18 Things to Say Instead of 'I'm at a Loss for Words'


When a friend or loved one experiences a painful life event, you naturally want to let them know you’re there for them. This often involves saying the right words at the right time.

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Unfortunately, in many instances, you might not know what those words are. Don’t worry when this happens. Most people will find themselves at a loss for words at some point in their lives. You’re going through a common life experience.

That said, you still might wish you could think of something to say to a friend or family member in pain. Consider these ideas. Although you may want to modify them to make your words more personal and genuine, they’ll certainly help you express your support during tough times.

What Does It Mean to Be ‘At a Loss for Words?’

What does it mean when you're at a loss for words photo

Many feel it’s important to say the right words at the right time when someone passes. Along with expressing your own feelings, again, you want to show your support for someone going through a painful experience.

That’s not always easy to do. Some losses are so tragic that finding the right words is a struggle. Examples of moments when you might feel at a loss for words include:

  • The death of a young child
  • The deaths of multiple loved ones on the same day
  • A tragedy claiming numerous lives at one time
  • The unexpected death of a loved one due to a random occurrence that could have been avoided, such as a car accident involving a drunk driver
  • A friend or family member receiving a very distressing and frightening medical diagnosis

Those are just a few examples. Remember once more, you don’t need to judge yourself or feel guilty when you don’t know what to say after a tragedy. However, you may nevertheless feel that simply saying you’re at a loss for words isn’t enough. The examples here can help you come up with the right words to say during moments when they seem to escape you.

» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

If You’re At a Loss for Words After a Death

What to say if you're at a loss for words after a death image

Showing your support when a friend or loved one loses someone important is never easy. Even if the death was expected, these moments are still painful. Although sometimes a simple “sorry for your loss” may be enough, there are instances when it might make more sense to show your support in these ways:

1. “Whatever you need from me, I am here for you at all times.”

Mourning is a difficult process. Mourners often need to make practical arrangements, such as scheduling the funeral, while also experiencing grief that may last months or years. That means they might need your support in a variety of ways.

Whether it involves helping plan a memorial or simply speaking with them on the phone, let the person who recently lost a loved one know you’re available to help in any way you can. When specific opportunities to help arise, volunteer.

2. “You are in my thoughts and prayers.”

It’s important to understand that these messages aren’t necessarily ideal in all situations. If the person you need to comfort isn’t religious, consider using a different message from this list.

On the other hand, if religion does play a major role in their life, let them know you are praying for them during this difficult time. 

3. “They brought me so much joy during their brief time here.”

Reminding someone who has lost a loved one that the deceased made a positive impact on other people can help them grieve.

If you use this message, expand on it by describing specific experiences you shared with the person who has passed on. 

4. “I can’t imagine what you are going through right now. Let yourself feel however you need to feel.”

Far too many people feel they need to bury their emotions and stay strong when a loved one passes. This prevents them from taking advantage of the support they need.

Someone in need of comfort will appreciate hearing that others understand their pain must be immense and they will need to let themselves be weak at times.

5. “Can I check on you in a few days?”

Again, you should let someone in mourning know they have your support. That said, they might be too overwhelmed to ask for it. That’s why you should consider checking if you can throughout the week.

This gives you a direct opportunity to offer your support if you’re not sure when it’s a good time to get in touch with them.

6. “I love you.”

Yes, it’s the simplest message on this list, but in some cases, saying “I love you” is the perfect way to show your support. It lets a person know in no uncertain terms that others care about their happiness.

If You’re At a Loss for Words After Hearing About an Illness

Knowing what to say when someone’s sick isn’t easy. Basic get well wishes aren’t always enough. Instead, if someone you know receives a scary diagnosis, keep these ideas in mind.

7. “Is there anyone you would like me to contact?”

Coping with a frightening diagnosis is already stressful. Sadly, many people who receive such diagnoses also need to handle the stress of breaking the news to friends and family members.

Depending on the nature of your relationship, you may be able to help by offering to share the sad news with certain people.

» MORE: Online obituary that is 100% free. Honor a loved one beyond a newspaper.

8. “When is a good time to talk during the week?”

A person struggling with an illness will need to talk and vent from time to time. However, if you just generally say you’re available when they need you, they might not take you up on the offer.

They’re more likely to do so if you suggest a specific time when you’ll talk every week.

9. “Can you let me make you dinner one night a week?”

This is another specific suggestion you should consider making. Helping with basic daily tasks can make a big difference in an ill person’s life.

Asking if you can cook for them also reminds them that people love them and are there to help during their struggle.

10. “I’m not going to treat you any differently, except when you need me to.”

