When somebody dies it can be difficult to know what to say. If someone has lost their mother, father, sibling or friend, it is normal to worry that we might offend them or make things worse, but it’s more hurtful to say nothing at all.
Here are a few things that you can do:
- Acknowledge the person’s death
- Talk about the person that has died
- Express your own sadness
- Be empathetic
- Accept anger
- Keep in touch
When you are searching for what to say when someone dies, don’t be afraid to state what a terrible thing it is to have happened. Do it in a way that feels natural.
One of the main things that people find difficult after someone dies is when no one talks about their loved one anymore. Sharing a memory and saying things like ‘they were so funny’, or ‘I remember this about her so clearly…’ can open up an opportunity for them to talk.
When someone dies it can leave many people feeling shell-shocked and sad. It’s okay to share your own feelings of sadness, but avoid implying to people closer to them that your feelings are the same.
Regardless of how sad you’re feeling, or your own experiences of a loved one dying, you should never assume that someone who has been bereaved feels the same. Saying ‘I can’t imagine how it feels for you,’ acknowledges that their grief is unique, not that you don’t sympathise with them.
Don’t let fear of tears or anger hold you back from expressing words of sympathy. If a person is grieving after someone dies don’t try and explain or fix something that’s been taken badly. Just say sorry.
After a funeral support can gradually – or suddenly – disappear, but the bereaved person is still grieving for their loved one. This can leave people feeling very isolated. Asking them ‘what’s life like now?’ and ‘how are you coping?’ can be really helpful.