it is important to be mindful of the language you use. Avoid clichéd phrases such as “They’re in a better place” or “Everything happens for a reason.” These statements may unintentionally invalidate the person’s grief or minimise their pain. Additionally, refrain from assuming how the person feels or what they need. Allow them to express themselves and respect their unique grieving process.

Be present and patient

 Grief does not follow a linear path and it can take time for someone to come to terms with their loss. Be patient and understanding, recognising that the person may experience a range of emotions and reactions. Check in with them periodically to see how they are doing and let them know that you are available to listen or spend time together whenever they are ready.

When comforting someone who has lost someone special to them, remember that your presence and support can make a significant difference in their healing process. By acknowledging the loss, offering specific support, sharing memories, actively listening, avoiding clichés, and being patient, you can provide a comforting environment for them to navigate their grief. Remember, sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is, “I’m here for you.”


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