How to Respond to Condolences

When someone close to us dies, it’s natural for friends and family to reach out with their condolences. But often, we don’t know what to say or do in return.

Do we say thank you? Do we offer a hug? Should we share about our grief? Or do we just say nothing at all?

According to experts, here are the best ways to respond to condolences.

David Kessler

David Kessler

Grief and Loss Expert | Founder, Grief | Author, “Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief”

Condolences are messages of love and support when someone has experienced a loss. They come in many forms: 

  • Phone calls 
  • Visits
  • Messages 
  • Emails
  • Social media posts 

Condolences work well when they don’t ask the person to feel different and just recognize the loss. 

Responses don’t have to be too wordy or well thought out

It’s easy to feel like our purpose is to make that person feel better, and the reality is our condolences are themselves ways of letting people know that we: 

  • love them, 
  • support them, 
  • and care about them. 

For the griever, it’s important to remember that our grief is as unique as our fingerprint. Since we all grieve differently, we all respond to support differently. 

Many people find great comfort in the sweet, simple acts of condolences. A card that has just the right picture and tender words to match. The question of how and when to respond is another matter. 

Responses don’t have to be too wordy or well thought out. A simple thank you is sufficient for most well wishes and words of sympathy. 

For some in grief, responding to condolences is a time-consuming task that is welcomed when perhaps we need a distraction. 

Respond in the same style the communication was sent

Many like to respond in the same style the communication was sent. 

  • A handwritten note gets a handwritten note
  • A card gets a card
  • A call gets a call
  • A social media post receives a post back

When we are in grief, thinking of new and original ways to respond can get overwhelming, so here is a list of things you can say in return:

  • “Thank you for thinking of me.”
  • “Your support means a lot.”
  • “I am grateful for your prayers and thoughts.”
  • “Thank you for your love and sympathy.”
  • “Your words mean so much at a time like this.” 

For some, a simple thank you card that goes out to everyone may be the best way to respond. 

Sometimes it’s ok just to receive the support and not respond at all

I also know that some feel pressured to respond within a specific time. I remind the person in grief that this is one of the biggest events in their lifetime, and they should not feel obligated to respond within a certain time, in a certain way. 

Grief is different for everyone, and friends are much more understanding of responses that come later also. I even give people the freedom not to respond at all. Sometimes it’s ok just to receive the support. 

Support doesn’t have to be transactional, meaning, sometimes the way we thank others is by understanding their day will come too when they need help. And the response might be not so much of a thank you, but showing up for them the same way they showed up for us.

I also remind those who support others in grief The Rule of 3: Support them three days, three weeks, and three months after the funeral. 

While condolences may be the entry point or the start, they should not be the end of the support. 

In our modern world of social media posts of “thoughts and prayers,” this is a moment for us to show up for people personally

Joanne Frederick, EdD, NCC, LPC, LCPC

Joanne Frederick

Licensed Mental Health Counselor, JFL & Associates Counseling Services LLC | Author, “Copeology

Let them know their kind words and messages were received and appreciated

When dealing with any loss, finding the right words to those wishing you their condolences can be challenging. There are only so many different ways to say thank you, which eventually becomes redundant.

When in-person, it can be difficult to put words together when your head isn’t exactly clear—yet you don’t want to come off as rude either. 

  • So when someone gives you their condolences, you can say, I appreciate your kind words; we will work through this, as you express your gratitude and put forth a positive attitude. 
  • Suppose, for example, you are at a funeral. You can respond with, Although tragic that we reunite under these circumstances, but thankful to see you again. This way, the person knows you are grateful that they came and appreciate their efforts. 
  • Another way to show appreciation, particularly if those offering their condolences are affected, would be, This must be hard for you as well; we can work through these times together.
  • For those who may not have a close relationship with you but reach out anyway, respond with the usual thank you and acknowledgment: I appreciate your support at this time or Your friendship means a lot to me. Thank you for the kind words.