Many people facing life-threatening illnesses worry that friends and family will treat them with “kid gloves” after learning about their diagnosis. They’d prefer a sense of normalcy instead.

So, you might want to let such a person know that, except on occasions when they need special support, you’re going to treat them the same way you always would.

11. “It’s okay to be scared.”

People will often say “I’m sure everything will be fine” when they learn a friend or family member is ill. They have good intentions, but these words don’t always help as much as you might assume.

The person hearing them might feel they need to hide their fear and pretend everything is okay now. Let them know that’s not the case.

12. “I don’t know what you’re going through”

Receiving a scary diagnosis is a unique experience. You can’t know what it’s like if you haven’t gone through it before. Your loved one will appreciate you clearly stating you can’t imagine how they must feel.

If You’re At a Loss for Words After Hearing About a Different Tragedy

What to say if you're at a loss for words after a tragedy other than death image

Death and illness sadly aren’t the only tragedies that can occur in life. From major natural disasters to injuries that dramatically change someone’s quality of life, tragedy is part of the human experience. The following are some messages you can share when it strikes:

13. “It doesn’t make sense.”

These words may not sound supportive, but for some people, they’re perfect. Many try to make sense of tragedies after they occur. However, in certain cases, those the tragedy directly affected don’t want anyone trying to find meaning in something that feels meaningless.

14. “God works in mysterious ways.”

Just as some people don’t want to try and find meaning when tragedy strikes, those who are religious often take comfort in the belief that God has a plan. They may not be able to understand it, but they can believe they will one day.

15. “We’re going to get through this together.”

Sometimes the aftermath of a tragedy is almost as difficult and painful as the tragedy itself. Those most affected may worry they have a long recovery process ahead of them.

Show your support by acknowledging that the experience will be tough, but you’ll be there for them, working through the pain as a team. Consider this message in particular if the tragedy also affected you to some degree.

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

16. “Why do life’s biggest tests always happen to people who can pass them?”

Be careful with this one. You need to make sure someone struggling with a tragedy knows they can be weak and let their guard down at times.

That said, depending on the person, you might also consider reminding them that they have the type of unique strength someone needs to cope with these situations.

17. “You shouldn’t feel guilty, but you probably will. That’s natural and expected.”

Some tragedies leave survivors. They often experience survivor’s guilt. While you should let these people know that their guilt is unnecessary, you should also let them know that it’s a natural reaction, and they can allow themselves to have those feelings when fighting them is too difficult.

18. “I don’t know what to say, but I’m willing to listen to anything you need to say without judgment.”

Sometimes, the best thing you can do when you’re at a loss for words is to simply admit it. Some people don’t need you to say anything. They need someone who will listen to them instead.

Most importantly, they need to believe that during this difficult time, they can say anything, knowing the person listening won’t judge them.

Where You Can Share Your Message

There are numerous ways you can share the types of messages listed here. Choose the option that feels most appropriate to you given the nature of the situation:

In person

You might have to explain that you’re at a loss for words when attending a funeral. Or you may need to express this type of message right after hearing sad news if the person delivering it does so in person.

In any case, if you’re sharing this type of message in person, there’s a good chance you will be doing so very shortly after a tragedy. That means you might not have a lot of time to prepare. As such, you may feel most comfortable keeping your message simple instead of fumbling for the right words. This reduces the burden on you.

Social media

There are multiple ways you can share this type of message on social media. If you’re only sharing it with a few specific people at most, you could message them directly.

However, sometimes you may be sharing this type of message on social media because you’re reacting to a tragedy that impacts a large number of people you know. An example might be the unexpected death of a classmate.

If so, instead of messaging everyone affected by the tragedy directly, you may prefer to simply share a general post with a basic message such as, “There are no words. You will be missed by so many.” If you like, you can still directly message those most impacted by the tragedy so share a more personalized message.

Online memorial page

Sharing a message expressing you’re at a loss for words on an online memorial page gives you more time to compose your message than you might have if you were sharing it in person.

There’s no one right message to share in this case. You can start by acknowledging that finding the right words is a challenge. Then you may want to discuss a happy memory of the deceased or write about their best qualities. You might even want to wait and read what some others write before leaving your own comment if you’re truly struggling.

Other methods

Along with the methods described above, you can also potentially share your message in the form of a letter, text (if you learn about the sad news via a text message), and a phone call. Again, consider the nature of the situation to determine the best way to share your message.

Helping Loved Ones During Difficult Times

Most of us will face experiences that require offering condolences and showing support. Some people struggle with doing so. It’s okay if you’re one of them.,

You don’t always need to know what to say. But when you don’t, these examples might be exactly what someone in pain needs to hear.

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