Do you know what to say when someone dies?
Or do you — like many of us — struggle to come up with the right words of sympathy?
Maybe you’ve decided to say as little as possible and show your sympathy with thoughtful actions and gifts. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But if you want some help putting your sympathy into words that won’t make anyone cringe, we’ve curated this list of comforting things to say or write.
We’ve even thrown in a short list of things not to (ever) say to someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one.
So, what can you say that will send the right message to a grieving friend?
- Why It’s Important to Offer Condolences
- 35 Helpful Things to Say When Someone Dies
- 9 Things Not to (Ever) Say When Someone Dies
- FAQs About Things to Say When Someone Passes
Why It’s Important to Offer Condolences
It’s painful to even speak of it, especially when you know your friend is already hurting and you’re afraid of making the pain worse.
But by avoiding the subject, you send the message that you don’t want to talk about it — which makes those who are grieving feel less free to grieve openly.
It makes you someone they can’t be around unless they’re feeling strong enough to keep their feelings under wraps.
Don’t do that to them. They’re having a hard enough time without having to seem braver just to make you more comfortable.
All you really need to express in words is:
- How sorry you are that they’ve lost someone they love.
- You want to help in any way you can.
- You’re there for them if they want to talk or enjoy the company of someone who loves them.
If you’re struggling with what to say or what to write in a card when someone dies, we hope you find the ideas listed below helpful.
35 Helpful Things to Say When Someone Dies
Take your pick from these comforting things to say when someone dies — whether you’re saying these things to someone’s face or writing the words in a sympathy card.
1. Say nothing but bring food (so they don’t have to cook) and hugs (if they want them).
3. “When I lost [someone close to you], I couldn’t process what other people were telling me — unless it was irritating or insensitive. Tell me if there’s something I can do that would help in any way.”
4. “I’m so grateful to have known _____, and I want you to know I’m here if you need anything.“
5. “______ couldn’t have planned this better. Can I help with clean-up afterward?”
6. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now, but I want to help in any way I can. So, please don’t hesitate to tell me if anything comes to mind. Anything.“
7. “I’m guessing the last thing you want right now is to be forced into being sociable. If you need to leave early to have some time to yourself, just say the word.”
9. “I’m so sorry to hear of ______’s passing, and I can’t help thinking of you and wondering how I could make these days better for you in some way. If there’s anything you need or would like, call or text me anytime.“
10. “______ was so blessed to have you, and now I hope we can be a blessing to you as you deal with this loss.”
11. “I wish you nothing but peace, comfort, strength and as many good things as possible. May ____ rest in peace, and may you always know we’re here for you.”
12. “I have no idea what to say that could possibly comfort you at a time like this. Just know that I’m hurting with you and ready to help with anything — including clean-up afterward.”
13. “_______ was one of my favorite people, and so are you. Please know that you’re not alone, and I will jump at the chance to do anything that might bring you comfort or lighten your load in some way.”
14. “I’m glad you have some good memories to cherish from your life with ______, but I know that doesn’t lessen the pain of losing him/her. Words are useless to me right now, but I’m ready to help in any way I can.”
16. “You were a blessing to ______ while he/she lived, and I hope you know you’re a blessing to me, too. Just say the word if there’s anything I can do to help.”
17. “This note is good for a free bouquet of flowers for each month of this first painful year without ______. I’ll also be bringing you dinner on the evening of your choice this week. Let me know what day works best for you.”
18. “I’m enclosing a small gift to remind you of how important you are to me (a pendant, bracelet, etc.). When you see it, I hope you’ll remember that I’m here if there’s anything you need — or if you’d like to meet for coffee or a different kind of drink.”
19. “I’m enclosing a receipt for a year’s worth of monthly wine deliveries to help you toast all the good moments you had with _______. Any time you want company, I’ll be here. I reserve the right to bring pie (or another treat the grieving person enjoys).”
20. “I know your mornings without ______ will hurt more, and this gift won’t make a dent in your grief. But I hope this coffee/tea will bring at least a little more enjoyment to your days and remind you of our love for you.”
21. “When I lost _____, I couldn’t stand how quiet the nights were, so I hope this gift [a white noise machine] will make it easier for you to get the sleep you need. We’re here for you any time of the day or night.”
22. “I’m so sorry about ______. If you ever — and I mean ever — want to talk or just to have some company, go out for coffee or shopping or whatever, I’ll move heaven and earth to be there for you.”
23. “Here you are greeting each one of us, and we’re supposed to be making this easier for you. If there’s anything I can do — today, tomorrow, this week, or any time — please tell me.”
24. “I’m going to miss _______, and I can only try to imagine how hard this must be for you. I’d like to bring you some dinner at least once a week for a month — longer if you’ll let me. I know some of your favorites, but if you have any requests, you know I’m up for it.”
25. “I saw this [small gift] and thought of you, and I hope it reminds you of ______ and how special you are to him/her and to us. I’ll also be bringing some wine [or other shareable drink] to toast you and ______ on a day and time that works for you.”