Related: What to Say to Someone Going to a Funeral?

Others may offer condolences through texts, cards, and even direct messages. The upside to these messages is that you can take more time to think of your responses. 

As social media continues to grow, one may post their loss on a platform such as Instagram or Facebook, where loved ones close and not so close may reach out. It can be overwhelming to respond to every single comment, and, to be honest, it’s not expected of one to do so. 

Regardless, you want them to know that their kind words and messages were received and appreciated. 

Leaving a blanket response of: 

  • “Thank you for all your kind words and well wishes, as they did not go unnoticed. I’m incredibly grateful to have so much love and support during this difficult time.” 
  • “Thank you for showing love for my family and me. Your words mean more to me than I can express.”

In the end, it’s completely understandable if you take time to respond or if your responses aren’t as articulate as they would be under normal circumstances. Kind and empathetic people will understand that you are grieving and are likely not your “normal” self.

Allen Klein, MA, CSP

Allen Klein

Former Director, Life-Death Transitions Institute | Author, “Embracing Life After Loss

Acknowledge someone else’s compassion toward your loss

When my wife died, two types of condolences poured in: 

  • Those that were delivered in person or on the phone
  • Those that came in the mail (there was no email at the time)

As someone grieving, I preferred the ones that came in the mail. I could read those on my own time when I had enough courage to do so. I could also respond when I had enough strength and clarity.

Those that came in person or on the phone were much more challenging. While I was amazed at how many people responded to my loss and their outpouring of love, it overwhelmed me.

Not only because it was a drain on my energy, but it was also difficult to listen to what people had to say.

People often didn’t know what to say or say something totally inappropriate and hurtful, although they didn’t mean it. They might say something like, “Now she is in a better place.

The best I could respond to any of the in-person condolences was a simple: 

  • “Thank you,” 
  • “Thank you; I appreciate that” 
  • “Thank you, that means a lot to me.”

And perhaps that is the best way to respond to condolences: a simple acknowledgment of someone else’s compassion toward your loss, even when their words might not be the most appropriate.

Email condolences

I think email condolences are a mixed bag. On the one hand, they are a fast way of communicating your love and care regarding another person’s loss. On the other hand, they seem a bit cold.

Email condolences lack the element of hearing a familiar voice which might provide comfort or possible comfort of holding something and seeing the handwritten words of a loved one or friend.

Bottom line, any kind of condolence is better than none.

Before you send one, best perhaps to put yourself in the shoes of the bereft and ask yourself, “If I were grieving, what kind of condolence would give me the most comfort?

Jason Phillips, LCSW

Jason Phillips

Licensed Clinical Social Worker | Certified Life Coach

Don’t feel guilty for cutting conversations short

Expressing condolences does not mean you rehash every aspect of your loss. 

Use your own judgment when you feel the conversation has run its course. Depending on the time and where you are emotionally, you may not wish to discuss the circumstances of your loss or further express your feelings.

Set healthy boundaries. If people want to inquire more, don’t feel obliged to engage. Your response can be, Thank you so much. I’m not in a place to share right now. This allows you to be respectful yet hold fast to your boundaries.

Give a concise thank you

You don’t need to engage in a lengthy conversation if you are not comfortable. The short thank you allows you to express gratitude yet not put yourself in a vulnerable position.

Be mindful of people “should-ing” on you

People can be overly assertive about what you “need” to do in your time of grief. 

Not making major decisions immediately is wise, barring you don’t have certain circumstances that dictate otherwise, and asking others to respect your privacy is often necessary for those who are pushy. 

Be mindful of others who are not only extending condolences but are being aggressive about the next decisions you should make.

Remind yourself of the person’s overall intention 

Sometimes we can become upset by the specific language someone uses when expressing condolences or feel that their timing is inappropriate. 

In these situations, it is helpful to remind yourself of the reasoning behind the person giving condolences because people are sometimes unsure what to say. 

