Many people feel uncomfortable in expressing condolences to a relative when that person loses someone. They don't know what to say and are often afraid of saying the wrong thing. Here are some tips to help you the next time you are in that situation.
Don't try to come up with the "right words." Instead, just focus on being sincere. Even a simple "I'm sorry for your loss" has great meaning when it comes from the heart. If you are close to the grieving person, you can offer more words of encouragement but don't feel that you must. If they are a distant relative, just a short note is plenty to show your condolences.
Write It Down
Another worry for many people is that they will call or stop by at the wrong time. Since dealing with all of the issues surrounding a person's death can leave the person overwhelmed and busy, a written note or email may be more appropriate at this time. You can wait until later to make a visit or phone call. In fact, it may be more timely then when they don't have as much support.
Offer to Help
If you are in a position and at a close distance to help, feel free to extend the offer. Instead of a generic "let me know if I can help," it is often appreciated if you give tangible suggestions. Since the person is probably feeling overwhelmed, he or she may not know what is needed. Here are some ideas on ways you could offer to help.
- Stopping by the grocery to pick up food
- Bringing over a dish
- Taking pets for a walk
- Taking the kids out for a few hours
- Checking on the house if the person will be gone
- Inviting the person to a support group
- Inviting the person for lunch
What Not to Do
There are some things you should avoid in your wish to offer condolences to a family member. The main thing to know is to respect the other person's beliefs. They may have different convictions and ideas about death, especially if they are of a different religion or background than you. If you are not sure of their beliefs, try to avoid comments and expressions that include that sentiment.
Don't be upset if you don't hear back from the person right away. It may take some time for them to get back to you in response to your offers of help and condolences. Know that they appreciate any concern you express even if they don't respond.
Supporting family members through a loss of a loved one can be difficult, but don't be afraid to reach out. Any sincere expression will be appreciated if given in the right attitude.