Even those persons with the best intentions might say something inappropriate to the bereaved.

Hurtful sentiments can damage relationships; so many individuals stay away, fearing they’ll say the wrong thing. So what can you do? Stick to the basics when speaking with the bereaved. Communicate in some way your sadness at their loss and if you have some knowledge of the deceased, mention a quality you admired. For example: “I was so sad to hear of Jill’s death. Her wonderful nature always gave me a lift.”

Statements that get you into trouble are often your interpretation of the loss. Here are some areas you might want to avoid:

1. Comments that minimize the loss, such as: “You must be relieved that this is over” or “It’s for the best that she didn’t linger.”

2. Inappropriate statements, such as: “This is a blessing in disguise.”‘

3. Any suggestion there is something good in the experience, such as: “Look on the bright side” or “Every cloud has a silver lining.”

4. Comparisons of your pain and your experience to the person who is grieving, such as: “You must feel as dreadful as I did when I got my divorce.”

5. Any reference that you know how they feel; it is impossible to know how another person is feeling, even if you have experienced a similar loss.

The aim of expressing sympathy is to offer your compassion and concern for the bereaved. You can and should say how much you will miss the person who died. You can even share a happy memory. The most important thing to communicate or to leave with the family or friend is that you care and that you are available as a source of support.

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