Not every condolence will come across as heartfelt, and sometimes the person may fumble through a genuine desire to show concern. 

Being aware of these situations can allow you to guide the conversation and ease anxiety for both parties by responding with a simple “Thank you for your concern.”

Related: What to Say and What Not to Say to Someone Who Is Grieving

Prepare responses beforehand

If you know family, friends, or colleagues will be sharing their condolences, you can script your responses to avoid feeling overwhelmed and anxious. 

Responses can sound like this: 

  • “Thank you for thinking of me.” 
  • “I really appreciate your concern/well wishes.” 
  • “I will let you know when I’m ready to share more.”

This allows you not to be caught off-guard.

Donta Hallmon

Donta Hallmon

Behavioral Analyst | Founder and Owner, I Peep BXS

It is important that your reply sound natural and not forced

One of the most challenging aspects of communicating in a professional capacity is responding to condolences. How does one respond in a compassionate and appropriate way to the situation? 

Asking about the person’s situation, offering condolences, and understanding the person’s emotions are ways to show empathy

It is important for your reply to sound natural and not forced. It should also be sincere enough to ease the pain felt by the person receiving condolences.

Needless to say, it is still difficult for people to know how to respond to condolences. 

People often wonder, “What do I say in response?” — a question that is challenging for many people to answer. Some common responses are that can help you in a bind:

  • “Yes, it was so sudden.”
  • “I’m so sorry.”
  • “I have no words.”
  • “How are you holding up?”

The death of someone close to you can be a tough experience to fight through. It is important to remember that what you are going through is not unusual, and it will get better with time. It always does.

Related: 10 Best Books on Understanding Death and Dying

  • If the person who passed away was your partner, try to remember all the happy memories you had with them. 
  • If they were friends, think about their contribution to your life. 
  • If they were co-workers, remember how much they helped you grow as a person and how easy it was to talk about your problems with them. 

Every pleasant memory you remember will help you understand that life has both good and bad days, and the good days that are worth fighting for.

The grieving process takes some time, and there is no way in which we can speed up the recovery time or understand exactly what someone who has just lost somebody experiences. 

But one thing is for sure: by feeling less alone in their grief, people can come out of it much faster.

Emma Payne

Emma Payne

Founder and CEO, Grief Coach

When someone offers their condolences, it’s fine to simply say “thank you,” but if you’d like to say a little more, here are three suggestions that may help you and the person reaching out to find a connection at a difficult time.

Create a sense of connection

If the person who is offering condolences also knows the person who died, consider reciprocating with, “I know this is hard for you too.” They are also grieving, and returning condolences can offer comfort. 

Creating this sense of connection after someone has died is a great way to remind both of you that you are not alone. 

If you’ve got the time (and energy) to continue the conversation, a wonderful way to respond to condolences is, “Thank you for remembering and being comfortable talking about him.” 

Sharing a memory of the person who’s died and inviting the person offering sympathy to do the same can also help create connection and perhaps even help make things less awkward. 

It can feel good to share stories, especially if you have fond memories of a time all three of you spent together.

If the person offering condolences doesn’t know the person who died, a heartfelt “I appreciate you remembering or acknowledging that” can go a long way. 

There is no expiry date to give or receive condolences, and it can be encouraging to someone offering sympathy to know their sentiments are welcome at any time.

G. Scott Graham, MS, LADC

G. Scott Graham

Licensed Substance Abuse Counselor | Psychotherapist | Business Coach, True Azimuth, LLC | Author, “Come As You Are: Meditation & Grief

Inform your circle on how they can best support you

Most people struggle with grief-alexithymia, so their default response is sympathy because they just don’t know how to respond to a person experiencing a loss. 

You get a card in the mail, or you get the standard I’m sorry for your loss.” For many people, this is as far as they are prepared to go. It is the equivalent of the “hi-how-are-you-doing-I’m-fine” exchange most of us experience all the time. 

