What to Say When Someone Passes Away

When someone that you know and love is grieving, it can be extremely hard to find the words to say. Do you express feelings of sympathy? Or tell a fond memory of their loved one that has died? 

We turned to CaringBridge users to share their insight. Here are their heartfelt suggestions on what to say when someone passes away:

  • Suggest (don’t ask) how you can help them
  • “I love you!”
  • “I remember when…”
  • Share a prayer
  • “I’m thinking of you.”
  • Give them a hug
  • Say their loved one’s name
  • Acknowledge that sometimes, there are no words

Suggest (Don’t Ask) How You Can Help Them

Sometimes someone suffering through a loss of a loved one may not want to reach out, even if they are in need of help.

Shopping for groceries, keeping a clean house or tidy lawn, helping with kids – these tasks sometimes become harder with grief. They may not even know how to ask for help during this time, or what they need.

Instead of asking how you can help, suggest a few things you can do to lend a helping hand. Offering your support will be a major source of comfort for them, as well as lifting a weight off of their shoulders in a time of need.

“I love you!”

Three simple words, but they carry a lot of meaning. Simply telling someone that you love them, and showing them you love them, can be the greatest comfort of all.

“Hug the person, tell them you are sorry and you love them…. then call and check on the person/family a couple weeks later.”

Linnea V.

“I remember when…”

Share a memory. Often, the memories of their loved one are comforting, and can make your friend or family member smile. Sharing a funny or heartfelt story can be a beautiful way of showing them support by giving them a reason to think about happier times with their loved one.

“I loved hearing stories when my Dad passed.”

Dawn M.

“Share stories about that person to make people smile.”

Faith A.H.

Share a Prayer

If the person experiencing the loss of a loved one takes comfort in their faith, share a prayer, a favorite psalm or a proverb that you may find comforting. Tell them you are praying for them and find ways to support them in their faith community.

“It’s a hard thing – I lost my Father seven years ago and lost my Mother the following year. She’s been gone for six years and not a day goes by that I don’t think about them. When I hear a friend has lost a loved one, it saddens my heart, so I just pray they were right with God and ask God to soften the burden of the family’s hearts.”

William P.

“I’m thinking of you.”

Offer genuine support and let them know you are keeping them in your thoughts. It’s hard to imagine exactly how they feel, but knowing that they can turn to you when they need to can really help.

“Keep it simple. Just say I’m praying for you or thinking of you.”

Amanda D.

“Thoughts and prayers are with you and the family! [Tell them] that you’re there for them and if there is anything you can do, do not hesitate to ask!”

Diane Louise P.

Think for just a minute about what you would want to hear at a time like this. When I was in a position of loss and grief I listened for those things that did not help or were inappropriate and learned from it.❤”

Ann W.

Give Them a Hug

If the time comes when your words run out, or your loved one is feeling overwhelmed by messages of sympathy – a hug or holding their hand can say more than you think.

“Sometimes just a hug says it all.”

Lynne M.

“Be present, hug, say the person who passed’s name, share a memory, BE present, just be there.”

Linda Mary O.

Say Their Loved One’s Name

A common phrase to say in this time is, “I’m sorry for your loss.” It may actually be more helpful to say the name of the loved one who has passed rather than the word “loss.”

This puts the focus on the person and helps honor them.

You Might Not Have the Words

And that’s ok. Sometimes you might not know where or how to begin to comfort someone experiencing the loss of a loved one. You might not have the words to say, but showing up for those who are grieving can carry more weight than you realize. 

“Your presence can be more meaningful than worrying about what to say.”

Cindy D.F.

“Acknowledge that there are no words. If there were words that could ease the pain, you would say them. If there were some means of bearing a portion of their burden, you would use it. All you can do is offer your concern, shared grief, love and support. The website CaringBridge has messages for such occasions; but truly there are no words that will comfort more than your just being there for them.”

Dot R.

What Words Have Helped You?

What words gave you the most comfort when you experienced the passing of a loved one? Please share what helped you most in the comments below.

Comments (2)

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Jackie Mitchell Jan 30, 2020 4:47pm
The important thing is to talk about the person who was lost. Say their name, speak of a special remembrance you have of them. When we lost our son, my major concern was that people would forget about him. Keep their memory alive always. Do not be afraid of making the hurt worse. Do not be afraid to say his name or talk about him. Yes, I may shed tears, but that is OK. That is part of the grieving process. Cry with me. Laugh with me, but be there for me.
Connie Freckleton Dec 24, 2019 12:23am
The most meaningful, when my dad passed, was a simple and tearful “I’m sorry.” My friend and I were in our 20’s and had no experience in death conversations.