It’s so hard to know what to say to people grieving at a funeral. How can mere words offer comfort to someone who just lost a spouse of 60 years? What do you say to someone who lost a child? How can words express your heartbreak when speaking to a young child who recently lost a parent?
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Jump ahead to these sections:
- Is It Okay to Say ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss?’
- ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss’ Alternatives to Say to a Friend
- ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss’ Alternatives to Say to a Family Member
- ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss’ Alternatives to Say to an Acquaintance
- ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss’ Alternatives to Say to a Coworker
- ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss’ Alternatives to Say to a Partner or Spouse
- “I’m Sorry for Your Loss” Alternatives to Say After the Loss of a Parent or Grandparent
- “I’m Sorry for Your Loss” Alternatives to Say After the Loss of a Sibling
- “I’m Sorry for Your Loss” Alternatives to Say After the Loss of a Partner or Spouse
- “I’m Sorry for Your Loss” Alternatives to Say After the Loss of a Friend
- “I’m Sorry for Your Loss” Alternatives to Say in an Email
- Short “I’m Sorry for Your Loss” Alternatives to Say in a Text
- “I’m Sorry for Your Loss” Alternatives to Say in a Card or Letter
- How to Show You’re Sorry for Someone’s Loss Without Words
- Where Can You Share a Condolence Message?
You want to express your condolences, but how do you do it without sounding like everyone else? You may hear the people ahead of you in line at the visitation saying, "Sorry for your loss," and you know that the family members probably have heard that phrase hundreds of times that night. What else is there to say? Sympathy messages are hard to articulate. Let us help.
Tip: If someone you know recently lost a loved one, our post-loss checklist can help them sort through the complicated tasks and challenges they might be facing.
Is It Okay to Say ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss?’
Yes, it’s fine to say, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
However, we understand why you may ask this question. You are probably wondering if the phrase is a bit overused. In fact, you may be standing in line at a visitation or wake and hear everyone in front of you say these words to the family. Or you might scan a list of responses on Facebook and see “I’m sorry for your loss” compete with “thoughts and prayers” for the most common response.
While this certainly is a typical phrase to say to someone in mourning, there may be few good alternatives. Put yourself in the mourner’s shoes. Would there be anything that an acquaintance or Facebook friend could say to make you feel better?
It’s also important to understand that sometimes it’s more important to reach out to someone with overused phrases than not reaching out at all. Additionally, it’s more important that you go to the funeral and say these words than stay at home because you don’t know what to say.
However, we will attempt to help our readers by giving them other examples of condolence messages to share with someone who is hurting.
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'I'm Sorry for Your Loss' Alternatives to Say to a Friend
Going to the funeral of one of your friend's family members is a kind thing to do. You may want to make a memorial contribution to the deceased's favorite charity. You also may want to deliver farm-fresh sympathy flowers or bring a sympathy gift for your friend.
Here are some things that you can say at the funeral (or write in a sympathy card) instead of, "I'm sorry for your loss":
- "I've been thinking about you often."
- "I'm sorry you're going through this."
- "How can I help you?"
- "I'm here whenever you need me."
- "I'm sorry."
1. “I've been thinking about you often.”
Perhaps your friend's family member suffered from a long illness. Maybe this illness made it impossible for you to spend any time with your friend. Let this person know that he or she was in your thoughts daily.
2. “I'm so sorry you’re going through this.”
Whether your friend suffered the loss of a parent, child, or spouse, he or she is going through one of the most challenging times of his or her life. Let your friend know that you understand that this is a difficult time.
3. “How can I help you?”
Instead of saying, "Let me know if I can do something," ask about specific tasks. Give suggestions, such as, "Let me pick up your kids from school next week." or "I'm bringing over dinner for you and your family on Sunday night."
4. “I'm here whenever you need me.”
Your friend may be so overwhelmed with grief that having a social engagement seems downright impossible. You may not want to pressure your friend to spend time together. Instead, let him or her know that you are available when needed.
5. “I'm sorry.”
Although these two words are the beginning of the phrase, "I'm sorry for your loss," they actually say more. They say that you are sorry that your friend lost someone important. They say that you are sorry that your friend has to keep it together during the funeral when all she probably wants to do is collapse. Saying "I'm sorry" covers it all.
'I'm Sorry for Your Loss' Alternatives to Say to a Family Member
What do we say to others in our family when we are also suffering from a loss? How do we acknowledge when others are hurting when we are mourning, too?
Here are some ideas of things to say to family members instead of "I'm sorry for your loss":
- "I love you."
