Nearly everybody has, at some time or another, experienced the loss of a loved one. Many have also been in the position to comfort a friend at the loss of someone dear to them. In either case, sympathy words are exchanged. The perennial problem is, of course, that in times of grief, it may be difficult to find the right words. It may in fact be difficult to physically say them at all. However, it's important to express your sympathy to your friend or loved one.
What Words of Sympathy to Say
Here is something to think about: If you had just lost one of your parents or a sibling, what would you find comforting? How well you know someone is a good litmus test of what you should say and how you should say it. When finding sympathy words, always remember to whom you are speaking. If that person is a very private individual, he or she may prefer to be left alone for the most part. In that case, knowing when the appropriate time to approach is essential to successfully providing comforting sympathy words to the grieving person.
Choosing your words when you are called on to comfort someone in grief is more complicated than just trying to make them feel better. You want them to know that you can empathize with their pain. The difficult part in all of that is knowing that they will have heard sympathy words from perhaps a hundred other people as well, so what can you say that will truly give them peace and closure? Look to samples of sympathy words online for inspiration. Obituaries Help.org, has words of sympathy samples in cards, letters, sayings and quotes. Read some examples before you sit down to write your own words of sympathy.
A Short List of Sympathy Words
The following is a short list of sympathy words you can say to someone to bring him or her comfort.
- You are always in my prayers
- He/She would be very happy to know that you loved him/her so much
- Always remember that you have friends and we are here for you, so if there is anything you need, please don't hesitate to ask.
- You can find peace in the good memories that you have
- I know this is hard, but you can make it through
These are just a few things that people have found to be helpful over the years. They are effective mainly because the speaker empathizes with the bereaved. That is the main thing, and it cannot be overstated. Your sympathy words should show that you empathize with the kind of pain they are experiencing, and that you can help them through it.
Sympathy Phrases to Avoid
Saying "I know how you feel" to someone who has lost a loved one is not the best way to show your sympathy. Words like that can sometimes hurt more than they help because no one can truly know what another person is feeling about anything, especially the death of someone dear. ObituariesHelp.org also has lists of Phrases to Avoid for sympathy sayings or words of sympathy.
Also, avoid being at all insincere. Again, remember that this person will most likely have heard sympathy words from many other people over a few days, so the last thing they want to hear is condolences that are not heartfelt. Don't offer your help if you can't or won't actually help.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
Sometimes, offering sympathy words can involve no words at all. Making a meal for someone when you know they don't feel like cooking for themselves can be a great help. Simply offering a hug is often a very comforting gesture. Day to day tasks may be hard for the bereaved to complete. Doing their dishes, mowing the lawn, taking the kids to school or other activities are all ways to show you care and are simple sympathy gestures that mean so much.
The grieving process is different for everybody, but the one immutable truth behind everybody's experience is that the right words or gestures can go a long way towards easing the pain of this difficult transition in their lives.
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