It’s challenging knowing what to say to a person who lost someone dear to them. You want to acknowledge the person’s pain, but you don’t want to use trite or overused phrases.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Sympathy Message for a Close Friend
- Sympathy Message for a Family Member
- Sympathy Message for an Acquaintance or Colleague
- Sympathy Message for a Spouse or Partner
- Words of Sympathy for the Loss of a Sister to Cancer
- Words of Sympathy for the Loss of a Sister-in-Law
- Words of Sympathy for the Sudden Loss of a Sister
- Where Can You Share a Condolence Message?
You want to ask the person how he is feeling, but you know that he is suffering and grieving. It’s no wonder that so many people say, “I’m sorry for your loss” when faced with this situation.
The sad truth is that there are no magic words to take the pain away from your friend.
Here are some messages you may consider using for a person who recently lost a sister. They differ in tone, depending upon the closeness of your relationship.
Tip: One of the hardest things to do after losing a close loved one is sorting through their financial, legal, and personal affairs. Our post-loss checklist can help someone who's lost a sister work through it all.
Sympathy Message for a Close Friend
Do you have a close friend who recently lost a sister? No matter if the woman who passed was young or old, or whether the death was expected or not, your friend is probably suffering deeply. Here are some messages of condolences to say to your friend.
You may also choose to write these statements on a sympathy card like this as well; these are suitable ways to convey condolences after the loss of a sister:
- "I don't know what to say."
- "I'm so heartbroken over your loss."
- "I'm going to bring over a tray of sandwiches for you to share with the rest of your family tonight."
- "I can't imagine the pain you must be feeling. Please know I am here for you."
- "I'm sorry you are going through this. It's not fair."
- "I've been praying for you and your family."
- "What can I do you right now?"
- "Tell me about your sister."
1. I don’t know what to say.
Honesty is often the best approach. Tell your friend that you are at a loss for words. Your friend will understand because they probably don't know what to say to you in return either. If you're struggling to find the right thing to say, consider sending flowers, giving a sympathy gift basket, or putting together a care package for some comfort instead.
2. I’m so heartbroken over your loss. You and your family must feel devastated right now. I’m so sorry.
Don’t try to look on the bright side of things when someone dies. Most of the time, the family feels devastated and heartbroken when a family member dies.
3. I know that you are heartbroken right now by the loss of your sister. I’m going to bring over a tray of sandwiches for you to share with the rest of your family tonight. I love you!
Acknowledge how your friend must be feeling. Do something to help. Tell your friend how you feel.
4. I can’t imagine the pain you must be feeling right now. Please know that I am here for you whenever you need me.
The best sympathy messages are those that come from the heart. Even if your friend may have enormous support right now, she may not have any on the death anniversary of her sister. You will be needed at some point, but it may be days, weeks, months, or years from now.
5. I’m sorry you are going through this. It’s not fair.
If your friend’s sister died too young, your friend might feel angry or like they have been cheated out of the time that everyone else seems to get. Acknowledge these feelings.
6. I’ve been praying for you and your family.
If your friend is a spiritual person, they will appreciate your prayers. You may pray for comfort for all involved.
7. What can I do for you right now?
If you have a close friend who is grieving, there must be something that you can do to help. Offer to bring food, pick up family members at the airport, or drive kids to soccer practice.
8. Tell me about your sister.
While you don’t want to make your friend cry intentionally, you shouldn’t avoid the topic of her sister’s death. She may want to share her favorite memories of her sister with you. Perhaps your friend needs someone to work through complicated emotions.
Sympathy Message for a Family Member
If you recently lost a family member, your entire extended family may be suffering. Here are some things to say to your parents, siblings, in-laws, nieces, and nephews who may be suffering from the recent loss of your sister:
- "I'm glad we have each other to lean on right now."
- "It's difficult to imagine life without her."
- "We were lucky to have such a fantastic person in our lives. Do you remember when..."
- "Are you ok?"
- "I'm glad we are all together."
- "I know this loss will be particularly hard on you."
- "I'm here for you, no matter what."
- "I love you."
9. I’m glad we have each other to lean on right now.
Most families, even if they are not particularly close, come together to support each other during difficult times. Remind your parents and siblings of this if your family recently suffered a loss.
10. It’s difficult to imagine life without her.
The other people in your family will understand how difficult life will be without the one you love. Acknowledge those feelings and talk about them with others who understand.
11. We were lucky to have such a fantastic person in our lives. Do you remember when...
Share stories about the one you lost. Talk about what the deceased was like as a kid. Remind each other of the funny stories as well as the more poignant moments in the relationship. Keep her memory alive by continuing to talk about her for years to come.
12. Are you ok?
Ask others in your family how they are doing. They may be experiencing complicated emotions, especially if they are young. They may feel anger as well as sadness. Maybe they are experiencing fear as well as grief. Let your family members discuss their complicated feelings without judging them for having them.