- "I'm glad we have each other for support."
- "You are important to me."
- "I can't imagine going through this without you."
- "I'm proud of you."
6. “I love you.”
Even if your family members are not usually demonstrative about their feelings, perhaps this is the right time to tell others how you feel. We will not live forever. Let others know that you love them while you still can.
7. “I'm glad we have each other for support.”
A death in the family can draw family members closer together. Let others in your family know that you will not pull away after the death of a loved one. Instead, let them know that you use the death to become closer.
8. “You are important to me.”
Some families drift apart after losing the matriarch or patriarch. Let the other family members know that you value their relationships.
9. “I can't imagine going through this without you.”
You find out how important it is to have close family and friends when you go through a crisis or family death. During your darkest hours, you will feel solace knowing that others are there for you.
10. “I'm proud of you.”
Going through an emotional upheaval sometimes brings out the best in people. But it sometimes brings out the worst in people instead. Let your family members know that you are proud of how they act during this difficult time.
'I'm Sorry for Your Loss' Alternatives to Say to an Acquaintance
Throughout your life, you may attend the funerals of coworkers or friends. Perhaps these people were important to you, but you may not have known their family members. It’s nice to go to your friend's funeral to pay your respects, but it’s sometimes difficult to know what to say to a person you’ve never met before in your life.
Here are some examples of what to say to an acquaintance instead of "sorry for your loss":
- "I worked with your mom for 20 years, and she was an amazing woman."
- "I'm going to miss your brother so much!"
- "Everyone at church loved your sister. Her smile could light up a room."
- "Your mom had terrific things to say about you."
- "Things won't be the same without your mother-in-law."
11. “I worked with your mom for 20 years, and she was an amazing woman.”
You might find it necessary to introduce yourself to the family members of the person who died. These individuals may be craving to hear stories about what their mom was like at work. Tell them funny or positive stories that describe what their loved one was like in her professional life.
12. “I'm going to miss your brother so much!”
You may have to explain how you knew the deceased. Again, share stories of positive interactions you had with the person through the years.
13. “Everyone at church loved your sister. Her smile could light up a room.”
When a person loses someone close to him, he wants to hear how that person was important in other people's lives. Tell the survivors what the deceased meant to you.
14. “Your mom had terrific things to say about you.”
Survivors may feel guilt after they lose someone close. Perhaps they may feel like they weren't kind to a family member who unexpectedly died. Maybe they feel guilty for not spending enough time with the person they lost.
Relieve some of that guilt by telling the family members positive stories the deceased shared about them.
15. “Things won't be the same without your mother-in-law.”
List reasons why life won't be the same without the person who died.
'I'm Sorry for Your Loss' Alternatives to Say to a Coworker
We may spend more time with coworkers than we do members of our family. Because of this, it’s nice to attend the funeral of a coworker's family member. If you can't attend the funeral, it's encouraged to send them a small, inexpensive sympathy gift basket (like this one with free shipping from Amazon) or a hearty charcuterie and cheese gift basket with a personal note.
Here are some things to say to your coworker other than "I'm sorry for your loss":
- "Take care of yourself and your family during this difficult time."
- "I'm covering for you while you're gone. Take all the time you need."
- "I'm sorry I never met your dad, but I can tell that a lot of people admired him."
- "Your brother was lucky to have such a wonderful sister like you."
- "How nice that you have such a strong support system."
16. “Take care of yourself and your family during this difficult time.”
Some people feel in a rush to get back to work after losing a family member. Instead, encourage your coworker to focus on what’s important.
17. “I'm covering for you while you’re gone. Take all the time you need.”
If this statement can be said in a non-threatening way, say it. If your coworker will interpret the statement as meaning, "I'm after your job," don't say it.
18. “I'm sorry I never met your dad, but I can tell that a lot of people admired him.”
You can tell a lot about someone when you attend a funeral.
19. “Your brother was lucky to have such a wonderful sister like you.”
If you didn't know the deceased, you might not feel comfortable making statements about his or her character. Instead, say something nice about the person you do know — your coworker.
20. “How nice that you have such a strong support system.”
Sometimes when a person is grieving, he or she may have tunnel vision. It's common and natural for people to focus on the person they lost. Drawing attention to others who are attending the funeral and offering support may bring a bit of solace to your coworker who is hurting.
'I'm Sorry for Your Loss' Alternatives to Say to a Partner or Spouse
Sometimes we focus all of our energies on saying the right thing to strangers, that we forget to say kind words to the people who are most important to us.