26. “I’m enclosing a gift card, so you can treat yourself to a hot, soothing drink every day this month at your favorite coffee/tea place. If you ever want to meet there for a drink and a chat, call or text me anytime!”
27. “This card is good for as many hugs as you want and as many visits as you like with the latte/mocha/tea of your choice, along with something good to wash down with it. I’m here for you 24-7.”
28. “Your pain is mine, too, because I love you. I already miss _____, and I would do anything to help you through this. If you can’t think of anything right now, can I start by bringing you something good for dinner this week?”
29. “Anytime you want me to take you to the beach just to sit and watch or read while the waves roll in, just tell me. We can talk as much or as little as you want. Just let me be there for you.”
30. “While you hurt, we’ll be hurting with you and for you. We’ll be bringing a surprise to your place on a day that works for you. Text or call me when you’re ready, and please know that we’ll be happy to drop what we’re doing and get over there.”
31. “I know you’re hurting, but I hope you know you’re not alone. I miss you as much as I miss _____, and I’d love the chance to come over and help with anything: odd jobs, making dinner, tidying up, helping you sort things, etc. I’m ready when you are.”
32. “Your mom/dad must have been a special person to have raised someone like you. Though I didn’t know him/her, they must have been kind, thoughtful, and loving just like you.”
34. “If you need help going through _____’s things, I am here for you. I know what an emotional process that will be, and I’d like to support you any way I can.”
35. “I love you. I’m hurting with you. I know nothing I can say will take away the pain, but you can lean on me to help you in any way you need.”
9 Things Not to (Ever) Say When Someone Dies
Sometimes, words are worse than useless. If you’re tempted to say any of the following things, find a way to plug your mouth. Do it quickly. The life you save may be your own.
On the surface, some of these may sound well-intentioned, but to someone who is grieving, they can sound shallow and even dismissive of their grief.
1. “________ is in a better place, now….” (Doesn’t matter.)
2. “________ died doing what he/she loved.” (Nobody cares.)
3. “________ will always be with you in spirit.” (Just don’t.)
4. “At least _____ isn’t suffering anymore,” or “At least ______ is finally at peace.”
5. “I feel your pain,” or “Welcome to my world,” or “I know exactly how you feel.” (No, you don’t.)
6. “Time heals all wounds,” or “As sad as you are now, you’ll find a new normal and move on before you know it.” (Their new normal probably won’t include anyone who says this to them.)
7. “God / [the deceased] wouldn’t want you to be sad.” (This isn’t about what God or the deceased wants. And grief-shaming is never okay.)
8. “Don’t be sad. _____ wouldn’t want you crying all the time.” (How do they know? And who thinks it’s remotely helpful to stuff your pain?)
9. “You’ll move on before you know it. Time does heal all wounds, you know.” (Grief doesn’t have a time limit or schedule.)
FAQs About Things to Say When Someone Passes
Death is not a topic most of us feel comfortable with. We don’t get lessons on how to speak about it or offer support and comfort to someone who has experienced the loss of a loved one.
It’s natural to have plenty of questions, and we have some answers for a few of the most common ones.
What can I say instead of sorry for your loss?
If you know the person well and also knew the deceased, it’s always appropriate to speak about how much you loved or admired them and share some positive memories or characteristics about the deceased.
Acknowledging the bereaved’s grief is also helpful. You might say something like, “I’m sure it’s unimaginable considering life without your mom, and I know you are hurting right now. I’m here for you during this painful time.”
If you don’t know the bereaved but knew the deceased, it’s still helpful to share a funny or positive memory and to say something like, “This is a sad loss for all who knew your mom but particularly for you. I’m holding you in my thoughts and prayers as you grieve her passing.”
What is the best condolence message?
The best condolence messages are those that are written or spoken from the heart. They honor the deceased and validate the pain and grief of the bereaved.
A condolence message should never make the recipient feel guilt, shame, or anger. And it should reflect false sentiments or cheesy jargon.
How do you sympathize when someone dies?
The best way to sympathize is by putting yourself in the shoes of the bereaved person. Consider how you would feel if you lost someone you love, and what would you want others to say to you?
Use these insights to guide what you say and how you support someone struggling with grief after a los.
Did you find the right words?
If you’ve ever struggled to know what to say when someone dies unexpectedly or at the end of a long period of suffering, I hope the sayings in this article have given you something to work with.
You have a better idea of what words feel natural coming out of your own mouth (or pen), but after reading this article, you’re at least in better shape than before when it comes to articulating your deeply-felt sympathy.
It’s not easy, and words by themselves aren’t enough. Actions without words are less powerful, too.
Sometimes just the attempt, however clumsy, to offer your condolences means a lot more than the words you use.
But it also helps to avoid expressions that send the wrong message.
So, may your love and compassion influence your words and everything else you do today.