40 Things You Can Say Instead of 'Sorry for Your Loss'

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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?

Jump ahead to these sections:

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. 

'I'm Sorry for Your Loss' Alternatives to Say to a Friend

Alternative to saying 'sorry for your loss' with images of flowers and leaves

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."

If you live far away, you can also consider sending a care package, giving a food delivery gift card, or offering to set up an online memorial page.

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

Alternative to saying 'sorry for your loss' with images of flowers and leaves

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

Alternative to saying 'sorry for your loss' with image of flowers and leaves

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

Alternative to saying 'sorry for your loss' with image of flower and leaves

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

Alternative to saying 'sorry for your loss' with images of flowers and leaves

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.

“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.

37. (Hug)

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.

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.

In-person

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.

Social media

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. 

Sympathy cards

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. 

infographic of other ways to say "sorry for your loss"

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