Of life’s many uncertainties, losing a loved one is something we’re all guaranteed to face at one point or another, and whether a family member, coworker, or dear friend, adjusting to the hole they leave is always a painful and slow process. The people who care about us will try to find the right words, but what is there to say when it feels like your world’s fallen apart?
The truth is that there are no words of sympathy or consolation that can take away the pain of loss. There are, however, things you can say to remind a bereaved person how much you care about them and that you’re here to support them. That’s the point of sympathy, after all: to care about someone else’s pain and show up in their times of greatest need.
If you’re struggling to find the right words to comfort someone mourning the loss of a friend, send one of the thoughtful sympathy messages below. They won’t bring the close friend back, but they can be a small salve in the midst of overwhelming sadness.
“My heart breaks for you. Please know that I’m here and thinking of you.”
When someone you care about is going through a hard time, a heartfelt condolence message is in order. Sometimes, the best support for a grieving person is letting them know that you’re hurting for them. Whether you knew the deceased or not, sharing your feelings of empathy for them in a sincere sympathy card can provide comfort and solace as they grieve the loss of a special person. Grief can be incredibly isolating, especially the complicated grief that comes with losing a family member or dear friend. It might seem obvious to you, but it’s important to let the grieving person know you’re available — no matter what — in their time of sorrow.
“_________ was such an amazing person. They will be missed.”
This is a somewhat generic way to express condolences that can be tailored to the loved one who passed. Consider their legacy and the wonderful memories they are leaving behind. Were they the hallmark of hard work at the office? Did they light up a room or always know how to make their friends laugh? Maybe they were great at cooking or gardening. In whatever way the deceased person left an impact on the world, acknowledging that impact and highlighting it for the person mourning their death is a lovely gesture. One of the most difficult parts of the grieving process is realizing that your loved one is really and truly gone, that you aren’t going to wake up one day to find them knocking at your door. It can be immensely comforting to know that the world remembers them and will be changed by their loss, too. At this difficult time, letting the grieving person know that their friend is missed can be of tremendous comfort.
“Grief is so hard. I’m here for you in whatever way you need. You have my deepest condolences.”
Like the first sympathy message, this one says in precise terms that you are here for them whatever they may need. Losing a friend is an isolating experience, and often, the bereaved are afraid that asking for support or showing their sadness is a burden to others. This message makes clear that your presence is a given — that you will show up for whatever they might need.
This message also acknowledges the difficulty of grief. Though we all know, in a very generic sense, that grieving a death is complicated, we do not regularly confront it in our daily lives — the emotional mess and tangible mayhem is causes, and the way it can derail one’s entire life, trigger depression or substance abuse, and cause people to self-isolate or lash out at friends and family. It may help your grieving loved one to acknowledge the domino effect that death can have. This challenging time is as much about grieving the loss as it is about managing the aftereffects of the loss. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge this. The deepest sympathy speaks the truth, and can mean much more than we ever realize.
“May they rest in peace” or “May they live in peace with the Lord.”
If you and the grieving person are religious and believe in God, consider referencing your faith in the afterlife. The idea that friends and loved ones aren’t gone forever – rather, that they exist in a place where we will one day join them – can be tremendously comforting. Bible verses or excerpts from relevant spiritual texts make beautiful sympathy card messages, as well.
If you aren’t religious, you can still show support for your friend or loved one. Making space for them to talk about where they believe their friend has gone, even if this doesn’t align with your beliefs, is a generous gift that, due to our collective discomfort with death, isn’t given as often as it should be. Sometimes, simply sitting in silence with someone who is grieving is enough.
Share a happy memory of the deceased in your condolence card
If you knew the friend who passed, don’t be afraid to share your loving memories of them with the grieving person. You might worry that expressing heartfelt sympathy in this way will make them sadder; perhaps you think that the best thing is to focus on moving forward and getting past the sorrow. Most often, however, the opposite is true. Permitting the tears and feeling the pain and heartbreak of loss is a key step in processing grief. So, too, is sharing happy memories of the deceased person.
One definitively wrong thing to do is to send a condolence via text message. This can feel cold, not to mention the fact that the recipient could read your message at an inopportune time. Imagine, for example, a coworker who has recently lost a friend opening your “condolences on the loss of your loved one” text message in the middle of the workday. Similarly, an after hours phone call should be avoided. (Sleep can be hard to come by in the wake of a loss, so interrupting what might be a rare night of rest is the opposite of sympathy.)
Instead, show up and share in their mourning when they are ready, and acknowledge the good times you both had with the beautiful soul they lost. Maybe this is at the wake or funeral; or perhaps it’s in a conversation they initiated. Don’t be afraid to share memories of the deceased — just make sure to respect boundaries. Otherwise, sincere condolences can feel more like centering yourself.
At a sad time, actions speak louder than words
Words of sympathy are wonderful, but taking action and being present for a friend in a time of loss is greater still. The list of things to be done in the wake of a death is shocking. If the bereaved person was like family to their friend, they may be helping to coordinate death notifications, plan the funeral, or cook for the wake alongside other grieving family members. Sometimes, it’s life’s tedium — going to work, taking out the trash, cooking for yourself, paying bills — that overwhelms. Thus, one of the best ways to support a mourning loved one is not with words of comfort, but with tangible, practical help. Deliver favorite dish for dinner; offer to run errands like grocery shopping or picking up the kids; take out the trash when you leave after a visit. Small acts go a long way in a time of loss. Your friend who has lost a wonderful person will appreciate these gestures more than you know.
In a tough time, simply stick around
Thus we arrive at the last, and perhaps most important, bit of advice for supporting a grieving person at a difficult time. In short: Stick around. As earlier mentioned, grief can be scary, and your loved one may try to push people away while they mourn. Don’t let them. Rather, provide a helping hand, an empathetic ear, and an abiding shoulder to lean on. In other words, simply show up and be there when the sympathy cards subside and the condolences stop coming. Your presence during their time of grief will do more than a thousand words could ever say.
The loss of a dear friend can feel unbearable. At the end of the day, what matters more than the words you speak in response to this loss is the fact that you followed through on wishful “thoughts and prayers.” Actions speak volumes, after all – even if the action is sending a simple, thoughtful card with a few right words. Though nothing can take away your loved one’s pain, your support can, even if only for a moment, lighten the burden – and that’s not nothing.