Helpful Things To Say & Do When Someone Dies

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Condolences & Sympathy Messages: What To Say When Someone Dies
Family, Self

We just laid a newborn to rest.

My oldest son and his wife had waited a long time for this joyous event. They did everything right, and this was still the outcome.

I will never know their pain. But I will carry them and be available to them. I will sit and cry with them.

Death is hard for humans to understand and for us to wrap our brains around. So knowing what to say or do when someone dies — how to comfort a mourner, express your condolences or even send sympathy messages that say more than "sorry for your loss" — is deeply complicated.

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Death seems easier to come to grips with when the person has lived and experienced a long life. It is still devastating to their loved ones. There is a history and memories that may help with the grieving but will never replace their presence.

The death of an infant, child, teenager, or young adult seems to be much more challenging to understand.

The parents will have lots of times when they will wish their child was there with them, and no one will be able to ever change that. The parents will have many quiet moments of mourning.

The most important thing any of us can do for those who are mourning is to sit and listen.

Cry with them. Judgment and your own opinions or viewpoints are irrelevant.

No one can fix dead.

We all want to do something. We would all raise the dead if we had that gift. Instead, we say the only words that come to our mouths, or we say nothing at all.

Asking if the family is “OK” is not helpful. No, they are not OK.

There is a ginormous hole where a person used to be. They are working through what the death means. They are trying to figure out who or what is to blame or they are coming to terms with the fact that there is no one and nothing to blame. it just is.

They are immediately required to plan the funeral. To answer everyone’s questions. To help everyone else understand what they themselves do not understand.

Everyone expects them to be present right now and they cannot. They are elsewhere. They are in an in-between place.

At first, they feel as though it’s all a nightmare and they will soon wake up. This can’t be real. It has to be a sick joke and it will be over soon.

Then it hits like an unexpected expected wave — the wave you know is coming, but you don’t know when it will hit you.

The wave that takes your breath away and leaves you drowning in uncontrollable grief and tears.

In this moment, they need life to be as simple as possible.

Take whatever you can off their plate. Give them time and space to mourn.

RELATED: 5 Rude Things You Should Never Say To Someone Who Is Grieving (And What To Say Instead)

After a death, life goes on around the grieving person or family. Everything appears to be moving at the speed of light, while their days move by slowly. Time slows down for them.

Everything else happening in the world feels frivolous and unimportant.

Mourning is a time to lift the person and/or family up.

Listen to their words. Love on them.

Do not try to fix it or to counsel them. They are not ready, and you most likely do not have the entire story from their viewpoint, so your counsel is likely to cause more harm than good.

Mourning is a process that takes months and years to go through. Each person will move through the grieving process at their own pace.

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There is no set time limit for grieving, so telling someone that it’s time to stop grieving and move on is never helpful.

If someone is grieving and you think of them, call them, email them, send a card, check in on them, reach out to them, love them — never avoid them.

They will understand if all you can do is hold them in silence because often times there are no words to express what you are really feeling, and there are no words to make it all better.

Band-aids don’t work here.

Time will help with the healing, but the wound left in their heart will always be open.

They will break down into tears at any time. Tears will flow freely and will come and go. They will have a joyous day and feel guilty for it because their joy will bring their missing loved one into their heart. They will wish their loved one had been there to enjoy the joyous day with them.

RELATED: 8 Ways To Console A Grieving Friend (That Will Actually Help)

Here is a list of helpful things to say and meaningful ways to offer condolences in sympathy messages:

  • “I am sorry for your loss.”
  • “I’ll make sure dinner is brought to you for the next week. Let me know if you need dinner brought longer than that.”
  • “How are you doing today?”
  • “How are you feeling today?”
  • “May I cry with you?”
  • “May I sit with you?”
  • “May I hold you while you cry?”
  • “How may I help you today?”
  • “I will come tomorrow and do your laundry for you.”
  • “I’m on my way over to clean your house.”
  • “Would you like for me to take the kids for a while?”
  • “It’s okay to spend all day in bed.”
  • “I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk about anything or everything.”
  • “I’m a phone call away.”
  • “I can be there in 5 minutes, so don’t hesitate to call for any reason at any time day or night.”
  • “It’s okay to say nothing.”
  • “It’s okay to cry.”
  • “Would you like help explaining this to the kids?”
  • “Would you like help telling others?”
  • “Is it okay if I tell others?”
  • “I cannot imagine what you’re feeling.”
  • “All I have to offer are hugs.”
  • "I will stay as long as you need me."

None of us can fix dead. But all of us can mourn with those who are in mourning.

If you have walked this path at all, you are not alone.

You are joined by many who know of your pain, share in your tears and mourn with you.

RELATED: 25 Encouraging Quotes To Share With Someone Who Is Grieving The Loss Of A Loved One

Angie Taylor is a Doctor of Natural Health (NHD), Certified Life Coach (CLC), Trained Health Coach,, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor (CIEC), Board Certified Holistic Alternative Psychology Master (HAPP) and Certified Aroma Freedom Practitioner and Instructor (CAP-I) who guides women along the path to finding their voice and coming out of the shadows in all situations. For more, find her on Facebook or contact her via email.