Texting is not the ideal way to reach out to someone who is grieving, but sometimes it's the most appropriate based on the circumstances. When you can't be there in person and your communication is typically done via text, reaching out by text is far better than not reaching out at all.
Messages for New Grief
Immediately following a death, the surviving spouse, parent, or child will likely be inundated by texts and messages. For many people, texting and messaging is a safe way to offer condolences while not having to deal with the grieving person directly. Other people have a reaction to the news of a death where they reach out to the grieving person to either ask, "Why didn't you tell me?" or "I'm hurting so much," neither of which is appropriate when someone is trying to process a death. Your text should be one of condolences and you should not be offended if you don't receive a response.
Here are some examples of appropriate texts to send immediately following a death:
- I'm leaving my phone on tonight in case you want to talk - it doesn't matter what time. I will be here.
- I can be at your house by 5:00. Let me come over and help however you need it.
- Don't worry about responding...I just want you to know I'm sorry and I'm here for you.
- I don't know the right words to say right now. But I am sorry and I love you.
- I wish I could be there with you right now. Are there people there to help you?
- What can I do to help you right now?
- I can't imagine how you're feeling right now but I want you to know I am here for you.
You may not feel comfortable reaching out to the grieving person until a couple days after the death in the hopes that they have somehow processed the reality of the loved one's death and are in a head space where they can deal with incoming texts. Unless you typically communicate with the grieving person via text, a phone call may be more appropriate. If a text is best, keep it short and don't try to appear sympathetic by talking about how hurt you are.
- Do you need help pulling together the memorial service? I can help.
- You're in our prayers and we love you.
- (Deceased) was an amazing person and everyone will miss him/her.
- Is there anything I can do to help you? Anything at all?
- We're pulling together some casseroles for your family. May we deliver them tomorrow night at 6:00?
- May I swing by and pick up the kids for a few hours so you can have some time to think?
- I'm here to drive you around, bring you food, clean your kitchen, run errands, make phone calls, or whatever else you need.
After the Crowd Leaves
Grieving people don't magically stop grieving just because a funeral or memorial service happens. In fact, this is the time they are probably most vulnerable since all the offers of help have started to wane. Reaching out to someone just to check up on them while they're still grieving can be a thoughtful gesture, and the grieving person may be more willing to engage in conversation than they would have been immediately following the death.
These texts offer support that isn't vague and help remind the grieving person of your condolences.
- Does your schedule allow you to get away for coffee on Thursday? We can meet at the Latte Shoppe at noon if you'd like.
- May I have some meals sent to you? Any special requests?
- I'm thinking of you right now and sending good energy your way.
- I can't take away your pain, but I can offer you a listening ear.
- I am here for you and am always available to talk about anything. You are loved and I want to help you.
- I'm sorry I can't be there in person right now, but I am here for you in whatever way I can help.
- I care about you and I'm sorry you had to go through this.
The anniversary of a person's death can be difficult to deal with, as can the deceased's birthday or any other special occasion to which the deceased was tied (such as a wedding anniversary).
- I know today is an important day. Are you doing OK?
- (Deceased's) birthday must be a difficult day for you. How are you doing?
- Do you feel like talking? I can call you after work if you'd like.
- Today reminds me of that lake trip we took for your second anniversary. (Deceased) was the best swimmer by far! He/she is missed.
- Here's my favorite picture of (Deceased) - he/she is missed! (attach photo of deceased)
- I'm drinking a beer in memory of (Deceased) and toasting him/her right now.
- I saw a gorgeous rainbow in the sky today - of course things of beauty are everywhere on (Deceased)'s birthday!
Texting an Acquaintance
Should you text someone who doesn't necessarily fall within your category of "loved ones" (like a co-worker) after they experience the death of someone close to them? Yes - if texting is the only option, a text of condolences can help the person feel a little less alone. In this instance, don't try to make the same statement you would for someone close to you. Instead, a simple text is best. Your text should focus on comforting the recipient. Don't expect them to open up to you if you aren't close, but be prepared if they start to express emotions openly.
- When my mom died, I felt very alone. I want you to know you're not alone.
- Your cubicle crew is thinking of you.
- Is there anything I can take care of for you here at the office while you're gone? I want to help you any way I can.
Tips for Texting
A text is a quick way to check in on someone who is hurting. If you're willing to offer help, be specific. A vague, "Let me know if I can help somehow" doesn't sound very genuine - and people are less likely to ask for help than they are to accept specific offers of help.
Brevity and Tone
Keep your text brief, especially when the news of the death is fairly new. The recipient is going to be dealing with myriad emotions and reading through a lengthy text will be a chore. Also, remember that texting lacks the benefit of nonverbal communication; read and re-read your text before sending to ensure it can't be misunderstood to say anything other than what you intend.
Simplicity Is Key
It may feel generic to send a text that says, "I'm sorry for your loss" or "My prayers are with you," but if you're having trouble forming the right words, it's better to send a simple text than not contact the person at all. Give yourself a little grace since you are likely grieving too. Nobody expects you to come up with the perfect words, and no matter how great or profound your words, you aren't going to take the pain away.
"Everything happens for a reason," or "God must have needed another angel," probably isn't going to help the person feel comforted because both statements indicate a higher power wanted the person dead. It's not a very comforting thought unless the recipient believes in a divine plan and accepts it.
Better Than Nothing
A text is not the best way to reach out to someone who is grieving; people who don't typically text might actually be offended by a condolences text since it may feel to them to be casual or a cop-out. If texting is the best option, be thoughtful in what you send; words can be impactful during an emotional time.