Here are some ideas for what to say to a partner instead of "sorry for your loss":
- "I am here for you, no matter what."
- "I know you are hurting."
- "I'm sorry that I can't take this pain away."
- "Let me take care of this errand for you."
- "I love you."
21. “I am here for you, no matter what.”
Your spouse may feel overwhelmed. Be there for him or her.
22. “I know you are hurting.”
Does your spouse hide emotions? Tell your spouse that you know this is a difficult time.
23. “I'm sorry that I can't take this pain away.”
Again, give a name to what your spouse is feeling.
24. “Let me take care of this errand for you.”
Sometimes love is shown by actions as well as words — complete small tasks for your loved one during this difficult time.
25. “I love you.”
This one doesn't need an explanation.
“I’m Sorry for Your Loss” Alternatives to Say After the Loss of a Parent or Grandparent
Even if you have already been through the devastating loss of a parent or grandparent, grief experts advise against telling a friend, “I know how you feel.” Every person’s experience with death is unique. So here are some alternative things to say to someone after they have lost a parent or grandparent.
26. “I can tell this person was really special. Tell me about them.”
Of course, pick the right time for this type of comment — not while you are standing in line at the visitation to offer condolences to the family.
27. “You were a good son/daughter.”
Save this type of compliment for someone who went above and beyond to care for an aging family member.
28. “I am thinking of (praying for) you and your entire family.”
A friend who lost a parent may also be the parent of a child who lost a grandparent. This means that your friend may be grieving and comforting at the same time.
29. “You have the same smile as your mom.”
Pointing out family resemblances may be comforting during a time of grief. You may offer such a comment after looking at photographs on display at the service or after seeing photos posted on social media.
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“I’m Sorry for Your Loss” Alternatives to Say After the Loss of a Sibling
It’s tough finding the right words to say to someone who has recently experienced the loss of a sibling. Here are some phrases to consider.
30. “I’m so sorry. I know you and Bill were really close, and I know this must be incredibly hard.”
You don’t always have to use formal platitudes when someone dies. Instead, speak naturally and from the heart.
31. “I always loved hearing your childhood stories about the adventures you would have with your sister. I hope those memories give you comfort during this difficult time.”
If there is time and you are in an appropriate setting, you might ask them to share a happy memory.
32. “Do you remember . . . ?”
People like hearing funny or pleasant stories about the person they lost. So if you have a positive account to share about the deceased, make sure you do so with those in mourning.
33. “I want to hear more stories about your incredible brother. Come over for dinner next week!”
Sometimes people want to talk about their loved ones who recently died and are frustrated when people avoid the subject. Unfortunately, it may take a bit of finesse to determine whether or not your friend wants to talk about the death or not.
“I’m Sorry for Your Loss” Alternatives to Say After the Loss of a Partner or Spouse
S. Lewis, who wrote A Grief Observed, described loss in this way: “The death of a beloved is an amputation.” With that in mind, consider carefully how to say “I’m sorry for your loss” if someone recently lost a partner or spouse.
Here are some words to consider — however inadequate they may be.
34. “I don’t know what to say.”
Sometimes admitting that you have no words is the only way to go.
35. “I’ve been thinking about you a lot. I hope you are doing okay.”
As we have said before, often, speaking from the heart is the best way to handle a situation.
36. “Can I bring you dinner next week?”
Your friend is still going to need you once the funeral is over and the shock of the loss has lessened. While many people do things for someone experiencing loss before the funeral, be there for your friend after everyone else disappears.
Your friend will understand if you struggle with your words. If you find yourself too choked up to speak, give them a heartfelt hug. Your friend or family member will understand.
“I’m Sorry for Your Loss” Alternatives to Say After the Loss of a Friend
Many times we focus our condolences on family members of the deceased. However, the reality is that the person who died may have spent more (or just as much) time with friends. Here are some ways to say, “I’m sorry for your loss,” when someone loses a close friend.
38. “I’m sorry. I know you were really close.”
This simple acknowledgment may offer comfort to a person who is hurting.
39. “Book club won’t be the same without Carol. She will be missed!”
This simple statement can be used to acknowledge the loss of a friend.
40. “Even though I already reached out to Carol’s children, I wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you too. You two were like sisters, and I’m sure her death is hard for you.”
Grief experts advise people not to assume that a death is harder (or easier) for some people. After all, most of us are not privy to the intricacies of a relationship. We mention this to remind you not to say, “I’m sure you are grieving more than the family.” Loss is loss, and there’s no need to assign people degrees of grief.