For these folks, many of whom are not part of your core support circle, a simple “thank you” will suffice. Those who are grieving know, however, that condolences are totally useless. But to point that out to everyone will not serve you.  

For those that are part of your inner circle of support, getting the kind of support you need is critical. I suggest you respond with two parts: 

  1. Ask for specific help
  2. Educate those in your circle on how best to support you in the long term

Most likely, when someone close to you expresses their condolences, they will add to their statement a question: “Is there anything I can do?” 

Early in your grieving, be prepared — make a list. Everything should be on the table, from cleaning your toilet and mopping your floors to walking your dogs and taking your kids to school to financial help.

Composing such a list is difficult when you are just starting to figure out where grief fits in your life, but having it in hand will make the early days of your grief easier

It is easier to grieve when someone is helping with your life tasks. As time passes, teaching people to respond in a more emotionally intelligent way to your loss will make the integration of grief and loss in your life easier. 

Ray‌ ‌Sadoun

Ray‌ ‌Sadoun

Mental‌‌ ‌‌Health‌‌ ‌‌and‌‌ ‌‌Addiction‌‌ ‌‌Recovery‌‌ ‌‌Specialist | Medical Reviewer, OK Rehab

You don’t have to go to great lengths to show your gratitude when grieving

Many of us struggle to respond to condolences for various reasons. 

Firstly, we are likely to be more emotional than usual, so the logical part of our brain struggles to make sense of things. This means we may simply be too distracted to consider how to respond well to condolences, or we may be too upset to dwell on the situation.

Secondly, we may receive condolences from people we do not have a personal relationship with or people we do not like discussing our feelings with. This can make us uncomfortable, resulting in an awkward response.

Another reason we struggle to respond to condolences is because we do not know how to show our gratitude through our words. Sometimes, a “thank you” doesn’t seem enough, and we overthink how to respond in a polite enough way.

Here are some key phrases you can use when responding to condolences. Some are more appropriate for acquaintances, some for close friends and family, and others can be used in any situation.

“Thank you for thinking of me”

When a short thank you doesn’t seem enough, adding a reason for the thank you will demonstrate your gratitude for the condolences. 

Saying “thank you for thinking of me” shows that you acknowledge the other person has made an effort, hopefully making them feel good about reaching out.

“I appreciate you”

This shows that you are lucky to have this person in your life, and even if you distance yourself for a while as you are grieving, this phrase will remind them that you value them.

“I’ll reach out when I’m in a better place” 

After thanking someone for their kind words, it’s a good idea to let them know you will contact them when you’re ready. Not only does this remind them that you may need space for a while, but it reassures them that you want to talk to them when you are ready.

“Could you help me with this?”

If a close friend or family member is offering their condolences, don’t be afraid to use it as an opportunity to express that you need help. Most people will offer help anyway, but if not, it’s always worth letting them know that you are struggling and would appreciate some support.

“I know you relate to this feeling”

If the other person has experienced grief, it can be nice to acknowledge this in your response, as it shows that you are there for them as well as them being there for you, and it also may bring you closer together.

“I’m thinking of you, too”

If the other person is also grieving the person that is gone from your life, you can acknowledge this by letting them know you are also thinking of them, and this will help them feel treasured at such a difficult time.

Other ways you can respond to condolences

You should not have to go to great lengths to show your gratitude to others when you are grieving, as true friends will understand that you need to take the time for yourself and may be less emotionally available than usual. 

However, if you feel you want to express your gratitude in a way that goes beyond using kind words, here are some ideas.

  • Send a thank you card

Instead of just messaging someone to say thank you for their card or posting on social media, a letter is a great way to show your appreciation for someone’s condolences. 

This would be a particularly good idea if the other person went to the effort of getting you a card rather than just sending a text.

  • Return the favor 

This response will not be immediate, as it will only be necessary when the other person is going through a hard time. 

