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Mimishu1995's avatar

How do I tell someone who has gone through a loss that I'm sorry and I care without offending them?

Asked by Mimishu1995 (23713points) April 19th, 2022

I have a confession to make again: I’m extremely fearful of situation when I have to comfort someone who has just gone through a loss. It’s not because I don’t care for them. I care, A LOT, but I’m just so scared of saying the wrong thing and offending them. When someone comes toward me with a story of their loss, I literally feel my brain freeze. I don’t know what to say to comfort them. I fear that whatever I say will end up hurting them even more. The only thing I can say is “I’m sorry for your loss”, but I’m scared that is not enough and I am supposed to say something more, but I don’t know what.

As a result, I try to avoid situations like that. I feel horrible for not being able to comfort, but I’m just afraid that I will just end up making the situation worse.

Is there any way for me out of this dilemma?

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20 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

Have you sustained a significant loss in your life, @Mimishu1995? Your own experience is one good guide.

If I have just lost my mother or my sister or my husband or my son, there’s not much you can say that’s going to be any worse than that.

Simple, sincere language is best:
“I’m so sorry youre going through this.”
“This must be very hard for you.”
“I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I care.”
“I’m here if you want to talk.”

You can say it in a note or with a card if you’re tongue-tied in person. Your friend will feel your support even if your words seem clumsy to you. It’s the gentle, caring voice that matters. The intent to comfort is what comforts.

snowberry's avatar

Another thing, is that they’re going to need support long after it’s happened. Daily, weekly, monthly, depending on how close you are to your friend, you could bring them food, ask to take them out for a meal, or just call on the phone. Ask about the important things of daily life (eating, sleeping, transportation, staying active). Look for real ways you could help.

If your friend has a disability, they might find themselves having to do household tasks that they never had to do before. If they might be open to it, you could help them get those jobs done.

The anniversary of a death can be especially hard. Call them a month after the loved one died, and again a year after it happened. Check in with them on holidays when they normally would be celebrating with their loved one. Think about how your friend’s life has changed since their loved one has died, and look for ways to help.

Bill1939's avatar

When with someone who is grieving, it is better to listen to them than to talk. Your body language will say more about your empathizing with their pain than any words could. You might encourage them to talk about their loss. If you have had a similar loss, briefly sharing that with them often will help them speak about theirs—if they are ready. When appropriate to your relationship with them, sometimes a gentle touch or an embrace says it all.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Just a brief one-time message is sufficient. I’m sorry for your loss and I’m here if I can support you in any way.
Everyone grieves differently so it’s best to keep it short and simple, and not ask for a response during their grieving.

kritiper's avatar

Send them a sympathy card.

KRD's avatar

Just tell them you are So sorry for their loss and you hope they have a good time in heaven. Also they shouldn’t get offended by condolences. Get it over with and they will thank you.

LadyMarissa's avatar

You have the PERFECT response…I’m sorry for your loss!!! There’s NO reason to say any more because your sympathy is the most that you can offer them at the time. Then wait about a month & send a sympathy card saying _Still thinking of you. Is there anything that I can do?_Then be prepared to “listen” to what they are feeling or thinking…just let them talk & be there for them!!!

Everybody grieves in a different way, so allow them to do it in their OWN time!!! Whatever you do, do NOT try to tell them HOW to grieve as it their personal experience & you are there just to SUPPORT them!!!

I heard a lady in a store comment that although she appreciated everybody’s thoughts of sympathy when her Mom had died, that she had been so much in shock at the time that she didn’t know how to receive their offers of sympathy. She said it was a month later that everything begin to sink in & she really needed their thoughts. That why I said wait about a month to send the sympathy card. According to this lady, it means a LOT more once the initial shock wears off!!! Think back to the death, the person is in shock & suddenly having to deal with the funeral BEFORE the shock becomes the reality. At the point of the reality setting in is when friends might need you most.

I’m a very private person when it comes to my grieving process. My BFF always insists that I “need to get through it”. Well, I don’t want to just “get through it”!!! I’m NOT one to be sad & melodramatic. I prefer to remember the good old days & smile every time that I think of them. There is NO way that you could help me to get to that point other than to listen!!!

I’m sorry for your loss is a GREAT beginning thought. Just be prepared to offer your ear a few weeks or so later. Let your friend guide you as to when “they need to talk” & be prepared to listen intently!!! Be a good friend & DON’T try to “fix it” for them…allow them to KNOW what it is that ”“they need”. I said all that simply to say BE A GOOD FRIEND!!!

SnipSnip's avatar

Sit beside them and let your face say I’m sorry and I am here…..that says more than words and doesn’t make them feel they need to respond in any way.

jca2's avatar

If in person, I usually say something like “I’m so sorry about your _______. How are you doing?” and then the person will say thank you and talk about how they’re feeling.

If it’s someone I am not going to see in person, I’ll send a sympathy card.

Caravanfan's avatar

A very Jewish thing to say is, “May her memory be a blessing”.

raum's avatar

I’d tell them just that.

I’m terrible with words. But I’m thinking of you. And I’m here if you need me.

flutherother's avatar

It’s always difficult to know what to say in these situations but it is very important to say something. A few words can say a lot and no words will sound hackneyed or banal in such circumstances.

seawulf575's avatar

Sometimes you don’t need to say anything. Sometimes you just need to be there if/when they want/need you.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’m so sorry for your loss. What do you need? May I mow your lawn?

Mimishu1995's avatar

Thank you everyone for your answers. From reading the responses, I guess I feel too pressured to come up with something nice to say. I see people around me being able to come up with so many words that I feel inadequate. I also had bad experience with being criticized so that is also a factor. And yeah, I’m much better at offering practical help than nice words. I’m so glad that many people here like practical solutions.

LadyMarissa's avatar

@Mimishu1995 The truth is that there is NOTHING that you can do to make them feel better, so being there to listen is the most you can do. Many people will say let me know if you need anything then that’s the last you hear from them!!!

Mimishu1995's avatar

@LadyMarissa Ugh I hate that. You are telling me you will be here for me if you need anything but then when I’m in need you disappear? I could never image myself going back on my promise like that.

LadyMarissa's avatar

@Mimishu1995 YES…that’s just plain RUDE!!! I don’t see you doing that to anyone which is part of the reason I feel your response was so PERFECT!!!

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