What to say when someone dies

April 28, 2022 

When someone close to us experiences a loss, we naturally want to help that person. It can be difficult to know what to say or how you should support and comfort someone who has lost a loved one. 

Help can be given in lots of different ways – it’s just about knowing what’s right for that individual. Below we’ve put together a step by step guide to hopefully help you navigate supporting someone close to you who is grieving.

1. Find the right words

Words are not an easy thing – there’s so many of them and knowing which ones to choose is hard. Truthfully, it’s unlikely you are going to say something that will upset them further. However, there are a few phrases and comments that are best avoided.

Try and steer clear from “at least he/she is out of pain now”. This may be true, but in the early stages of a loss, it’s not likely to provide any comfort. The person more than likely knows this and is thinking it, but it doesn’t make their loss any easier or less heart-breaking. 

Don’t make assumptions about faith either. Meaning avoid “he/she has gone to a better place”. This phrase not only makes assumptions about the person’s beliefs (which is very personal) but implies the ‘best place’ isn’t here with them, which is exactly where the bereaved person wishes them to be. 

Lots of us have suffered a loss. However, avoid saying “I know how you feel”. Every relationship is unique and we all experience grief in a different way. Although it’s said sincerely, it risks diminishing that individual’s grief journey. 

So, what should you say? 

Keeping it simple is usually best. Most people appreciate hearing “I am so sorry for your loss”, and if you knew the deceased well, a few words remembering a favourite memory or something that you loved about them. People often also take comfort knowing that their loved one would be proud of them and loved them dearly.

2. Be a good listener

Listening with a patient, non-judgemental ear is key. Grief is complex and can’t be fixed. Instead, be that person who is there to hear the really hard stuff. Someone to cry with them, laugh, be angry and most importantly provide that comfort when they are ready for it.

3. Offer practical support

Dealing with grief is exhausting. It takes it out of you. If that person has housework and children to care for, on top of managing their emotions, it can be challenging. You could offer to help them with paperwork, housework, childcare, walking their dog or even cooking them a few meals. 

Practical support is a good way of showing that you are there for them, and it also provides lots of opportunities to talk and give them comfort. 

Actions speak louder than words, and it will go a long way if you show that person you are there for them. Remember, that they may need support for a long time after the death and funeral. It just depends on that individual and how they choose to cope with their grief.

4. Respect their way of grieving

We are all different, and that means we have our own ways of dealing and managing a loss. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. What we need to do is respect each other’s way of doing this. 

We are all different, and that means we have our own ways of dealing and managing a loss. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. What we need to do is respect each other’s way of doing this. 

There will be days that are good and bad. Days where they are reflective and days where they laugh at some of the great memories they have. Be there for it all. Take the time to check in with that person and be kind and patient with them.

5. Don’t forget

The feeling of loss never fully goes away. It does lessen over time but there are days when it’s brought to the surface and it can feel like it was only yesterday they said goodbye. 

In the months and years following a loss, you can show your support for the bereaved person by remembering and acknowledging significant dates like a birthday, Christmas, or Mother’s Day. 

People sometimes stop talking about the deceased for fear that it’s going to upset someone. Actually, the majority of people are thankful that you are acknowledging their loved one. 

It helps keep their memory alive, shows you are thinking of them and you are giving someone a gift of being able to reflect and remember what made that person so special.  

Compare Our Funeral Plans

A quick and easy way to find the perfect funeral plan for you.