13. I’m glad we are all together.
Has it been months or years since your family has been all together? Even though you may all be suffering the loss of someone in the family, acknowledge the comfort you may all be feeling at being together.
14. I know this loss will be particularly hard on you. Please turn to me when you need someone to listen.
Perhaps not every person in the family will be affected the same way by the death of a loved one. Some will suffer more than others. Acknowledge this and offer support to the people who suffer the most.
15. I’m here for you, no matter what.
Make sure that your family knows that you are there to support them.
16. I love you.
Don’t wait until it is too late to tell others how you feel about them. Tell people that you love them every chance you get.
Sympathy Message for an Acquaintance or Colleague
There are times when you need to express sympathy to someone who isn’t in your inner circle of friends or family.
Here are some ideas of things to say to an acquaintance or a colleague who recently experienced the loss of a sister:
- "I'm so sorry to hear about your sister."
- "Please accept my heartfelt condolences on the death of your sister."
- "I hope your beautiful memories of your sister help you through this difficult time."
- "I recently heard about the loss of your sister. Please know that I am praying for you and the rest of your family."
- "I've been thinking about you!"
- "Losing a sibling is extremely difficult. I am so sorry for your loss."
- "I know you are going through a tough time right now."
17. I’m so sorry to hear about your sister.
This message is a lovely, succinct way to express compassion that is an alternative to the ever-present, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
18. Please accept my heartfelt condolences on the death of your sister. It’s such a tragedy when someone dies so young.
Pay attention to the details when you are expressing sympathy to someone you don’t know well. Knowing that the person lost a sister as opposed to a mother makes the message seem a little more heartfelt than usual.
19. I hope your beautiful memories of your sister help you through this difficult time.
When you lose someone, all you have are the memories.
20. I recently heard about the loss of your sister. Please know that I am praying for you and the rest of your family.
When you say that you are praying for others, make sure you follow up on your promise.
21. Please accept my sympathies for the death of your sister. I’m sorry you have to go through this heartbreaking tragedy.
Although this message is somewhat formal, it is the appropriate tone to share with a person you don’t know well.
22. I’m praying for comfort for you and your extended family during this difficult time.
Try not to pray for an “end of grief.” Grief isn’t a bad thing. It’s the result of losing someone you love.
23. I’ve been thinking about you! I was so sad to hear about the death of your sister. I know you must be devastated.
Sometimes people use flowery words, such as condolences or sympathy, when talking about death. Sometimes it is refreshing to hear someone speak plainly.
24. Losing a sibling is extremely difficult. I am so sorry for your loss.
Perhaps you have lost a brother or a sister, and you know how much your acquaintance or coworker may be suffering. Even if you have that connection, be careful to focus on the other person’s loss and not your own.
25. I know you are going through a tough time right now. Even though we aren’t close, I am happy to help you out with any of your projects at work.
Your coworker may be having a difficult time keeping up with work right now. If you can take on some of the responsibilities, offer help to your coworker.
Sympathy Message for a Spouse or Partner
Unfortunately, many of us assume that our spouse or partner knows we are there for them when tragedy strikes, which means we don’t use our words with them like we would with an acquaintance. Offer your spouse or partner sympathy when their sister passes. Here are some ways to say it.
26. “You were a good brother/sister.”
You probably know the quality of relationship that your spouse had with their sister better than almost anyone. So reassure your spouse that they were good to their sister.
27. “I know this is hard for you.”
If your adult sister passed, much of the sympathy is rightfully focused on her spouse, children, and grandchildren. Make sure your spouse understands that you know that they are hurting too.
28. “I’m here for you.”
Perhaps this is the only thing you need to say to a spouse or partner who is hurting. Reassure them that they are not alone during a time of crisis.
29. “I’ll take care of . . . “
Unfortunately, there are still tasks to do when someone is grieving the death of a loved one. Tell your spouse or partner that you will take care of buying funeral clothes for the kids, finding photos for the funeral slideshow, and informing people at work.
30. “Do you remember . . . ?”
When the shock of death wears off, your loved one may feel comforted thinking about the moments they shared with their sister. Help your spouse remember those happy times by sharing memories.
31. “How can I help?”
Maybe you are at a loss as to what needs to be done after your sister’s death. In that case, gently ask your spouse or partner how you can help. For example, you might be needed to pick up pizzas for the extended family or clean the guest bath to prepare for overnight guests. Or, your time may be best spent simply holding the hand of your spouse or partner.
32. “I love you.”
Sometimes this is the only thing that you can say to someone who is hurting.
33. “Even though your relationship with your sister was difficult, I know you are hurting a lot right now.”
It’s a mistake to assume that death isn’t as hard for people who had estranged relationships with their loved ones. Sometimes, a deep sense of regret and loss will follow the death of someone with whom the relationship was complicated.
