How to Express Sympathy and Offer Condolences

How to Express Sympathy and Offer Condolences

Sometimes, experiencing the death of a friend or a loved one can be the worst experience for the people who were left behind. However, regardless if we understand how they feel most of us still find it hard to express our condolences to them.

One of the reasons why we’re unsure of what to say is because of the fear that our sympathy will come out as an offense to them. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that it is more hurtful for the ones who were left behind to hear nothing from you.

Saying and doing the right thing can be difficult when you try to express sympathy of offer condolences to the bereaved. It is important to acknowledge the loss and give support whenever possible. Here are some ways you can express condolences next time and avoid coming off as unsupportive and uncaring.


  1. Empathize

Never assume that everyone feels the same way as you are feeling. Your experiences of losing someone is never the same as those of a person who has been bereaved. You can say “I can’t imagine what it feels for you” as an acknowledgment that his or her grief is uniquely hers or his to feel.

  1. Be Specific

Avoid generalized questions such as “how are you?” Be specific and support their bereavement by making sure you ask specific questions about how they are feeling. For example, “how are you coping up” or “how do you feel right now?” can be a great way to express support and your condolences to the person.

  1. Cliched Condolences

“I’m sorry to hear…” is one of the most familiar and cliched statement people say to the bereaved. However, it’s an excellent way to start a conversation with the person because it’s an honest declaration. It acknowledges pain the person is feeling and empathizes with him or her.

  1. Express Your Sadness

Feeling shocked and saddened by a news of a person’s death is normal. That’s why it’s also normal to share your feelings with others, too. However, you have to make sure that you avoid implying that you feel the same way with other people, such as those close to the person who died.

  1. Acknowledge Death

It’s important that you express your condolences by also recognizing the death of the person. For example, you could say that “I heard about Sam – how awful.” Don’t be afraid to state the facts and be honest that something terrible had happened and it’s a sad event.

  1. Anger Acceptance

Expressing condolences doesn’t always mean sympathy. It could also trigger anger, and it’s okay to be angry with what had happened. Therefore, if people feel angry about the death of their loved ones, then understand that they are upset of the circumstances. Also, you don’t have to fix them and being there for them and saying sorry is more than enough.

  1. Don’t be Afraid of Upsetting a Person

If you’re expressing your condolences, it’s normal that the individual remembers the death and pain they feel or felt. However, don’t use this as a reason to withdraw yourself from expressing your condolences. Yes, it will upset the person, but bear in mind that the person is already upset.


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