Expressing condolences to someone who’s grieving can leave even the most articulate among us feeling tongue tied.
What should I say?
Should I send a card? Flowers?
Maybe I should pop around to see them?
Is an email or Facebook message OK?
It’s hard to know what to do to best express your sorrow and support to someone who’s grieving. Most of us want to be helpful, but all too often we just don’t know what to say or do.
Tips to get you started
Yes, extending your condolences is a challenge. But don’t delay. Here’s some food for thought to get you started
- Don’t procrastinate. As soon as you learn of the loss, send a note or condolence card. It can be difficult, but put yourself in the grieving person’s shoes and consider the comfort they will feel in knowing they’re in your thoughts and you’re there for them to lean on. Schedule some time to write a heartfelt message. Chances are that the person you’re writing to is going to value the card more than you realise and will read it multiple times.
- Draw on your memories. If you knew the person who died, talk about what you loved most about them. You can help someone grieve by fondly remembering the person who has died. Sharing anecdotes, memories and compliments is powerful, and will let them know how much you care and that they’re not alone in their grief.
- Extend a helping hand. Avoid making general offers like “let me know what I can do to help”. Often they’ll go nowhere. Similarly, “I’m here if you want to talk” or “I’m around if you need anything” can make the grieving person feel like the onus is on them to take action. They’re already struggling emotionally and may not have the energy to reach out. Instead, “I’d like to bring you dinner tomorrow night” or “Is there anything I can get at the supermarket for you?” are specific and proactive. The goal is to be helpful and offer comfort during a difficult time.
- Know what not to say. Don’t make it about you. Avoid making comparisons as it may diminish the death at hand. Equally, don’t try to empathise so much that your grieving loved one or friend ends up feeling like they have to console you. Avoid clichés and don’t use expressions like “It’s all for the best” or “They’re in a better place”. If you’re stumped about what to write or say, look for inspiration online.
Social media has undoubtedly impacted the way we communicate with each other. Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks are now a common way for many people to share condolences when someone they know has died.
But before you hit the ‘post’ button, ask yourself the following questions.
- How will you offer your condolences? Don’t forget that emotions run high following a death – so take extra care to craft your words before posting your sympathies. Your personal message will be open to public opinion and comment. Rather than saying too much online, you might like to keep it brief and then follow up with a personal phone call or email.
- Is this the best way to show my support? A show of online support immediately following a death can bring great comfort. But that comfort can disappear all too quickly as the days and weeks pass. Don’t forget to reach out personally, rather than just ‘checking in’ electronically.
- Should I be making this public? Remember to only offer condolences on social media if the grieving person has themselves posted something about the death. The last thing you want to do is force someone into an unwanted public conversation about the death.
Just being there matters
Reach out. It’s important. Don’t avoid sending a note or picking up the phone just because you’re unsure or nervous. At times like these, everyone feels a bit unnerved.
If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, you know just how touching and uplifting any and all expressions of sympathy are. As supporters, we always think “I don’t want to bother them now” – but the truth is, grieving people need bothering. Your condolences and support are an essential part of the grieving process.
Want to know more?
For more information about how you can support someone through the grieving process, please contact the Walter Carter Funerals team by emailing [email protected].