It is important to offer condolences to a grieving friend after their loved one has died. Yet, it can be very confronting. Finding the right words to say is tricky, because there really are no perfect words. The last thing you want to do is to offend or make things worse.
That being said, it’s a good idea to stay away from the phrase “they’re in a better place” when offering condolences. Although this thought is comforting for some, others may find it offensive. The thought that someone’s loved one is better off deceased and without them can feel harsh.
Different people also have varying beliefs about what happens to loved ones after they pass. So, it’s best to stay away from these potentially controversial topics when offering sympathies.
Here are 18 safe and comforting ways to offer condolences:
1. “I’m so sad to hear about your loved one.”
This is a very simple and straightforward form of condolence that avoids any offense. It’s a heartfelt way to say sorry for your loss while steering clear of the clichè.
2. “I am here for you.”
This is a powerful way to offer sympathy. It lets the grieving person know that you’re there for anything they need. You can also be specific. For example, “anytime you need to talk, I’m here.”
You can also offer concrete help. “How about I pick up the kids from school” or “please let me hang around after the shiva and clean up. I’ll stay out of your hair and let myself out when I’m done.” Help and support during such a difficult time is a true gift.
3. “I am sending you love and strength in this difficult time.”
This is a clear and genuine message of condolence. Knowing that someone is sending you their love and strength when you feel so sad and alone can be very comforting.
4. “Your loved one meant so much to me.”
Let them know how much their loved one meant to you, and that they’re not alone in their grief. Use this as an opportunity to share your favorite memory of the deceased. They may not know the story and hearing how their loved one impacted the lives of others can be very special during such a difficult time.
5. “Your loved one always told me so much about you.”
After someone loses a loved one, hearing how much the person loved them can be a very meaningful part of the grieving process. Share with your grieving friend how much their loved one talked about them. Be specific about what they said. This type of condolence is likely to be memorable and truly touch their heart.
6. “I’ve been thinking of you.”
Simply letting someone know you’ve been thinking of them can be very comforting. Let them know that they’ve been on your mind and that they’re not alone.
7. “My heart is with you.”
Similarly to “I’ve been thinking of you,” “my heart is with you” is a very loving and empathetic way to offer condolences. This is also a crisp message. Sometimes, when offering sympathy, less is more. You don’t want to say too many words and overburden someone who already has a lot going on.
8. “Holding you close in my thoughts and praying for peace.”
If you are considering offering thoughts and prayers, this is a good alternative. It sounds more sincere, and like it comes straight from the heart. Plus, if you are religious and will be praying for them, it’s nice to let them know.
9. “There are no words to express the pain you must be feeling. You are in my heart.”
Putting words to the idea that there really are no words is actually quite thoughtful. Instead of trying to muster up sympathies that don’t have much meaning, let your grieving friend know that you are thinking of them. It is helpful to hear that someone understands how real and inarticulable their pain truly is.
10. “I’m stunned by this terrible news. Your loved one will be deeply missed.”
If the death was sudden or unexpected, it is okay to say that. Letting someone know that you are shocked, grieving with them, and will also miss their loved one can give voice to their grief and pain.
11. “Your partnership was an inspiration to me. A lifetime is never enough.”
When someone loses a partner, it can feel like they’ve lost their other half. If it’s true for you, testify to how beautiful and inspiring their partnership was and that it ended too soon. You can say this even if their spouse was elderly. No matter how many years they spent with their soulmate, it probably never feels like enough.
12. “Your loved one brought so much joy to the world. We will miss them.”
It’s important for a grieving person to hear the positive impact that their loved one left on the world. To hear how important their loved one was to others can be very comforting.
13. “We’re deeply saddened by your profound loss.”
Sometimes grief can feel very lonely. Validating that what someone is feeling is real, profound, and sorrowful can help someone in mourning feel less alone.
14. “I’m only a phone call away.”
This is another way to let someone know you’re here for them during their time of grief in a real and tangible way. You aren’t simply offering condolences—you’re letting them know you will be a shoulder to cry on.
Tell them you will drop what you’re doing to be with them during such a dark time. Sometimes, just being there and listening is more than enough.
15. “Your loved one was such a light, they will continue to burn brightly in our hearts.”
This is a wonderful alternative to saying that they’re loved one is in a better place. It demonstrates how loved the deceased was and that they will always be remembered. It’s supportive to let them know you will carry their loved one’s memory and legacy in your heart and mind. They don’t have to shoulder that burden alone.
16. “I am heartbroken to hear of your loved one’s passing. They leave an extraordinary legacy.”
Be specific! Tell them what legacy their loved one leaves behind. Were they generous, kind, or brilliant? What impact did they have on the world?
Sharing these impressions with a grieving loved one can bring a spot of joy to a challenging time.
17. “You are surrounded by the love of all of your friends. We are available for anything you need.”
Let your friend know that they have a community of friends and loved ones to support them through their grief. Grief can bring profound loneliness—tell your friend you are here to surround them and hold them up whenever they may need you.
18. “I am lighting a candle in memory of your loved one.”
Do something in honor of the deceased, and let their loved ones know. You can do things like light a candle, plant a tree, donate to charity, or speak their name and memory in a religious service. Remembering someone through action is a beautiful way to send condolences.
Give Condolences From The Heart
There are no perfect words to say when expressing sympathy. Grieving the passing of a loved one is an extremely difficult time, and everybody grieves differently. It’s impossible to know what the exact right thing is to say at any given moment.
The most important things you can do are to keep your condolences simple and to speak or write from the heart. Don’t try to say the perfect thing. Express sympathy from the heart, and you’ll never go wrong with an authentic message of love and support.