Have you lost someone close to you? If so, you already know that there’s very little anyone can say or do to make you feel better.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Why Is It So Hard to Respond to ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss?’
- Responding to ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss’ In Person
- Responding to ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss’ via Text Message
- Responding to ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss’ on Social Media
- Professional or Formal Responses to ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss’
People may have already heard about your loss. If this is the case, you may already be receiving texts, social media messages, calls, and visits from people offering condolences. Some of your friends or acquaintances won’t know what to say. They might have even searched “what to say when someone dies” before typing their message or calling you on the phone.
Remember that the messages you receive are sent in love. You may be tired of hearing, “I’m sorry for your loss,” so interpret this phrase to mean, “I care about you.”
Here are some ways to respond to the sentiment.
Tip: If you recently lost a loved one, our post-loss checklist can help you sort through the complicated tasks and challenges you might be facing.
Why Is It So Hard to Respond to ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss?’
The death of a loved one is a traumatic event. You may forever remember the days surrounding the death for the rest of your life. It doesn’t matter if the death was expected or sudden. And this might be counterintuitive, but the death of someone you were estranged from may be just as difficult as one where you had a close relationship with the deceased.
One reason it’s hard to respond to “I’m sorry for your loss” is that you’ve just been through one of the most challenging events of your life.
Another reason it is difficult to respond to “I’m sorry for your loss” is that you may be experiencing brain fog. As a result, you may find it challenging to make decisions or remember what you need to do. Additionally, you might find it hard to have a conversation, especially one on such a sad topic.
Finally, you may also be struggling to respond to someone’s “I’m sorry for your loss” because you have nothing to say. You may respond to this message out of politeness or attempt to make the other person feel at ease.
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Responding to ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss’ in Person
If you recently lost someone, you may receive more than the usual number of visitors to your home. Your closest friends and family may surround you with love and affection during this difficult time. They may bring casseroles and fruit trays.
You may face more people at the funeral services. Some of these people you will know, and some you may not know at all.
Most people will say something similar to, “I’m sorry for your loss.” What is the appropriate way to respond when you have heard this phrase dozens of times in the last several days?
Here are some ideas.
1. “Thank you.”
“Thank you,” is the perfect response. It acknowledges that you heard and appreciate the sentiment. The person who expresses his or her concern should not expect you to offer a lengthy reply.
2. “Thank you for coming.”
No one enjoys going to funeral services, so thank the people who do attend. Tell them how much it means to you.
3. “I appreciate that.”
You want to know that others will remember the person who died. For that reason, some of your visitors may not only say, “I’m sorry for your loss,” they may also follow this up with kind words or a memory of the person who died.
Acknowledge both the sorrow and the memories by expressing your appreciation.
4. “I was lucky to be able to share my life with him/her.”
Tell others how you feel about the person you lost. Share memories and tell stories — express appreciation for the person’s life in the midst of your sorrow.
5. “My Dad thought highly of you.”
When someone dies, those who are usually uncomfortable talking about love and relationships may suddenly be more open to emotional subjects. So you may consider using this opportunity to share feelings.
In this example, your dad may not have ever told someone directly that he thought highly of them even though it was true. But you can become your dad’s voice and spread positive messages of friendship to those who attend the funeral.
6. “Thank you. It has been a tough six months.”
For many of you experiencing loss, the day of the death may have ended months or years of health battles in the form of hospital stays, surgeries, and treatments. Responding in this way doesn’t imply that you are relieved that your loved one is gone. It simply states that you and your family have experienced months of emotional hardship, including the death of your loved one.
7. “I’m glad he and Mom are together once again.”
Believers in the afterlife are reassured that their loved ones are in Heaven. If this describes your beliefs, share it with others.
8. “Thanks. I’m sorry I didn’t do more when your mom died. I should have gone to the funeral, but I was too uncomfortable. Now, I understand why it’s so important.”
You don’t really get what it’s like to lose someone close to you until you experience it yourself. And even though people grieve differently, we all want to feel loved and supported by those close to us.
You might want to use this opportunity to apologize to friends who you didn’t support during their time of need.
9. “Thank you. Did I ever tell you the story of when my grandma . . .”