However, when that does happen, you can ensure you are there for the other person by: 

  • sending them a card and flowers, 
  • using comforting words, 
  • and maybe doing something practical for them such as cooking them meals or looking after their children.
  • Spend quality time with the person

When you are ready, you may want to visit the person who expressed their condolences and spend quality time with them. 

You may want to discuss the person who has passed away so you can process some of your emotions, or you may simply want to distract yourself and talk about happy memories. 

Either way, it will be nice for both you and the other person to socialize with one another as an expression of your gratitude and care for them.

Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW

Iris Waichler

Licensed Clinical Social Worker | Writer, Choosing Therapy

The most important things that grieving people want to know are that they are heard, not judged and that you are listening and empathetic to what they need. Hearing that from someone offering sympathy, empathy, and support means so much. 

With that in mind, here are responses on how to respond to condolences:

Thank them for their gesture, and let them know why you found it helpful

Let them know their condolences are greatly appreciated. This can be done in person or the form of written words. Thank them and let them know what their words, gestures, and support mean to you. 

If they have given you flowers, brought food, or made another concrete gesture of support, thank them specifically for that and let them know how and why you found this gesture helpful.

If the thought of personally responding to multiple letters and people reaching out to lend their condolences is consuming, you have another option. 

Offer comfort

If the person offering condolences knew the deceased, it might be helpful to say you knew them: 

  • “I am sure you will miss ______ too.” 
  • “This is what I will miss the most.”
  • “What are your favorite memories of them?”

This can offer comfort to both the people receiving and giving condolences.

Send a response on the funeral website

You can send a response on the funeral website with an obituary and information about the deceased. 

Here is a place where you can share your gratitude and appreciation for those who reached out to you. For those that feel comfortable on social media, many people use their Facebook page for this purpose as well.

Angela Milnes

Angela Milnes

Psychology Teacher and Family Lifestyle Blogger | Founder, The Inspiration Edit

It depends on your relationship with the person and your cultural background

If you’re the one grieving, it’s natural to want to respond when someone offers you condolences. But how should you respond? It depends on your relationship with the person and your own cultural background.

Following are my suggestions: 

If the person is a close friend or family member

When someone we’re close to dies, we often feel we need to put on a brave face for them. But it’s okay to let your guard down and be emotional with the people closest to you. 

In fact, it can be an excellent way to start the healing process. 

If the person is a colleague or acquaintance

In general, it’s best to keep your response brief and simple. You might say something like, “Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate your support.”

If you’re the one offering condolences

It’s okay to express your own sorrow or say that you don’t know what to say. Just be genuine and honest in your response.

When in doubt, it’s always best to err on the side of being too emotional rather than not emotional enough. And don’t worry about saying the wrong thing—the important thing is that you’re there for the person in their time of need.

Claire Grayson

Claire Grayson

Article Writer and Psychology Major Student, Personality Max

Thank them for supporting you during trying times

Condolences after a loss of any kind are something very sensitive. As much as most people mean well with their kind words, there is little that can be said to reduce the ache from your loss.

As much as we are consumed by grief during those trying times, it is important not to completely isolate ourselves by cutting off from friends and loved ones. 

Remember that they are there to help you get through your pain. Even if their words mean very little to you, try to allow them to express themselves without making their words feel valueless.

In most instances, a simple “thank you” to kind words and messages would suffice. Even though you might not feel up to speaking to others when the grief is fresh, it is okay to respond in your own time. 

And, of course, people would always understand if you do not respond to text messages or emails of condolence.

When you’re ready, make your loved ones feel helpful by telling them what they can do for you to make you feel better. They would be delighted to do the littlest things, such as fetching a glass of water for you.

Try to find sincerity in people’s words during times of grief, and when you do feel better, thank your friends and loved ones for supporting you during trying times.

Rakhi Oswal

Rakhi Oswal

Life Coach | Founder, Edrio

Always start by expressing your gratitude toward them

As someone grieving, it is okay to take your time and send a message later. 

You can create a “thank you” note for everyone who sent you love and support during your challenging time.

