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What to Say When Someone's Grieving

What (and What Not) to Say When Someone's Grieving

When you find out a close friend has lost a loved one, your first response may not make her feel better. Instead of consoling in a way that may not help, you'll want to field a few pointers for giving your friend the support and love she needs during this tough time — even if you can't be there.

DO say:


I'm coming over to ________.
Take the initiative and come over to help with something. From answering her home phone and keeping track of calls to cooking dinner, helping to make life a little easier is one way to be there for your friend.

I'm so sorry. Be genuine, be heartfelt, and be honest. Offering sympathy without any add-ons is one way to share that you care, especially when you're not sure what to say.

I'm here for you: This might sound weird and maybe a bit uncomfortable, but just holding your friend's hand or sitting next to her while she's grieving is OK. Don't feel pressured to start a conversation or push for details — just be there.

Share your favorite memory: From a silly story to a special moment, memories of the deceased are good to share.

There's no time limit: If you're not sure how to respond to the news, take a step back and give it some thought. It's OK to send a short note or flowers and then offer heartfelt condolences personally when you can.

This totally sucks. Just say it. Death sucks, and the situation sucks.

I'm delivering groceries: She's probably already got a freezer full of casseroles, so order a fresh selection of produce to be delivered. Or offer to come on over and stock her shelves.

I'm going to call tomorrow. Follow up the next day and the next to let your friend know you're there for her if she needs to talk.

I love you. Simple and sweet, offering your true support to a grieving friend is helpful and healing.

Read on for more suggestions.

DON'T say:


I've totally been there.
You may have experienced loss in your life, but it's different from what your friend is going through. Keep the focus on her right now.

Everything happens for a reason. Your friend isn't feeling like the death of her loved one is part of a master plan. Instead offer comfort and support without clichés.

He's in a better place now. Why should the deceased be anywhere other than with loved ones? And some aren't necessarily religious, which makes this a potentially offensive comment.

It's time to put this behind you. When someone's just passed away, there's a certain amount of grieving that needs to happen — and there's no time limit. The deceased loved one remains part of your friend forever, so suggesting she compartmentalizes the death is off base.

Let me know if you need something. While grieving a loss, your friend may not be in a place where she actually knows what she needs. Help with day-to-day chores and pick up her dry cleaning or come over and clean her house.

Be strong. When dealing with a loss, there's often a feeling of helplessness. Suggesting that your friend should man up or face the situation creates frustration. This is a time when it's totally OK to feel sad, lonely, and upset, and you want to encourage your friend to feel comfortable to do that.

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