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What to Say About a Death to Offer Comfort and Support

Gabrielle Applebury
Supportive women hug

It can be hard to know what to say to someone who has just lost a loved one. Take into account your relationship and how you plan on offering comfort before you say or write something supportive.

Words of Comfort

Reaching out to someone who has lost a significant person in their life can make a world of difference to them as they move through the grieving process. Think about what you would want to hear if you were in their position and what would help you feel loved and supported during a very difficult and painful time.

When a Death Is Unexpected

When someone passes away unexpectedly, it can create a tremendous amount of stress for the loved ones left behind. They may feel confused, shocked, and in disbelief about what happened to their loved one. You can say the following in person, on the phone, or via text:

  • I am so sorry to hear of the unexpected passing of your (insert relationship to deceased).
  • I know your (insert relationship to deceased) passing was a shock. Please know that I am here for you when you're ready to process what you're going through.
  • An unexpected death can be heart-wrenching to experience. I am here to support you throughout this difficult time.
  • I know his/her death was sudden and I can't imagine what you must be going through right now. Know that I am here for you on your worst days- no judgment.
  • I, too, have experienced a loved one passing away unexpectedly, so I can imagine what's going through your head. If you ever want to talk about it, I'm always here to listen.

When the Death Was Due to Terminal Illness

Even when a death is expected, it still can create an immensely painful shift once the person is truly gone. So even if they've lost the ability to communicate or physically move, having their body no longer present can be an extremely difficult realization. You can say the following in person, on the phone, or via text:

  • I know that you expected your (inset relationship to the deceased) to pass away, but I know that it may still be really, really hard right now to even make it through the day. I am here for you during this and through the ups and downs that may come your way. I love you.
  • I am grateful that your (insert relationship to deceased) isn't in pain anymore. I will miss him/her so much. He/she was loved by many.
  • I wish that I wasn't writing this right now, but I know that your (insert relationship to deceased) passed away. She/he was a fighter and an inspiration to those who crossed his/her path.
  • The strength that your (insert relationship to deceased) had never ceased to amaze me. She/he was an incredible person who will greatly be missed by many.
  • I will forever cherish the memories I shared with your (insert relationship to deceased). She/he had such a beautiful soul and I feel so lucky to have known him/her. I am always here for you.

What to Say When You Don't Know the Person Who Passed Away

You may encounter a situation where a loved one loses someone who you've never met. In that case, you can text or say in person or on the phone:

  • Although I didn't know (insert name of deceased), I know how much he/she meant to you.
  • I heard about your recent loss. Even though I didn't know (insert deceased's name), I know how special he/she was to you. I am thinking of you. Please let me know if you need anything.
  • The loss of someone so special to you is one of the most difficult and painful experiences us humans go through. I am here for you during this time.
  • I am saddened to hear of your recent loss. I am thinking of you and would like to send over some dinner for you if that's okay.
Teen comforting sad friend

What to Say in a Sympathy Card

In a sympathy card, you have the opportunity to share special memories and write something intimate to the recipient. Sympathy cards not only offer comfort, but are also a sweet and tangible reminder of how much you care. You can say:

  • I am so sorry to hear about your recent loss. One of the first memories I had with you, you were telling me all about your (insert relationship to deceased), so I know how difficult and painful this must feel right now. I love you so much and will always be here for you. I know how amazing (insert deceased's name) was and I know he/she will be immensely missed. We were all so lucky know the amazing force of nature that was (insert deceased's name).
  • (Deceased's name) was by far the most spirited, enthusiastic person I have ever met. His/her smile was infectious, and I knew every time I was around him/her, we were in for many laughs and special memories. I cherish the moments I shared with (insert deceased's name) and know what he/she meant to you. I am thinking of you during this time and know that I am always here if you want to talk.
  • The passing of (insert deceased's name) has rocked many worlds. He/she was such an amazing person, filled with so much love and compassion. From what little time I spent with him/her, I know that for those who knew him/her more intimately, the feelings of loss may feel unbearable. I thank you for introducing me to your (insert relationship to deceased). She/he knows how much you loved and adored him/her. My thoughts are with you.
  • It's hard to write this card as I couldn't imagine this day coming. The loss of (insert deceased's name) has hit us all hard. While I don't know what you're going through in this moment, I know that being around those who love you can make a world of difference.

What to Post on Social Media after Someone Dies

Refrain from posting anything on social media that identifies the person who passed away unless their immediate family has already publicly shared something. Some families prefer to keep deaths private, while others may use social media to notify others of an open memorial service. Using social media can also be a great tool to find others going through or have been through similar experiences. If you feel it is appropriate to post something on social media, you can write:

  • You will forever be in my heart (insert deceased's name). My thoughts are with the (insert family surname) family.
  • I was unprepared for the passing of (insert deceased's name). Please join me at the memorial (enter details) to celebrate his/her life.
  • The recent passing of (insert deceased's name) took us all by surprise. Has anyone else lost someone unexpectedly?
  • I am thinking of you today (insert friend or family member's name who lost loved one). We are all here for you and love you.

How to Provide Support

When a friend or family member loses someone significant, it can be really meaningful to say something to let them know how much you care about them. If in doubt, keep your comforting messages simple and loving and just let them know that you are there to support them emotionally. Providing food and small tokens of love can also feel really nice and loving to the person in the midst of grieving.

What to Say About a Death to Offer Comfort and Support