couple at lake

Has someone you know recently lost a friend or a loved one? Offering condolences, whether they be in writing or in person is never easy because you’re never quite sure what to say. People are often concerned about saying the wrong thing or coming off like they’re not genuine. Because of this, it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying something so generic that it doesn’t come off genuine. When offering words of comfort to someone, it’s important that you not only express sympathy, but also empathy.

Empathy, by definition is the action of understanding, being aware of and sensitive to the feelings, thoughts and experience of another person.
Empathy, by definition is the action of understanding, being aware of and sensitive to the feelings, thoughts and experience of another person. Being empathetic is the ability to think yourself into another person’s shoes.

The goal of expressing sympathy and empathy is to offer your compassion and concern for the bereaved. The most important thing you can communicate to a person who is grieving the loss of a friend or a loved one is that you’re there for them and will be there to support them in whatever way they need you to. Here are seven words of comfort to ease a loss:

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

This is one of the most direct and honest words of comfort you can offer to someone who has lost a loved one. This phrase tells the person that you care. While this phrase has become a cliché, it is also a simple and succinct way of communicating your empathy. If you are at a loss for words, telling a person “I’m sorry for your loss” can let the person know how much they mean to you.

“I’m here for you.”

Grief is a very difficult process. It’s hard to see someone we care about so torn up emotionally. Naturally, we want to fix the situation, but that is outside of our control. The most helpful thing we can do in this situation is offer to be there in whatever capacity they need. In these situations, it’s especially helpful for them to be surrounded by those who will see them through their difficult situation. Letting the person know that you are aware of the emotional difficulty of a situation can help a bereaved person feel less isolated in his or her experience, and remind them that they are not isolated in the world.

“I feel your pain.”

People often confuse this with, “I know how you feel,” which is a statement that you should avoid, even if you’ve shared a similar experience. The reason why is because everyone’s journey is uniquely their own. However, when you say the words, “I feel your pain,” this is a deep expression of empathy. This phrase helps a person not feel so isolated. It tells the person who is grieving that they are not alone in their grief.

“How about a hug?”

While not everyone wants to be touched or embraced when they are grieving, a hug is a great gesture of love and comfort for a person who has experienced loss. This action can be especially helpful during a person’s time of loss and need. A grieving person isn’t looking for a whole bunch of empty words. Sometimes, a hug is all a person wants or needs. A hug may not be able to take all the pain away, but it can help that person get through that difficult moment.

“How are you doing?”

If you say this to someone, it’s imperative that you show that you are being genuine. It’s also good that you make it clear that you’re asking for a real and honest and answer and you’re not just expecting, “I’m fine.” When you’re genuinely concerned about the person you’re asking this question to, that promotes healing. After you ask the question, pay close attention to what they’re saying by really listening for their true answer. Through interactions and conversations, a person can tell which friends and loved ones are ok with them being their authentic self around them. These people check in on them regularly. They sit with them. They don’t mind them breaking down around them, crying so hard around that they can barely understand what is being said. It’s important that you let them share their feelings openly. Sometimes, a person who is overcoming a loss is just looking to vent. You can be that source of comfort.

“What can I bring over?”

Offering to do something is an alternative to the cliché phrase, “Let me know if you need anything.” People commonly say this as a kind and open-ended gesture because they want to be there for the person in need, but they aren’t quite sure what they can offer them. Contrary to popular belief, often the person who is grieving isn’t clear of what they need either. In these situations, it’s better to offer them something.

Lasagnas and casseroles are great foods to bring over because they are hearty and can stretch to feed a lot of people over a period of time.

“I love you.”

If you’re close enough to the person who has lost a loved one, reminding them that you love him or her can be powerful. A person who is grieving often feels alone and isolated. You can help them through the process by reminding them that you love them and are there for them. They are not alone.

Many people are afraid that they will say the wrong thing to someone who is going through a season of loss. While a bereaved person is usually overwhelmed and highly emotional, this is a great opportunity for you to support them in their time of need. Try to speak to that person from a place of love and compassion. Sometimes, just being there can make all the difference.

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad