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:

  • “I love you!”
  • Suggest (don’t ask) how you can help them
  • “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

“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.

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 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.

Start a CaringBridge Site

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Don’t go through your health journey alone.

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All of this is ready for you when you start your personal CaringBridge site, which is completely free of charge, ad-free, private and secure. Don’t spend another minute alone!

  • Elise

    I would like Susan Dittman to know that I read and listened and felt your pain and frustration. I am walking my own journey that is difficult. (husband has cancer) I believe many here can relate to one or many of the situations you are facing. I am glad you talked about it all. I will make one suggestion. I realize I do not know anything about you or your beliefs or faith but ask you to try it. Find a close, Bible believing church. GO. You WILL find friendship, understanding, kindness, acceptance, fellowship and help. Don’t figure out what you think about the idea, just try it please. Nothing is perfect. There are no magical tricks to getting through grief and broken relationship, but I could not begin to survive what we are going through without my faith in God. (husband has stage 4 cancer) Please Susan, try it. What do you have to loose? I will pray for you.

  • Phil

    My dear friend passed on Tuesday 3/31/20 a victim of the Coronavirus.His sons are looking for a website were they can put all the e-mails, photos, videos, and songs that family and friends have sent to hem in celebration of his 89 years on earth. Can you help them?

  • Susan Dittman

    There are no words to express anything if somebody just sits with you when you’re crying all the time and just gives you comfort that is all that they can do…My mother died 3 months ago along with my husband 7 months ago both with a horrible disease of ovarian cancer and metastatic bladder cancer… The road and journey that they took nobody could ever understand and we could never be in their shoes our running around to help them doctor’s appointments etcetera etcetera treatment surgery ,,,You name it was nothing that we could endure..their bravery is the epitome of everything that they had to go through…never say that you know what they were feeling or even as the caregiver. I did the best I could to help my husband David and my mother Flora, she was the woman that everybody looked up to for our entire lives the anger resentment and pitiful anger between family members has just grown only worse and no one talks anymore..My heartache of my husband not being here anymore after 37 years of being together in marriage and leaving a young 24-year-old immature son who is following to try and get through life is only making it worse… I don’t know what to do anymore and everyone goes their own way there is Blame beyond belief because my mother was so ill but she did it in the beginning and fought very hard and got through the hardest treatments some people think she died of the disease but we don’t have a definitive answer her ultimate ending was because of sepsis and her bloodstream maybe because of the disease as well..My husband had pain everywhere they overdosed him in the rehab center with so much pain meds fentanyl tramadol dilated you name it and he was out of it like a zombie It slowed his heart rate down to the point where his heart just stopped beating and dying from a horrible disease.. I am grieving beyond belief and now I am completely broke with not a penny to my name and cannot pay the bills or keep a home or try to work.. I am doing the best I can but I am told to keep quiet and not express anything..I miss both of them daily there is nothing I can do I have nothing to live for I’m trying so hard to get through each day to survive and put a smile on my face because people don’t want to hear anything anymore…take that to the bank and see if it fixes everything.. It never will and our lives will never ever ever be the same. we were the closest family anyone could imagine in my eyes that is gone forever. when a mother passes away everything goes away forever because there’s so much anger and resentment from your siblings who are hungry for money and other things and my father grieving terribly losing his wife after 65 years of marriage. He’s not supposed to cry.. are my sisters kidding me ?they are out of their minds, Just go on and pretend like everything’s perfectly fine, It’s a pathetic joke I can’t even be around anybody anymore…All I have ever asked is for prayers of healing and forgiveness and they can’t do that and not one person comes to help me in my home not one person It’s me and my son and that’s it. It’s true people just stay away they separate themselves and don’t want to be around others who have lost people to cancer That’s the bottom line and it will never change.

  • L M Patterson

    For a long time after a loved one has passed, don’t avoid talking about that person with the one who is left. My husband has been gone for 20 years now, and it still makes me feel so good when a friend will easily talk about him, maybe tell a funny story about him. It’s nice to know he hasn’t been forgotten. Trying to avoid talking about him is very awkward!

  • Karen Johnson

    When I lost my husband and son, it was the personal notes that friends and family wrote, that I wanted to read over and over. The beautiful cards with long verses went unread.

  • Jackie Mitchell

    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

    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.