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  • Writer's pictureLJW

What to Say When Someone Has Passed Away

Updated: Nov 10, 2022

The only two words that help

When someone in your life circle passes away, everyone in that circle feels the heaviness of grief in one way or another. It’s hard to know what to say to relatives, friends, or even acquaintances as they experience deep grief and loss. We feel the loss too, and want to say something profound, something helpful and comforting. Sometimes our words just come out wrong. We put our foot in our mouth and there’s no retracting it.

Words That Hurt

My sister and my mother passed away within months of each other. I experienced intense grief for a time. I heard things like, “She’s in a better place, God wanted another angel, or God took her home.” Some of these statements could make me resent God if He indeed “took” them. How about these statements, “She was so nice, God wanted her with him. It was her time to go. She accomplished what she was here for. Or “I know how you feel,” followed with a story about someone in their life that passed on. These statements are not helpful and can bring more sorrow.

What Two Words?

If these things don’t help, what can we say? It comes down to two words. I’m sorry. Then stop talking. Sharing experiences that you’ve had in your own family doesn’t help. Am I supposed to feel compassion toward you when my heart is full of pain? Talking about God taking my loved one doesn’t help. The person who this is told to may not have the same belief toward God as you. Will this be hurtful to them? If someone says to me, “call me if you need anything,” I won’t be calling. It’s better for you to call me. Ask if anything is needed on any given day. Putting the call on them is a cop out. You pick up the phone, and you take the lead.

Less is More

When saying the two words, “I’m sorry,” you can elaborate slightly. Here’s a few examples:

“I’m so sorry, I’m sorry for the pain you are going through, or, I’m sorry this happened.” Saying less is saying more. Are you comfortable sitting with some