“Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being’s suffering. Nothing—not career, not wealth, not intelligence, certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we’re going to survive with dignity.” – Audrey Hepburn
I still find myself at a loss for words when faced with a grieving friend or family member. It seems like any words I could possibly offer sound empty and contrived. We have so many standard phrases for offering condolences, and they’re perfectly acceptable–yet they feel inadequate. I think, in the end, it’s not so much about the words to say to someone who lost a loved one, but how they are voiced and intended. It’s easy to sense when someone feels your pain. There is a softness in their eyes, a gentleness in their tone, and an intensity that reveals their sincerity.
Even the smallest touch can communicate a great deal. A pat on the back, the clasp of a hand, or a short embrace offer a gift of compassion. They communicate, “I see what you’re going through, and I’m here for you.”
Suggested Read: Is It Ok To Say I Am Sorry For Your Loss?
Be Empathic And Understanding During a Time of Grief
Before you find yourself speaking to someone who is suffering a loss, genuinely try to step into their shoes. When someone passes away, imagine what it would be like. Think about never again being able to hear their voice, ask for advice, or receive their loving care when you are sick. This exercise is painful because it draws up feelings that your friend or loved one is currently experiencing. You feel the pit in your stomach, the sadness, and the anxiety that accompanies loss. This is how we build empathy, and the ability to empathize makes us more helpful individuals.
Empathy gives us the ability to respond to the situation appropriately even when our words don’t come out exactly right. So much of human communication is nonverbal and, when we empathize, the emotion we are trying to convey is nevertheless communicated. The idea parallels an insincere apology. The words of admission may sound good, but the feeling with which they’re imparted is hollow and disingenuous.
Suggested Read: Empathy Versus Sympathy: What Do We Need?
What To Say to Someone Who Has Lost a Loved One
The next time you need to offer condolences when someone passes away, try using the following phrases infused with empathy.
- I’ll miss ___________ warm smile and kind nature. Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers.
- My heart breaks for you. Please know I am here for you when you need me.
- I will always remember ___________, and their love for family and friends.
- ______________ did so much for the community. He/She will be very missed.
- I can’t imagine the amount of pain you are experiencing.
- I pray for you and your family to find comfort.
- I would love to make your life just a little bit easier right now. How about if I ___________________.
- My favorite memory of your son was when ______________________. I will miss him terribly.