“I’m Sorry for Your Loss” Alternatives to Say in an Email
There may be a variety of reasons that you would send an email to offer condolences. For example, perhaps the person in mourning is a work contact or associate you heard had recently suffered a loss. If you didn’t know them well enough to attend their loved one’s funeral or you aren’t sure of their home address so that you can send a card, you might consider offering condolences in an email.
Here are some email snippets to inspire you as you write your message.
41. “I was at your office yesterday and the receptionist told me about the death of your father. Please accept my deepest condolences. I am terribly sorry for your loss.”
You might want to explain how you heard the news if you are a client or work associate. Sending a message like this is not only kind, but it may also put the recipient worried about work at ease.
42. “I hope you don’t receive this message until you come back to work. However, I wanted to let you know I have been thinking about you and praying for you and your entire family. I loved hearing the stories you would tell about your dad. He sounds like he was an amazing man.”
Some people deliberately ignore their emails immediately following the loss of a family member, especially if the email address is through work.
43. “Please don’t worry about any work-related issues while you are gone on bereavement leave. We have canceled all of your appointments, and you can reschedule them and return calls when you feel you are ready.”
If you have bereavement leave as a part of your benefits, you might want to communicate with your company’s HR department on behalf of your employee.
44. “I didn’t want to send a text because I didn’t want to interrupt your time with family. However, I want you to know how sorry I was to hear about the death of Bob. He was such a funny man and was a pleasure to be around.”
Another reason that you might send an email instead of a text is if you don’t wish to interrupt your friend, who may be busy making funeral arrangements. Emails are easier to ignore.
45. “Please know that your church family is praying for you during this difficult time. We would like to offer meals of love to help you over the next few weeks. Please respond with your address, the number of people who will be eating, allergies, and likes and dislikes.”
Do you have a matter of business to discuss with a grieving person? Consider using an email in this situation. Some people find it difficult talking on the phone following a loss.
Short “I’m Sorry for Your Loss” Alternatives to Say in a Text
Do you wish to send a quick condolence message to a friend who recently lost a family member? Here are some text examples to send out to a grieving person.
Try not to be offended if you don’t receive a response. The time following a loved one’s death is busy. They may be meeting with the funeral home, supporting their family members, shopping for funeral clothes, or overwhelmed by their loss.
46. “I just heard about Sam! My heart is broken. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do.”
You might flow up with suggestions, such as “I would love to provide your family with a meal. I’ll text you when I leave it on the front porch.”
47. “Thinking of you!”
You may have already expressed your condolences. However, a person in mourning may feel comforted knowing that you are thinking of them in the following days, weeks, or months following a death.
48. “I know that there’s nothing I can say that will make things better, but I just wanted to let you know that I’m sorry for your loss.”
The honest, straightforward approach to offering condolences is sometimes the best.
49. “I’m praying for peace and comfort for your entire family.”
If you say you are praying for someone, follow up on the promise.
50. “Our cul-de-sac won’t be the same without Frank! He was the life of the party.”
Your message doesn’t have to sound like it could have been written in the Victorian era.
51. “I saw this quote by Maya Angelou online, and I thought of you. ‘And when great souls die, after a period, peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.’”
If you can’t come up with the right words to say to a friend in mourning, borrow from the great writers of our time.
52. “Here’s a link to a poem that means a lot to me. When you have a minute, take a look.”
Sending a link through text is probably easier than sending the entire poem.
53. “We have space in our driveway if your family can’t find a place to park.”
Sometimes it’s little kindnesses like these that are greatly appreciated.
“I’m Sorry for Your Loss” Alternatives to Say in a Card or Letter
We would like to encourage our readers to send cards and letters to those who are grieving. While this used to be common practice, it has been replaced by social media posts.
One benefit of sending a card or letter is that it gives you the opportunity to write a heartfelt private message. People also tend to save letters and cards and may return back to them when they need a comforting word.
We know that writing and sending a card or letter takes extra effort. While this may be inconvenient for you, the recipient will see that you went out of your way to send kind words.
Here are some ideas of what to write in a sympathy card.
54. “John was such a kind man! I’ll never forget the beautiful eulogy that he gave at Michael’s funeral. It meant a lot to me.”
People who are hurting like hearing kind words about the person who died. Consider sharing positive or funny stories in your card or letter.
55. “I won’t even pretend to understand what you are going through right now. However, I want you to know that I am here for you. Call or text any time, day or night. I keep my phone right by the bed, and I’ll respond immediately.”
Send a card to let your best friend know that you are available. Sometimes it’s easier to write words such as these instead of saying them face to face.