34. “I wish there was something I could do to take away this pain.”
We all want to take the pain away from those we love. Remind your spouse or partner that if this were a possibility, you would do it.
35. “Spend time with your family.”
Your spouse or partner may want to be with their other siblings or their parents following the death of a sister. If this is what your spouse or partner needs, encourage them to do so.
36. “It’s ok to cry.”
Some people are uncomfortable being emotional in public. Remind your spouse that your home is a safe and appropriate place to cry.
Words of Sympathy for the Loss of a Sister to Cancer
Loss is loss – no matter what caused the death. However, if a friend or extended family member recently lost a sister to cancer, here are some messages of sympathy that might be appropriate.
37. “I was sorry to hear about your sister’s death.”
What do you say to someone the first time you see them following the death of a loved one? Unfortunately, some people choose to ignore the “elephant in the room” by not saying anything about the death. However, this statement is a gentle way to acknowledge what happened.
38. “Nothing can prepare you for the shock of losing someone special. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Sometimes people assume that grief is easier if you “know it’s coming.” This isn’t true. Even if your loved one was receiving services from Hospice, her death might leave you reeling.
39. “Your sister brought happiness and good to this world. It is a little less special without her.”
If you knew the deceased, your comments could be a bit more personal.
40. “Cancer really sucks. I’m sorry it took your sister.”
Sometimes people turn into 18th-century poets when talking with people who are going through tragic situations. You don’t need to be so formal. In fact, your friend or family member may appreciate it if you speak less formally and more from the heart.
41. “I hope the memories you have of your sister brings you some comfort.”
You may follow up on this comment by asking your friend to share a favorite story.
42. “May God strengthen and comfort you during this difficult time.”
If you know that your friend or family member has a strong faith in God, such words will bring them solace.
43. “I always admired how close you and your sister were. I really don’t know what to say, other than ‘I’m so sorry.’”
As we have repeated often, sometimes there are no words.
44. “Your sister was an amazing woman – so kind, strong, and genuine. In fact, your entire family is full of very special people – including you.”
Let your friends know that they are special too.
45. “I feel so bad for your entire family. Susan was taken too soon. Please extend my sympathies to your whole family.
You could write these words on a card or share them in a note that you send with flowers.
46. “The entire staff would like to offer you our condolences over the loss of your sister. We also wanted you to know that we donated $500 in your sister’s name to help fund breast cancer research.”
You might find yourself having to express condolences on behalf of an entire group of people. Here’s an example of how to do this.
47. “I worked with your sister at the law firm, and I wanted to tell you how much people admired and respected her. She was a consummate professional who set the bar high for all who will follow.”
The deceased’s family may be comforted to hear about what their loved one was like at work.
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Words of Sympathy for the Loss of a Sister-in-Law
Don’t assume that the loss of a sister-in-law is easier than the loss of a sister. Some people are just as close to their sisters who married into the family as those born into the relationship.
Here are some words of sympathy for the loss of your sister-in-law.
48. “Though your sister-in-law is no longer with us, we hope the moments you shared together will comfort you. I am so sorry for your loss.”
This is a rather generic message, and it would work in most situations.
49. “I offer you my thoughts, prayers and well-wishes during this dark time in your life.”
This extended version of “thoughts and prayers” may offer more comfort to the grieving family.
50. “A great woman has left this Earth but will forever be in our hearts. We send all of our love to your entire family.”
We love the phrase “forever in our hearts” because we feel as though it offers some peace to families facing a tragic situation.
51. “Though your sister-in-law has passed, she’s neither gone nor forgotten. We will remember her kindness and warm spirit forever.”
“Passed away,” “left this Earth,” or “went to be with the Lord” are often-used euphemisms when offering sympathy.
52. “May God wrap his loving arms around you and the entire family and give you peace.”
For people of faith, this message would bring great comfort.
53. “I am truly heartbroken that your sister-in-law is no longer with us. I will always remember the special times we spent together at her lake house. She was the life of the party and was always a loyal friend.”
Consider sharing photographs of happy times with the family of the deceased.
54. “I am very sorry about the loss of your sister-in-law. I knew she wasn’t in good health, but her passing still came as a shock. I know how important you were to each other. You had a very special bond that was beautiful to witness.”
The phrase “special bond” is a great way to describe a close relationship.
55. “Thank you for sharing the service information for your sister-in-law’s funeral. I will be at both the visitation and funeral to pay my respects to this very special lady. May she rest in peace.”
The phrase “rest in peace” may not be used as often as in previous eras, but it is an entirely appropriate way to offer condolences.
56. “Our prayers are with you as you mourn the loss of your beloved sister-in-law. We ask that God give you and your entire family peace during this time.”
Offering prayers for peace is one way to offer sympathy.
