Condolences- What you Should and Should Not Say
Expressing your condolences to someone who has recently lost a loved one is important. However, it can be difficult to know just what to say. Here are some ideas to help you choose the right words.
How to acknowledge someone's death
Do not be afraid to mention the loss as soon as you see the person. It depends on how well you know them as to what you should say. " I'm so sorry to hear about Peter," or "I heard about Peter, how sad". You can continue with "I can't imagine how you must be feeling. Are you coping OK?" In this way, you acknowledge the uniqueness of the grief that they are feeling while expressing your sadness and concern for them, and offering your support.
If the death was sudden and unexpected, as, in an accident, you might want to include "What a terrible shock".
Be sensitive to the needs of the bereaved
Many people find it comforting to remember the deceased and want to share memories about them. Exchanging stories about the person can allow both you and the bereaved to express your sentiments and can help the grieving process.
Shortly after losing a loved one some people do not want to talk about their loved one. Later on, though, they will appreciate your mentioning the deceased in a natural way in conversation. Too often, people try to avoid mentioning the person and this can deny the bereaved a chance to express their feelings.
Don't be afraid to declare your sadness at the loss of the person but respect that a person who was closer to the deceased will have deeper sadness and feelings than your own and you should not compare the two.
Phrases to avoid when expressing your condolences
"I know what you are feeling, my brother died a couple of months ago." Everyone experiences grief differently, so do not assume that you know how they feel.
"They're in a better place now" or "It's part of God's plan". Even if you know that the person has religious beliefs, this kind of comment can sound as though it was better for their loved one to die and that they should not be grieving.
"Time heals all wounds". This is another phrase that can minimize their grief, and for many, their grief will accompany them always.
"It's time to move on". This assumes that grief has a time limit, but it is part of a healing process that everybody follows at their own pace.
Expressing your condolences in writing
Even if you have spoken with the person, a written condolence letter can often bring comfort. It is something tangible that they can keep and re-read. It also gives you a chance to plan what you want to say. You can start much the same with an "I'm sorry to hear..." Include special stories about your relationship and experiences with the deceased. You should, however, avoid humorous tales as they might be considered disrespectful at this sad time.