Share positive memories of the deceased. Tell stories – even if they make people laugh. It may inspire others to tell you things about the deceased that you had never heard.
Responding to ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss’ via Text Message
Text messages have replaced phone calls and mailed communication. You may not agree with this trend, but it’s the reality of modern life.
Here are ways you can respond when a friend, extended family member or an acquaintance sends you the message, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
10. “Thank you. Here are the service details . . .”
Your friend may do more than offer condolences. He or she may also want to attend the funeral services.
Share the service details with your friends or family members as soon as you can. People who want to attend may have to make travel arrangements, take time off work, find child care, or cancel appointments. The sooner you can share the details, the more likely he or she will be able to attend.
11. “Thank you for all your support during these difficult months.”
When someone you love is dying, you may find yourself withdrawing from society because you don’t have time to socialize or you don’t feel like being around others. Good friends will understand, so thank them.
12. “Thank you for reaching out to me. It’s been a very difficult few days.”
You may not approve of using text messages to express sympathy, but there are some advantages to this method of communication.
For one thing, you don’t have to reply to texts immediately. You also won’t have to try to talk with someone when you’re overwhelmed with grief.
This response lets the sender know you may not be up to face-to-face communication at the moment.
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13. “Thank you. I know that he/she is in a better place now.”
When you believe in the afterlife, death is sometimes bittersweet. If your loved one suffered during a long illness, you may be thankful that he or she is at peace and not hurting anymore. And when you believe in heaven, you may rejoice thinking about the person being in the presence of God.
Share those thoughts with the person who texts. If the sender is a believer, he or she will understand your sentiment.
14. “Thanks for reaching out. I’ll talk with you soon.”
Anyone who has lost a close family member will understand how busy the days following a death can be. Don’t feel bad if you don’t have time for an extended text exchange. Respond in this way if you wish to thank the person but want to end the conversation.
15. “Thanks for being a great friend! I love you!”
Sometimes death inspires others to share how they feel with family and close friends. If you feel so inspired, text your friends. Or, better yet, tell them in person how much you love and appreciate them.
16. “I need some help. Would you be able to pick my uncle up from the airport?”
Close friends and extended family members want to be able to help, but they may not know what to do. After thanking someone for offering condolences and discussing the emotional aspects of the loss, consider asking your friend for assistance if you need it.
17. “Thanks. Dad wished to be cremated and have his ashes spread on the farm. We plan to have a service there sometime this spring. I’ll let you know those details as soon as I can.”
Your friend may be reaching out not only to offer condolences but also to find out service details. Since many funerals are held in the middle of the week, it’s nice to give attendees time to prepare and make work and travel arrangements.
18. “Thank you. I’m so thankful that my entire family was there at the end.”
Don’t feel like you need to put a positive spin on everything you do. However, some might reflect on the things they are grateful for following a loss. For example, perhaps you are thankful that you could help care for your parent or that they didn’t suffer long.
Responding to ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss’ on Social Media
It’s become socially acceptable to announce the death of a loved one on social media. If you didn’t know all of the deceased’s contacts, this is a great way to inform them about the death of your family member.
What do you do when you receive sympathy messages on Facebook? Do you respond to each one separately? Or do you post another message thanking everyone for his or her condolences? Either method is probably acceptable.
What if someone sends you a private message through your social media account? Here are some ways to respond to condolences on Facebook, Instagram, or any other account you may have.
19. “I know this is difficult for you, too.”
You may be an immediate family member of the deceased but others who send you messages may be in mourning, too. For example, maybe your mom or dad had the same best friend for 50 years. This person will obviously miss that relationship.
Acknowledge this special relationship — you aren’t the only one who’s grieving. Others feel it, too.
20. “Thank you for the message. I appreciate your kind words.”
You may receive sympathy messages from people you’ve never met after you announce a loved one’s death on social media.
Just because someone is a friend or acquaintance of the deceased doesn’t mean that you had any interaction with the person.
21. “I know you understand what I’m going through.”
Others who reach out to you may have lost someone, too. It would be kind to acknowledge this loss in your response.
22. “It’s so comforting knowing that there are people I can turn to in my time of need. I love you.”
If you receive a message from a close friend who you can always rely on, share your love with that individual. Sometimes it takes the death of a loved one to help us see who the important people are in our lives.
