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Grief and Loss: What to Say to Those Who Are Grieving

Read specific suggestions on what to say to people who are experiencing a loss.

Helpful phrases

The following is a partial list of helpful phrases:

  • I'm sorry.
  • I'm sad for you.
  • How are you doing with all of this?
  • I don't know why it happened.
  • What can I do for you?
  • What's the hardest part for you?
  • I'll call you tomorrow.

When words won't come — listen!

How to listen

  • Before you call a person who is experiencing a loss make sure you have enough time to listen.
  • The person you are talking with should do almost all of the talking.
  • Don't interrupt.
  • Allow silence to be part of your conversation. Sometimes the person may cry or have no words. Either be quiet or assure the person that he or she can take the time needed before continuing.

How to end the conversation

Ending an emotional conversation gracefully can be very difficult. Be patient and wait for the lull in the conversation and say something like "It sounds like you are doing as well as could be expected and I am really glad we've had this time to talk. I would like to call you again soon if that would be okay with you."

A person who is hurting is often isolated because we are afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing. If your intentions are from the heart and you say the "wrong thing," more likely than not, the person will only remember that you cared and you were there.

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