What do you say to comfort someone who lost a loved one?
You have my deepest sympathy on the loss of your father.
Sure, those things are appropriate to say, and even need to be said. But the mourner will hear variations of condolences and sympathy so many times that it almost loses meaning.
Today, we want to explore what the mourner is experiencing and let the reality of grief inform the words of comfort you offer.
At the end of the article, we’ll have plenty of sweet, heartwarming, and meaningful quotes for you to contemplate sharing at the right time.
But let’s first consider this: Is it really even possible for your words to offer comfort to someone who is grieving?
What to Say to Someone Who Lost a Loved One
Your grieving friend or family member is going through so much right now. The grieving process takes time and effort from the mourner. Can anything you say even make a difference?
It might not feel like it. You won’t cure their grief, or provide an instant salve for the wounds of their heart. You might not even feel like your words have had any effect at all. But your words matter – a lot.
The grieving person has an internal monologue going on. It is very, very easy for that jumble of thoughts and questions to go downhill.
Why me? Why him/her?
I can’t go on.
Will I ever feel anything again?
I don’t want to do anything.
Is this normal?
I just want to die.
Am I messed up? I’m too emotional. (Or…) I’m not emotional enough.
Did this happen because of how messed up I am?
If the internal monologue is all they have, it will be very difficult for them to grieve properly, process their emotions, and begin to clear their head and work through to a place of healing.
Your words can help by turning that monologue into something more of a dialogue. Outside input can break through those cycles that often lead to depression and stagnation.
What is the grieving person thinking and feeling right now?
Grief is an uncomfortable feeling. Your loss and pain can hit very deeply.
Some people have described it as feeling like “being cut in two.” It might feel as if you have lost a piece of yourself. It is natural and normal to grieve and to hurt when someone you love dies.
Some major emotions might be:
- Anger. This might be anger at God, with your loved one, with yourself, or with the doctors. Why didn’t God intervene on your loved one’s behalf? Did you do everything possible to help your loved one? Why didn’t the doctors do more? These are all valid questions, and furthermore, it is “Ok” to be angry.
- Loneliness. The loss of a spouse is devastating. You may not just be losing your spouse, but you may lose friendships as well. You may lose relationships with “couples.” You may also lose friendships with the spouse’s side of the family.
- Regret. You may feel regret for all of the time that you have lost with your loved one. The years that you planned for that will never happen.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross referenced five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The grieving person may or may not go through all of these stages of grief. She may revisit certain stages, skip some, or experience other “stages” (some experts say there are up to twelve).
As her friend, it is important for you to know that all of these feelings are normal and acceptable.
What comforting words are best for those thoughts and feelings?
What else can be said besides, “I love you, I am here for you, or it’s alright to feel that way?” Try one of these phrases.
- Can I come by and visit with you?
- Let me take you to lunch (coffee, etc).
- I’m turning off my phone’s “sleep” mode. Call me anytime, day or night.
- I am going to come over and cook dinner for you.
- Would you like to come to stay at our home for a few nights?
When your friend or loved one needs support:
- I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help you in any way I can.
- I am grieving with you.
- How can I help you? Let me know what you need.
- Take all the time you need.
- I am out running errands. Can I do anything for you? Pick up groceries, pick up your kids or even run to the post office?
What are some things that someone grieving the loss of a loved one does not want to hear?
Please, be considerate when talking to someone who is grieving.
- I know how you feel.
- When I lost my….
- Stop crying.
- They are in a better place.
- God needed another angel in heaven.
- Buck up! Chin up!
- You should be over this by now.
- You’ll feel better.
- Time heals all wounds.
- You’re young. You can remarry.
- You can always have another child.
- It was “just” a cat/dog.
What are some things you can do to comfort someone who lost a loved one?
When there are no words to say, what else can you do?
Offer a hug, a warm hand to hold, or simple eye contact and a listening ear. All of these actions can speak volumes without any words being exchanged.
Be sincere in all you do towards a grief-stricken person. Emotions are heightened, and you do not want to offend them.
Share your favorite photos of their loved one. If you have pictures on your phone, text them with a silly caption or a great memory.
Specific Words of Comfort
Comforting Text Messages
- I am thinking of you.
- I have no words… But I want you to know I love you and am here for you.
- Holding you close in my thoughts and prayers.
- I wish I could take your pain away.
- Just wanted to share this photo of [name] with you. He had such a wonderful heart and I’ll miss him a ton. [Attach photo]
For a Friend
- Know that my prayers are covering you.
- I am always here for you, no matter what or when.
- Praying for you to have peace during this difficult time.
- I know this is hard. I love you.
- You can cry, talk, go take a nap, or be silent around me. I won’t be offended, I just want to support you.
Related: 50 Comforting Sympathy Prayers
For Loss of a Family Member
- He/she was so important to me. I already miss him/her.
- Words can never express how sorry I am.
- There was no one in the world like ___________.
- God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 Thinking of you, dear friend!
- [Name] was such a gem. I loved the way he would always joke around with us. I’m going to miss him. Grieving with you!
For Loss of Mother
- The world will be a lonelier place without your mom.
- Your mom was one of the most beautiful people I have ever known.
- Your mother was a true friend. I will never forget her.
- What an amazing woman. I can’t imagine your grief. I’ll miss her too. Know that I love you and am thinking of you!
For Loss of Father
- Your father was like a second dad to me. He will be greatly missed.
- There will never be another man quite like your dad.
- Your father always made everyone feel welcome and loved. He was a friend to all.
- The world lost a true man today. I’m praying that the Lord will comfort you as you mourn your father.
For Loss of a Child
- I am thinking of you during this difficult time.
- Nothing can express the amount of pain you are feeling. Just know that I am praying for the “peace that passes understanding” to be over you and your family.
- We will never forget __________. He/she brought joy everywhere they went.
- My heart aches for you and with you. I’m thinking of you today, and grieving alongside you.
Words of Comfort in the Bible
Psalm 34:18 – The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 147:3 – He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Matthew 5:4 – Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 – Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
Finding the right words to offer comfort can be tricky. More than anything, show your grieving friend that you care.
Show them support and understanding at this challenging time. You might feel like you have the right words to say, but you can certainly do the most important thing: Just show up.
Remember, not everything needs to be spoken. A simple gesture can speak so much. Being there is what matters.
Read next: 101 Best Condolence Messages
Karen Roldan has been in the funeral industry since 2006, and a licensed funeral director and embalmer since 2008. She is currently licensed in the states of Indiana and Pennsylvania.
She attended Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Wheeling, IL, and graduated with an associate degree in Mortuary Science.
Karen enjoys wring about the funeral industry because her passion is helping families in their deepest time of need. She feels being a funeral director is a calling and she is proud to fulfill this role.
Karen is a wife and the mother of four sons. She, her husband and their youngest son call Pennsylvania home.