5 Tips to Help Offer Your Condolences

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When a friend or relative reveals that someone they were close to has died it can be difficult to know what to say to them.

When receiving the news, whether in person, through phone call or by message, most people keep things simple by replying with something along the lines of “I’m so sorry for your loss”.

People keep things simple partly in fear of saying something that the bereaved may deem insensitive or out of place.

This fear is understandable as the last thing anyone wants to do is further upset someone who is already upset and grieving, but people also worry that it would be even worse to say nothing at all – and what about in the days and weeks following?

Expressing your sympathy for what they are going through in a sincere and sensitive way while remaining appropriate certainly doesn’t come easy to everyone, but hopefully these 5 tips below will go some way to help you out the next time you’re confronted with someone you know revealing their loss to you.

1. Decide On the Best Way to Reach Out

Our relationship with the person we want to offer our condolences to should shape the way we reach out to them and the things we say.

Dropping a text or phone call, popping in with a card and some nibbles or offering to take them out for a walk and a chat may be appropriate gestures to choose from, but we need to remember that people grieve in different ways, so we need to select our gesture carefully with some thought.

While some will welcome a flood of condolences and regular communication following a loss, others may feel overwhelmed and prefer plenty of space and time.

Hand reaching out towards sunset to offer help

Reaching Out to Casual Friends & Associates

In most cases the funeral will be taking place several days to a few weeks after the death, so you may choose to wait until the funeral date before expressing your condolences so that your friend or associate has plenty of privacy to get through the early stages of everything they need to deal with.

Whether that be funeral arrangements or simply getting through the immediate grief.

Your condolences should be warm and brief, unless it becomes clear that they would appreciate more interaction from you.

A funeral is often overwhelming for those grieving and they will have many emotions running through their mind and plenty of other people at the service also offering their condolences.

If the funeral is likely to take place much further down the line or is going to be a very private affair, you may decide a card or private message is the best way to inform them that your thoughts are with them.

It doesn’t need to be a long and heart-felt piece, just a simple “I’m ever so sorry for your loss – I’ll be thinking about you during this difficult time”, or “call me if you need anything at all and I hope we can meet up in the next few weeks” can really help comfort someone who has recently suffered a loss.

Reaching Out to Close Friends & Family Members

You’re likely to know more about close friends and family so will have a better understanding of their boundaries.

Those who are close to you may even expect you to be one of the people offering them the most support or to physically be there by their side a lot of the time.

It’s important to realise that they may still want time to themselves in the coming weeks, so communicating with them sensitively so that you are all aware of each other’s changing feelings will be key.

Even the most extrovert and bubbly of personalities can need time on their own to grieve in private.

Use your judgement wisely and for those closest to you it should be a lot easier to gauge how they are feeling.

2. Don’t Fill Condolences with You & Your Opinions

A mistake that many people make when offering their condolences is making the grief about themselves and their opinions.

Saying things such as “I know how you feel” or “I’m sure he/she is now in a better place” may seem disingenuous or even feel as though you are trivializing the grief in the eyes of the bereaved.

As we say these things, we may believe we are being sympathetic and comforting, but when you think about it, they don’t really place any focus on the person grieving as these types of statements are more about your own feelings and opinions.

If you’re there to express your condolences, focus on them and their feelings.

If you were also close with the person who died, this could change things a little as in this instance it would be natural to express your own grief – but if the individual you’re talking to had a much closer relationship with the deceased, then just be sure you’re supporting their emotional needs and not just giving your own opinion on things.

3. Tell the Bereaved How You Can Help

It’s standard for people to offer their support with the classic “give me a call if there’s anything you need” but this can place unnecessary pressure on the bereaved.

This puts everything on them to come forward openly admitting they need help with something, whether that be with funeral arrangements, general day to day chores or simply needing someone to talk to and a shoulder to cry on.

It is a fine balancing act as we have already touched on the importance of being mindful when it comes to not overwhelming those who are grieving.

You should use your better judgement to decide if the best approach is to make a specific offer rather than just generally offering to help if they feel the need to reach out to someone.

For example, you could suggest popping over for a coffee on a specific day and time in the coming week and see if they accept the offer or suggest a specific afternoon when you’re free to take a stroll with them around a park or to pop out to get some exercise.

If they accept, be sure to follow through with your suggestion. If they decline, say that’s no problem at all and let them know you’ll see if they fancy it in a few weeks’ time instead.

You could consider making your offer in the days following the funeral service.

Those who have recently lost a loved one are often in shock during the early stages and are kept busy during the week or so before the funeral service.

It’s in the days, weeks and months that follow the funeral that they may most appreciate extra company and conversation.

4. Share Positive Memories of the Deceased

Something that the bereaved may appreciate is a shared happy memory that you fondly remember of the deceased.

If you’re at the wake or funeral service you may not want to go into too much detail or relay lengthy stories, but a quick moment to share a memory could bring a smile to your grieving friend.

One or two brief sentences such as “I really enjoyed her sense of humour, she always had me laughing”, or “he was such a kind and friendly gentleman whenever I saw him” can really help make a difference to those who are mourning.

You could bring up a time that you remember spending with the deceased and let the bereaved know that you’ll always hold onto that very happy memory.

Telling someone about the truly positive impact their loved one had on you is a lovely and meaningful way to offer your condolences in what are otherwise very sad and upsetting circumstances for many.

5. Understand that Words Aren’t Always Enough

There are times when a warm embrace, a meaningful handshake or looking into someone’s eyes with sincerity can convey compassion and sympathy better than words alone.

Combining a simple “I’m sorry” with a sincere physical embrace can be a profound way to comfort someone who is struggling with grief.

In this moment, the key is to ensure they feel your love, care and sincerity.

You can follow this compassion with the things you do in the days and weeks that follow when you check in on them.

A sincere connection can also stir raw emotions so don’t be alarmed if the bereaved breaks down or seeks to extend the embrace beyond a few seconds.

Just be there for them and comfort them.

A group of friends embracing in grief at a funeral

Here at W.S. Moore Memorial Masons we offer a wide range of memorials and memorial services across Newport and surrounding areas. Our dedicated team of highly skilled memorial stonemasons are capable of crafting bespoke memorials to suit your specific requirements so that you can honour your lost loved one in the most fitting way. To learn more about how we can help don’t hesitate to contact our compassionate team by calling 01633 855902, e-mailing info@wsmoore.co.uk or by booking a private meeting at your convenience.

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