What to Say When Someone Dies

Two Women Comforting Each Other After Someone Dies

If you're wondering what to say when someone dies, you're not alone!

Losing a loved one is one of the most challenging times anyone can face.

Whether it's a family member, a close friend, or someone within your community, knowing what to say when someone one dies to offer comfort is tough.

Grieving is a deeply personal, and finding the right words of sympathy can make a world of difference to the bereaved person. 

12 Things to Say When Someone Dies That Are Better Than "Sorry for Your Loss"

Oh my friend, this sounds so hard. I'm here if you want to talk or even if you don't want to.

Whatever you are feeling, and whenever you are feeling it, it’s O.K. I'm here. Would you like to talk about (loved one's name)?

She(he) was so wonderful. You must miss them terribly.

I’m sorry you’ve had to endure all of this. Everything you're feeling makes sense.

I’m heartbroken for you. You didn't deserve this, and it isn't fair. I can't imagine how difficult life must feel right now. 

My heart hurts for what you're going through. I know it's hard to see the world keep going on when yours has changed so much.

I know I can't take your pain away, but I can give you all my love and support.

I know everything is different now and you feel so lost. I know this hurts. I'm so sorry this is happening to you.

I wish so badly you weren't going through this. Just know, you don't have to walk this hard road alone. I'm here for you.

I miss him/her, too. What a difficult loss.

I cannot understand your pain and I don't know what to say, just know I'm here for you.

I know time has passed and I know it still hurts.

ONLY If you've experienced loss before:

I've been through this, and my heart truly goes out to you and your family.

Is there a right thing and a wrong thing to say when someone dies?

Well, yes actually...there are soft guidelines on what to say when someone dies.

While it's important to offer words of comfort, it's equally important to avoid cliches such as:

  • "They're in a better place now."
  • "I know how you feel."
  • "It's time to move on."
  • "At least they lived a long life."

As a general rule of thumb, practice not saying the rest of the sentence. Meaning, the first part of your sentence is normally all you need to say:

  • I'm so sorry you lost your mom, but at least she's not suffering anymore.
  • I can't imagine how much you must miss your grandmother, but at least she had 92 good years.
  • I know you must be devastated by your miscarriage, but at least you know you can get pregnant.

Supporting a Grieving Friend or Family Member

Kate Bowler is such a gorgeous, gritty gal who was diagnosed with diagnosed with incurable stage IV cancer at age 35. 

Recently she was asked, What is the most encouraging or comforting thing someone has said to you? Her response?

"I get really emotional when people say: I'm so sorry that this is happening to you. It seems to tear the fabric of the universe in a way that is so personal."

Kate Bowler

It’s not just being sorry for the generality of someone’s pain or sorrow, but being sorry for the way it interrupts your life in particular.

Such a good phrase for all of us to tuck into our toolbelt for what to say when someone dies. Comfort doesn't have to come in grand gestures and poetic words.

What Should I Write in a Sympathy Card to a Grieving Person?

If you're not sure what to say, the best thing to do when writing condolence messages is to keep it simple and sincere. A good way to begin is to use the name of the person in your opening sentence, followed by a simple acknowledgement of the loss. "John was such a special man and he'll be missed terribly." Bonus points if you share a favorite memory.

Kelly Corrigan, an author and podcasted recently shared how hard it is to know how to help someone in the grieving process when you haven't been through an experience yourself.

She talks about losing her dad and how, looking back, she realizes she should have shown up better for friends who'd lost a parent.

She offers these suggestions that are a perfect primer for what to say when someone dies in your condolence card to bereaved people:

  • Write your favorite story about their person so they can read it on the harder days. This is a great comfort.
  • Dig up whatever photos you can get your hands on and send them with your sympathy message.
  • Recount the first time you met their person, what your first impressions were or the impact they had on you.
  • Follow up. For a year. There's no time limit for great loss. They're going to be grieving for a long time.

Expressing Sympathy Should Last Longer Than the Memorial Service

Randy Stocker speaks from his own experiences about grief. On July 22, 2003, Stocker lost his mother, Jean, and his two daughters, Jenelle-age 19, and Amy-age 9 when they were broadsided by a speeding semi-truck and killed instantly. He offers these 8 tips on How to Help Someone With Grief.

Megan Devine, grief coach and author of "It's OK That You're Not OK: Meeting Grief in a culture that Doesn't Understand also agrees that the most helpful things aren't good intentions, but offering ongoing emotional support and companionship in a someone's time of grief.

Find the people you belong with, the ones who will see your pain, companion you, hold you close, even as the heavy lifting of grief is yours alone.

Megan Devine

Is a phone call better than a text message when sending words of condolence?

When someone's going through a difficult time of loss, it's always a good idea to reach out. Social media has definitely changed the way we send heartfelt condolences, but I believe the best condolence message is the one you feel most comfortable giving.

You've got to use your best judgement. I love actual cards to express sympathy because they last forever and can be a great source of comfort in the weeks that follow.

On the other hand, texting is much speedier than snail mail, and allows you to express your deepest sympathy and support immediately.

There are alot of sympathy quotes you can take inspiration from so you're not stuck on what to say when someone dies.

At the end of the day, if you're wondering what do you say to someone who lost someone, the best support is to say something that acknowledges the loss.