56. “I know how close you were to your mom. Her eyes would light up whenever she talked about your latest job. She was very proud of you, and you were a wonderful daughter.”
This is an example of a private message that, while nice, you might not want to send over social media.
57. “I didn’t know what to say to you at your sister’s funeral. But I wanted you to know that I have been thinking about you non-stop since she passed.”
Do you struggle with saying the right words in person? Send a card or a letter to someone who is hurting.
58. “I can’t tell you the things I am thinking because I’ll end up crying. However, I wanted to share with you how sorry I am for your loss. You always spoke so fondly about your brother. I’m sure you will miss him so much.”
Here’s a sample message for those who cry during stressful situations.
How to Show You’re Sorry for Someone’s Loss Without Words
Are you a person who prefers action over words? You may feel awkward speaking in public situations, but you are happy to help a person in need. If this describes you, you are “the salt of the earth.” The world would be better if more people found a need and took action instead of talking about what should be done.
Here are some ways to show someone you are sorry for their loss.
59. Provide a meal
Don’t overlook the power of this simple task. We know it’s always at the top of the list of “things to do when someone dies.” However, it’s at the top because it’s one of the most helpful things you can do.
Don’t fret if you aren’t a great cook or you aren’t sure about the likes and dislikes of the group. Instead, consider providing a gift card to a restaurant or a grocery store.
If you believe in the power of prayer, you know the impact you can make by praying for a grieving family. Pray that God gives peace and comfort to grieving families.
61. Donate to a charity
Many families recommend charities to donate to in honor of the deceased. Consider donating items, money, or time to these organizations.
62. Send a plant or flower arrangement to the funeral
In certain situations, sending a plant or arrangement directly to the home would be better than sending it to the funeral home.
63. Send a gift
While plants and flower arrangements are traditional for people who are grieving, why not search for another type of gift? Create a photo book or calendar using the photos your friend posted on Facebook. Buy some wind chimes engraved with the name of the deceased. Purchase a piece of memorial jewelry for a friend, or send them a gift box full of comfort items.
64. Be there
Perhaps more than anything else, your friend needs someone to listen to during their time of need. Your friend may be dealing with a wide variety of emotions. For example, they may feel guilt that they didn’t visit their grandpa enough in his later years, or they may feel frustrated with their siblings for planning a non-traditional funeral. Then, of course, your friend may simply need someone to pat their backs when they cry.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone who has experienced the trauma associated with loss is just to be there.
Where Can You Share a Condolence Message?
We’ve given you some ideas of words to say when you encounter someone grieving a loss. However, when and where are you to share these sympathy messages? Here are some ideas on how to share a condolence message with someone.
If possible, go to the visitation (wake, viewing) or funeral to offer your condolences in person. We know this may make you uncomfortable. After all, few people ever really want to go to a funeral because the subject of death causes us to think about our own mortality (and the mortality of our loved ones.) However, most of the time, the deceased’s family feels comforted knowing that they are surrounded by people who support them.
So even if the service is at an inconvenient time or a hard-to-reach location, make an effort to attend the funeral. Go to support a friend, extended family member, or coworker. Attend the funeral of a person you know who died — even if you don’t know any members of their family.
If the service is private or too far away to attend, you may consider arranging to see the family some other time. Drop by with a meal to offer your condolences or bring a peace lily and a card.
It’s become more common to share the news of a death in the family through social media. When this happens, many people use the “comment” section to share messages of sympathy with the family.
You may also consider sharing condolences in this matter.
Online memorial page
Online memorial pages allow families to tell others about a person’s death and share the details regarding end-of-life services. These pages can be transmitted through email or text, making them a great way to spread news without Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Even though online memorial pages vary depending on the provider, many of them allow visitors to share messages of condolences or memories of the deceased. Some of these websites act as private forums, which means that they can’t be found by an online search.
You may consider sending a message of condolence by sending a sympathy card to the family. You can purchase religious or secular cards, and some are written with a specific relationship in mind.
Some greeting card companies offer a “sending” service if you find yourself too busy to complete the process.
Finding the Right Words to Say
Don't be so hard on yourself. If the only thing that you can think to say is, "I'm sorry for your loss," then so be it. The person you need to offer condolences to will remember that you attended the funeral, went to the visitation, or sent a card. He or she won't remember the exact words you said.
As you think of kind words to say to others in mourning, think about how your own family will react when you are gone. Take time to start end-of-life planning now, so when your time comes, your family can reflect on your life.
Have other suggestions to share? Let us know your ideas on to express your condolences.