  • Always start by expressing your gratitude toward them. 
  • Then share the difficulty you have been facing and how their message helped you.

If someone has gone out of the way to send something for you, don’t forget to mention that. 

For instance: “Thank you for sending over dinner the other day. It was a difficult time for me, and not having to think about preparing a meal helped me a great deal.”

Add personalized stories of the deceased

Responding to condolences can be very personal for people. While people still prefer to visit the deceased’s loved ones, some also send their condolences online. 

You can use various words and methods to respond to them. If you feel a simple “thank you” doesn’t cut it, you can add personalized stories of the deceased. 

For instance, to a close friend of the deceased, you can share a particular old story you heard about the both of them: “Uncle told me about the time you…”

With these tips, you can manage to answer everyone’s condolences in less but meaningful words.

Sara Macke

Sara Macke

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Know you don’t have to respond to the condolences

When experiencing grief, a person feels completely alone in their journey. Yes, others may have lost the same person you did; however, your grief is entirely different than anyone else’s grief. 

In addition, a large group of people you know did not lose the said person. So, when they express condolences, there are mixed emotions. 

You are glad they acknowledged the loss, but you also don’t want them to talk about it. 

It may not feel real that you lost the person you love, and every condolence is a reminder of this. You may think it’s too real, and every condolence makes you sink further into depression. 

So, what do we do? If you have someone you care for that lost someone, simply don’t expect a response back. They don’t know how to respond. This journey is new and unfair. 

They may not want to be in this new space of grief. Potentially, they are happy their loved one is at peace and will be grateful you think so too.

If you lost someone you love, know you don’t have to respond to the condolences. You don’t owe anyone anything during your time of grief. 

Be gentle with yourself, take a deep breath, and discover a way to honor the person you lost in a way that makes you feel comforted.

Doreen Blake

Doreen Blake

Inspirational Speaker | Wellness Consultant

Have some pre-thought-out responses

Is there a right or wrong way to respond? Loss can affect people in different ways, and so too can be the way in which one responds to a message of condolence. 

I believe it’s important to allow yourself the space to “be” however that shows up for you.

One of the most common, polite, and brief responses to being offered condolences is, “thank you.” This can be particularly useful if you’re unsure about how to respond or not in a position to offer much dialogue.

Should I practice my response? Being unsure of how to respond could leave you feeling a little uncomfortable. So it might be an option to have some “pre-thought-out” responses.

Here are some phrases you could consider practicing and using:

  • “I appreciate you remembering [them].”
  • “Thank you for acknowledging me.”
  • “I imagine this might be difficult for you too.”
  • “[They] always spoke highly of you.”
  • “Thank you for your support.”
  • “Thank you for your kindness.”
  • “Your words are comforting.”

It is not my intention to suggest having an entire list but to, perhaps, choose one or two that you feel are appropriate for you.

Steve Gamlin

Steve Gamlin

Speaker and Visualization Coach, The Motivational Firewood® Guy

“Thank you. What is your favorite memory of (the person I lost)?”

That is my favorite way to respond to condolences. Over the years, I have attended many funerals and celebrations of life, most recently for my Dad in October 2018.

Something I’ve noticed over the years: The same people, funeral after funeral, who stand in line weeping and spouting their regrets on “not having reached out” in so long…and now it is too late.

No matter how long it had been, it brought me joy to re-live the greatness of my Dad (and other people I’d lost) when I saw their faces light up while sharing a memory of how he had impacted their lives.

This is also my favorite way to give condolences. And, according to the feedback I have received from family members of the deceased, it has brought them comfort to know that their loved one had brought joy to others.  

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

Senior Editor, Tandem

Do it the way that works best for you

As Mark Twain said, “The only two certainties in life are death and taxes.” Though we can chuckle at this remark, unfortunately, this is nothing to laugh about when someone passes. 

What happens when the person who has passed away is close to you? You might be responsible for arranging funeral services or tackling other tasks related to a person’s end of life. 

