What to say (and not say) when someone dies

It can be stressful trying to think of “the perfect thing” to say to a person who has just lost a loved one. Knowing what to say when someone dies can be tricky. You want to offer comfort and support, but you don’t want to add to their grief by saying anything insensitive, awkward or hurtful. 

The best approach comes from the heart, says Kelly Carey, who oversees operations at Codey & Mackey Funeral Home in Boonton and Codey Funeral Home in Caldwell. 

“Be aware of how your words come across,” says  Kelly, who has heard her share of indelicate condolences. “Think about your comments in advance and make sure they’re full of support and sympathy.”

What are Good Things to Say to a Bereaved Person?

“I’m so sorry for your loss.”

This is a simple, genuine way to express your sorrow.

“I can’t begin to imagine how you’re feeling.”

Acknowledging they are experiencing something heartbreaking may be the catalyst a grieving person needs to open up and talk about it.

“I don’t know what to say.”

Admitting you’re at a loss for words shows you care while giving the grieving person a chance to lead the conversation. 

“I’m here for you.”

This simple statement provides comfort without being intrusive. 

What Should You Never Say to Someone Who Is Grieving?

“He’s in a better place.”

This statement is actually about you and your beliefs, not the deceased or their loved ones. 

“Time heals all wounds.”

Grieving shouldn’t be rushed, and this statement is insensitive as well as not necessarily true. 

“Crying does no good.”

In addition to being incredibly boorish, this comment goes against scientific studies showing that expressing sadness and other emotions can be quite healthy, while bottling them up can be bad for your physical and mental well-being. 

“It’s God’s will.”

Whether or not the person shares your religious beliefs, this comment rarely is as comforting as you may think. 

“Everything happens for a reason.”

See “Time heals all wounds,” “It’s God’s will” and “He’s in a better place.” 

“He brought this on himself.”

Suggesting the deceased played a role in their own death serves no purpose. And it’s cruel. 

“Were you in the will?”

This is indelicate and inappropriate. Avoid nosy questions about finances when speaking with a grieving person. 

“You’ll find love again.”

While that might sound comforting in your mind, the person who just lost their loved one is unlikely to be thinking about future relationships. 

When speaking with someone who has just experienced a great loss, Kelly’s advice is as simple as it is on target. “You should approach a grieving person with empathy and kindness,” she says. “Think about your comments beforehand, and you’re sure to give them the support they need during their time of loss.” 

If you have any questions, reach out to us at Codey Funeral Home, the best funeral home in Essex County and a proud member of our community. We’re at (973) 226-6696.