How to Offer Sympathy
Saying the Right Things
When You Offer Sympathies
What do you say to your best friend after the death of his father? How do you comfort your cousin who has lost a spouse? And what words can comfort a parent who has lost their child? These are common thoughts for anyone when trying to decide how to offer sympathies to a family member or friend who is suffering from grief and loss.
Don’t Avoid the Issue
Instead of trying to talk around the subject, acknowledge the situation. It is appropriate to say that you heard that a person died even if it occurred some time ago. This lets the other person know that you are willing to talk about it and allows them to say what they want.
You should always be honest and sincere even if that means admitting that you don’t know what to say. Sometimes just saying that you are sorry about the situation is enough. You can say it in a variety of ways.
- “I’m sorry to hear about your loss.”
- “I’m sorry that you are going through this.”
- “I want you to know how sorry I am that this has happened to you.”
Showing your concern lets the other person know that he or she is not alone.
You may feel like you should be doing something for the grieving person. It feels awkward to just stand or sit and talk about the situation. If you are the type of person who wants to “fix” things, you should use that attitude in this situation. While you can’t fix it, you can do things to make the burden easier.
Some examples of support include helping out with tasks around the house or caring for children so that the person can deal with other jobs. You may be able to take on some projects that the deceased handled, especially important when the people are older. Maybe he mowed the lawn or she cooked dinner. Now that they are gone, this task is left up to the family member. They may feel overwhelmed at all of the work to do and appreciate you taking on the responsibility for a few days or weeks.
One of the best ways to offer ongoing support is by asking how the person feels. This allows them to deal with their feelings and express any concerns they are having. This is a good question to ask even months later because grief doesn’t go away in a few days. Only the support seems to lessen as time goes by. When you receive an answer to your question, don’t assume that means you have to respond or “make them feel better.” Just the act of telling you that today is a bad day or they spent the morning crying can be enough.
The most important thing to remember about how to offer sympathy to people who are dealing with the loss of a loved one is that the words don’t matter as much as you think. It is the meaning and the intention behind the words.
Contributing editor is Suzie Kolber from http://obituarieshelp.org