Additionally, you may receive some condolences from your: 

  • Friends
  • Coworkers
  • Possibly even your clients 

The question lingers, how should you respond to condolences?

  • In-person

If someone wishes you condolences in person, you can simply say thank you. Depending on how close you are to the person who provided the compassion, you might feel comfortable going into details about how you feel.

  • An email or text

When a person sends you an email or shoots you a text to offer their condolences, it’s appropriate to reply in the same manner. Though some feel that emails and texts are impersonal, they have the advantage of getting messages out quickly

Additionally, if you aren’t up to talking, it removes the need for this.

  • Snail mail/a card

Some people will go “old school” and provide you with a card or a note to share their concerns. You can reply via traditional mail, an email or text, or in person. 

You are in mourning, and you need to do what makes you feel most comfortable.

  • Social media

Years ago, people would never dare to offer condolences on social media, but over the past 20 years, the internet has changed the social norm. 

You might have Facebook friends that you have never met in person. These online friends might find out about your loss and want to send their condolences. 

Hopefully, these people will reach out to you via private message, and you can respond the same way. If you find it easier to post one general message to your friends because you are not up to the task of reaching out to multiple people, this is fine, too.

The most important thing to remember when you have lost someone you care about is that it’s perfectly acceptable not to say anything at all. The majority of people will understand that you are grieving. 

If you aren’t up to the task of replying to condolence, it’s okay. 

Everyone handles loss differently. Remember to do it the way that works best for you.

Oberon Copeland

Oberon Copeland

Founder and CEO, Very Informed

Losing a loved one is always a difficult experience. In dealing with your grief, you may also find yourself fielding condolences from friends, family, and even strangers. 

While it can be tempting to brush off well-meaning condolences, it’s important to remember that they are given to provide comfort

Here are a few tips for how to respond to condolences:

Avoid giving overly detailed explanations for why the death occurred

While you may feel the need to justify the death or share your own theories about what happened, doing so can often make the other person feel worse. 

Instead, simply thank them for their kind words and let them know their support is appreciated.

Don’t be afraid to express your own grief

It’s perfectly normal to cry or express your sorrow when someone offers their condolences. In fact, doing so can help the other person feel more comfortable sharing their own thoughts and feelings about the death.

Don’t hesitate to ask for support if you need it

Let the other person know if you’re struggling to cope with your grief. They may be able to offer practical assistance or just provide a shoulder to cry on. 

If you are unsure what to say, here are five responses that can offer comfort and support:

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss. This simple statement expresses empathy and acknowledges the individual’s pain.
  2. “I wish I had the right words, but just know I care about you and am here for you.” This assures the person that you care about them and want to support them, even if you don’t have the perfect thing to say.
  3. “I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to listen if you want to talk.” This validates the individual’s experience and lets them know they can rely on you for a listening ear.
  4. “It’s okay to cry/be angry / feel whatever you are feeling.” Grief is a complex and often unpredictable emotion, and people deal with it differently.
  5. “If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know.” This lets the person know they have someone to run to for help.

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to respond to condolences. Just be honest about how you are feeling and let the conversation flow naturally.

Mike Falahee

Mike Falahee

President, Marygrove Awnings Co.

Respond with grace

Since condolences come at a difficult time in one’s life, there shouldn’t be such an enormous focus on proper etiquette. Grief is every person’s right and does not bind the individual to regular social norms. 

In my opinion, it isn’t right to demand any specific behavior or “proper” response from an individual grieving. 

However, I also don’t think it’s alright to be short or uncivil towards people who are just expressing their condolences. 

It’s one thing to respond in a word or two and completely different to avoid response altogether. You can be sad and graceful at the same time.

While a simple “thank you” should suffice, it’s possible to expand upon it by saying why you’re thanking the person expressing their condolences.

A more elaborate “thank you”

Thank you for coming or thank you for taking the time out of your day to come and show your support are all great responses to condolences. 

