How to Express Your Condolences When Someone Dies
Losing a loved one is one of the most devastating life events anyone can experience. While there's nothing you can do to remedy the situation, you can certainly let your friends or loved ones know that you're there for them in their time of need. Even if you're not sure what the appropriate behavior is when someone else is grieving, there are several things you can do to show that you care.
Make Initial Contact
Upon learning that your friend or loved one has lost someone dear to them, phone them or stop by to let them know you're sorry for their loss. Take your cue as to which option to choose from how close you are to the person. If they are a coworker, you may simply want to give them a sympathy card with a handwritten note inside. If the person is a relative or close friend, a phone call or personal visit is more acceptable. Keep the call or visit brief and express your sympathy at that time.
Offer Your Assistance with Practical Matters
During a time of loss, it's often difficult for the person who's left behind to tend to their daily needs. Offer to run errands for them or help with them housework. Something as simple as picking up a prescription, getting a few groceries or picking up dry cleaning can be very helpful during this period of time. Most likely their time will be taken up with making the final arrangements for the deceased and it may be hard for them to take time out to keep the household running.
Drop Off Some Food
Preparing and dropping off food is another way that you can show you care when someone close to you has lost a loved one. Make one or two dishes that you can drop off to the grieving person to help feed the friends and family who will most likely gather before and after the funeral. Casseroles, soups and stews are all dishes that are easy to heat up and taste just as good even when eaten a day or two later. If cooking isn't a skill you possess, you can have food delivered or pick up something at a local deli or bakery.
Families often appreciate receiving floral arrangements when they've lost someone. It lets them know that you're thinking of them and it shows respect for the person who's passed away. A florist can help you select an arrangement that is tasteful and can work with you to find something that's within your budget. Sign the card with a heartfelt sentiment.
Attend the Viewing and Funeral
Another way to be there for a friend or loved one is to attend the viewing and funeral service. If the deceased observed a different religious tradition from your own, simply ask the clergy member what is an acceptable level of participation in the service for someone who isn't a member of the religion. For example, everyone is welcome at a Catholic funeral, however, non-Catholics are not permitted to receive Holy Communion during the service. Learn the proper etiquette beforehand to avoid any uncomfortable moments.
Support the Bereaved Afterward
The period after the burial has taken place and many of the relatives have returned to their homes is the time your friend or loved one may need you most. While they were probably carried forward on a sea of momentum and adrenalin during the funeral preparations and service, now they are left alone to learn to live with their loss. Drop by periodically for a chat, invite them to get out to some low-key events with you when they feel up to it or telephone to let them know that they're on your mind.
While words can never truly express the deep sense of sympathy you feel for someone's loss, actions can go a long way to let them know you care. By reaching out to the bereaved and being there to assist them in any way you can, you can convey how much you feel for them during this time.