57. “Your sister-in-law was such a wonderful person and a great mother, wife and aunt. She was always willing to help others and asked for nothing in return. She will be missed.”
The more specific you can be when writing praises for the deceased, the better. For example, you might want to write that you “admired her work with the homeless” or how she “was always there to head a committee at church.”
Words of Sympathy for the Sudden Loss of a Sister
Do you know a family who is reeling from the sudden loss of a loved one? Here are some words of sympathy that are written specifically for a sudden loss. Keep in mind that all loss is difficult. However, a sudden loss has the added element of “shock.”
58. “We were stunned to hear about the loss of your sister. Please know that our hearts are with you as you say goodbye to this very special woman.”
Someone who has a sudden death in the family may need more assistance at work if they were not able to prepare for an absence.
59. “I am so sorry to hear of the unexpected loss of your sister. Please accept my heartfelt condolences and don’t think at all about work. Your coworkers have stepped up to cover your shifts, so spend as much time with your family as possible.”
A conscientious coworker may know that they should help their family during a difficult time, but they may feel guilty for missing work. Reassure those employees that family comes first.
60. “This is so unfair. I’m so sorry that your sister was taken so soon. Please know that I’m here for you whenever you are ready to talk.”
Don’t forget to follow up with those who have suffered a loss. Sometimes the most difficult times occur weeks or months after the funeral or around birthdays, holidays, or other special occasions.
61. “I was devastated to hear about your sister, and I can’t imagine what you and your parents are going through at this time. Please know that I am thinking of you as you say goodbye to this truly remarkable person.”
A good friend will realize that your grief will be non-linear and perhaps unpredictable.
62. “Your sister’s death came as such a shock. She has left us at too young an age, but will be remembered fondly for all that she accomplished in such a short life. Your sister made this world a better place, and so do you.”
Here’s an example of what to say when a person’s death is not expected.
63. “I’m sure it must be difficult to find the energy or the time to do normal things right now. Please let me bring a meal over tomorrow night to share with your family.”
A person is more likely to say “yes” to an expression of sympathy if it is specific in nature. For example, consider writing something like this instead of “let me know if there’s anything I can do.”
64. “My favorite memory of your sister is when she attended your baby shower. She had us all in stitches giving alternative uses for all the gifts you received. I’m so sorry she is gone, and I’m sure your kids will miss their aunt incredibly.”
Give specific stories about what made that person stand out from others. Families also enjoy seeing photographs of their loved ones enjoying happy moments of their lives.
Where Can You Share a Condolence Message?
We’ve given you some ideas of things to say when someone has lost a sister or a sister-in-law. However, we haven’t given you ideas on where, when, and how to share these messages. So here are some ideas on how to offer condolences to someone who recently lost a sister.
If possible, attend the funeral. We know that there may be an entire list of reasons why you can’t go – from “the funeral is far away” to “funerals make me uncomfortable.”
Of course, you have to make your own decision on whether or not to go to at least one part of the funeral services. However, as you make your decision, think about how you would feel if you were in a similar situation as your friend.
On the other hand, some families choose to host a private family-only event to say goodbye to a loved one. If this is the case, you may still consider asking if you can “pop by” with a meal so that you can offer your condolences in person.
If your friend or family member shares news about their sister’s death on social media, it’s appropriate to use the “comment” section to send messages of condolences. However, if the information is not spread in this matter, don’t post a sympathy message for all of their friends to see.
Unless the immediate family asked you to spread the word about the death, it probably isn’t your job to do so. So be careful of what you say on social media regarding a person’s death.
Online memorial page
Your social media pages may have gotten out of control. You may have accepted friend requests from casual acquaintances, co-workers, and other people with whom you aren’t comfortable having access to your private life.
So, if you recently lost a loved one, you might consider creating an online memorial page to spread the word. An online memorial page gives you far greater control over who sees the information about the death and the funeral arrangements since these pages can be sent through email or text.
Even though online memorial pages vary depending on the provider, many allow visitors to the website to share messages of condolences or memories of the deceased. In addition, many of them can be set to “private,” so only those who receive the link can access the information.
You may consider sending a sympathy card to the family of the deceased. You can purchase religious or secular cards and those specific to the death of a sister.
Some greeting card companies now have a “sending” service that allows you to select and mail a card from your computer.
Knowing What to Say
What do you say to someone who has lost a sister? We hope we have given you a few ideas.
While thinking about your words, you may also want to research what not to say to someone who recently suffered a loss. Avoid phrases like, “it was God’s plan,” “I’m sure you must be relieved,” or “you’ll get over it.” Also, don’t act like everything is fine or ignore the person’s grief.
Be sincere. Acknowledge the person’s suffering. Make specific offers to help the person. Tell the person in mourning that you care about them and are thinking about them. And know that your words, although they may offer some comfort, can not and should not take the grief away.