23. “Thank you for your kind words.”
Most would agree that “short and sweet” is an excellent way to respond on social media.
24. “Thank you for your comforting words.”
It might look odd to respond to every comment in the same way. Here’s another succinct example.
25. “Thanks. This verse from the Bible has been comforting me over the last several days: ‘And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.’ – Revelation 21:4”
Including a comforting Bible verse will bring reassurance to those reaching out that, while you are of course going through the process of grieving, you are finding hope within your faith.
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26. “My mom is singing with the angels today!”
If you believe in the afterlife, you probably enjoy imagining what your loved one is experiencing in Heaven. Maybe your loved one even told you what they were most looking forward to about Heaven. Share this with others.
27. “I saw you called the other day. I’m sorry I didn’t answer. It’s too hard to talk right now, but I will reach out soon.”
Friends who have never experienced loss may feel slighted if you don’t reach out to them in crisis. It might be helpful to explain what you are experiencing to some of your friends.
28. “Thank you for being a friend.”
We appreciate the support and kind words from friends when life is most difficult.
29. “Thank you for your prayers.”
Do you have a friend who is a prayer warrior? Thank them for their continued prayers. If you have a specific prayer request, you might want to use this opportunity to ask for it.
30. “I’ll let you know the funeral details as soon as they are available.”
If you are sure your Facebook friend will want to attend the funeral, reassure them that those details are forthcoming.
Professional or Formal Responses to ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss’
You may feel overwhelmed by all the messages and kind words you receive following the loss of your loved one. Yet, in the midst of answering messages, you may also have to gather photos for a slideshow, arrange for the funeral, make accommodation arrangements for extended family, and find something to wear to the funeral.
Because you may be overwhelmed by all there is to do, we would like to offer some snippets of text to borrow and edit to make your own. Here are some responses that you can send to coworkers, bosses, colleagues, or clients who reach out to you during this time.
Our samples of messages will include a variety of scenarios that you might experience, including what to say to someone who reached out to you for professional reasons and was unaware that you had a death in the family.
31. “I would like to offer my appreciation to the entire team at Vance Refrigeration. I am thankful to have such kind and caring coworkers.”
If you feel overwhelmed by individual texts, emails, and calls, consider sending out a message to the entire team at once. Then, once things settle down, you can respond to individual messages if needed.
32. “Thank you for reaching out to me. I would love to help you with this matter, but instead, I will direct this message to my colleague Sara. Unfortunately, I am out on bereavement leave and plan to return to the office on the 25th.”
It might be difficult for you if your personal and work phone are on the same line. While you can ignore or forward emails, it’s not as easy to ignore incoming texts. Here’s a way to respond to one that has slipped through. And if the recipient responds by writing, “I’m sorry for your loss”? Respond, “Thanks.” You don’t have to explain the situation.
33. “Thank you! Thank you also for answering my forwarded emails for the next week or two. I know that this is a lot more work for you, and you are already overwhelmed with tasks. I appreciate you!”
It’s kind to recognize when others may be struggling because you are not able to be at work.
34. “I appreciate the kind words. I will talk with HR about bereavement leave and let you know the date I plan to return to work.”
It’s also kind to communicate with your coworkers so they know when to schedule meetings and how to plan during your absence.
35. “Thank you.”
We know that some of you have difficulty focusing on your personal life when there’s so much to do at work. However, the death of a loved one may encourage you to reexamine your priorities. So take time to experience all the emotions that come with grief.
36. “I appreciate your patience and understanding. I know things have been difficult in my absence, but we have a great team. I trust them to make the right decisions. Right now, I need to focus on my family.”
Here’s a thoughtful way to remind your coworkers that you can’t handle a work crisis at the moment.
Finding the Right Words to Say
You might be answering texts and messages as you make funeral arrangements. It’s a hard task, especially if you didn’t know what the deceased wanted. Did your dad want to be buried or cremated? What was mom’s favorite hymn? Where did your husband want to be buried? A lot of decisions need to be made.
Once you’ve planned your loved one’s funeral, you may start thinking about your own funeral arrangements. Start your end-of-life planning today so your family members don’t have to make those difficult choices for you someday.