Whether you express sympathy via a visit, call, or card, your choice of words is important. It is appropriate and kind to let the family know how much you will miss the deceased, how dear he was, how she made the world a better place, or what an inspiration he was.
Use your own words to convey messages like these:
What not to say…
- “I/We are thinking of you. I/we wish there were words to comfort you"
- “I/We are shocked and saddened by your loss. We care and love you deeply."
- He/She was such a fine person.”
- “What you’re going through must be very difficult.”“He/she lived a full life and was an inspiration to me and many others.”
It is inappropriate to make statements that imply that the death was for the best or that show disrespect for the deceased. It is also inappropriate to probe for details of the circumstances of the death or the person’s final moments. Be careful about making spiritual or religious references unless you know those sentiments will be well received.
Avoid cliches like …
- “It’s probably a blessing.”
- “I know just how you feel.”
- “He’s at peace now.”
- “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
- “At least he/she is no longer suffering.”
- “It was her time.”
Don’t tell them what to do …
- “You have to be strong now for your family (or business).”
- “Stay busy to take your mind off things.”
- “You’ll get over it in time and find somebody else.”
- “You’re young and can have more children.”