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What to say to a grieving friend

Older man comforting his grieving friend after the death of a loved one

Knowing what to say to a grieving friend or family member can be difficult. It might be that you’re struggling to put how you feel into words, or you may fear saying the wrong thing and offending them. These feelings are common. However, in most cases it is better to say something and acknowledge their loss than say nothing at all.

What to say to a grieving friend

  • “I’m so sorry for your loss.” It may seem obvious, but offering your condolences is better than ignoring their grief.
  • “I wish I knew what to say.” Sometimes, admitting you’re at a loss for words is better than trying to make things better.
  • “When is the funeral?” Attending the funeral is a great way to support a grieving friend or relative. As long as they haven’t opted for a small, private service, you will probably be welcome to attend.
  • “I’ll stop by on Tuesday to see how you’re doing.” Saying “I’m here for you” to a grieving friend is thoughtful, but it’s even better when you’re specific with your offers of help. Don’t wait for them to think of something you can do for them – think of how you can help them, whether it’s cooking, cleaning or running errands, and tell them when you can do it.
  • “I remember when…” You might think that talking about the person who has died will make your friend sadder, but this isn’t always the case. Sharing memories of their loved one may be of comfort, so if they seem willing to talk about them, you might want to tell your own stories about them.

Things to avoid

  • “I know just how you feel – my grandmother died recently.” Even if you have lost a loved one and experienced grief, everyone’s grief is unique to them and it is impossible to guess exactly how they are feeling. Try to avoid comparing their situation to any losses in your life, unless they ask you about your experiences.
  • “Time heals all wounds.” This comment might be well-meaning, but for many people, grief never goes away. In many cases, grief can’t be healed.
  • “They are in a better place now” or “God has a plan.” Even if you know that your grieving friend is a person of faith, it might be better to avoid comments that suggest their loved one was meant to die. This could make them feel that they aren’t supposed to be grieving.
  • “Just let me know if you need any help.” Many bereaved people struggle to ask for help, either because they don’t want to be a burden or aren’t sure exactly what they need. Try to make offers of help specific, such as, “I can take the kids to school this week” or “I’m going grocery shopping, do you need anything?”
  • “You need to move on.” Grief doesn’t have a time limit. As mentioned, some people will love and miss their loved one forever.

Find out more about helping someone who is grieving, including knowing when they may need help.