It’s alright if you cant utter the same response every time, as grief wanes and waxes. But when you can muster to say all that, people will appreciate it. After all, they are genuinely there to support you, which should not go unnoticed.

Leanna Serras

Leanna Serras

Chief Customer Officer, FragranceX

Keep the conversation brief, and don’t overlook the value of physical touch

It’s essential to remember that the other person is very nervous about giving condolences. They want to express their grief without making it seem like they’re grieving more than you—a challenging balance in a trying time. 

Keep things simple with a thank you that means a lot or we appreciate that so much can mean the world, especially if you can muster a smile.

If appropriate, don’t overlook the value of physical touch. A slight touch on the arm or holding the other person’s hand can really drive home your sincerity. 

Again, only do so if appropriate, and keep the conversation brief. You don’t want to get mired down in condolences unless you have that closeness with the person.

Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson

Teacher and Writer | Content Editor, Symbolism & Metaphor

Don’t feel like you have to respond to everyone individually

Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things a person can go through. Along with the sorrow and grief, you can also feel overwhelmed by the outpouring of sympathy from friends and family. 

While it’s nice to know that you have so many people who care about you, it can be challenging to know how to respond to all the condolences. 

Here are a few tips that may help:

  1. First, don’t feel like you have to respond to everyone individually. A simple “thank you” will suffice. 
  2. Second, let people know if you’re not ready to talk about your loss. It’s okay to say that you need some time to yourself. 
  3. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is a difficult time, and there’s no shame in admitting that you need some support. 

Whether it’s someone to help with funeral arrangements or just someone to talk to, reach out to your network of family and friends. They’ll be more than happy to help you through this tough time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What myths about grief should people be aware of?

Many myths and misconceptions about grief can be unhelpful or even harmful. Common myths about grief include:

• Grief has a set timeline or endpoint
• Grief is the same for everyone
• People should “move on” or “get over” their grief quickly
• Grief only affects people who were especially close to the person who passed away
• Talking about the person who passed away will make the grief worse

It’s important to remember that grief is a unique and individual process that can differ for everyone. Encourage the person to express their feelings and emotions in a way that feels safe and comfortable for them, and offer support and comfort as needed.

If you’re struggling with your own grief, consider reaching out to a mental health professional or joining a support group. Connecting with others who have experienced similar losses and having a safe space to express your feelings and emotions can be helpful.

What are some common grief reactions that people may experience?

Grief is a complex and individual process in which each person may experience different feelings and reactions. Some common grief reactions include:

• Sadness, depression, or numbness
• Anger or frustration
• Guilt or regret
• Anxiety or fear
• Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
• Loss of appetite or overeating

It’s important to remember that grieving is a normal and natural response to a loss and that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. Encourage the person to express their feelings and emotions in a way that feels safe and comfortable for them, and offer support and comfort as needed.

How long does the grieving process typically last?

The grieving process differs for each person and can vary in length and intensity. While there is no set timeline for grieving, many people find that the most intense feelings of grief subside after a few months.

However, it’s common for people to feel waves of grief and sadness even years after a loss.

Remember that everyone grieves differently and at their own pace, so be patient and understanding. Encourage the person to take the time they need to grieve and offer support and comfort as needed.

If you’re concerned that the person is having difficulty coping with their grief or is showing signs of depression, you should seek advice and support from a mental health professional.

How can I take care of myself while supporting someone who is grieving?

Supporting someone who is grieving can be emotionally taxing, so it’s important to take care of yourself as well. Make sure to prioritize your own self-care by getting enough rest, eating well, and engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.

It’s also important to set boundaries and communicate your own needs with the person you’re supporting. Let them know when you need time to yourself or feel overwhelmed by the situation. It’s okay to take a step back as long as you communicate your intentions with the person you’re supporting.

If you feel overwhelmed or are having difficulty dealing with the situation, you should seek support from friends, family, or a psychologist. Remember that it’s important to take care of yourself to be able to support and care for others.

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