Sorry for your Loss, Tips for Extending Condolences

Sorry for your loss… sometimes it feels as if our words fail us, we can inadequte when we try to express to someone how we feel about the loss of their loved one. But what’s worse than trying and failing to say just the right thing is ignoring the loss altogether. The family will appreciate your genuine effort, so be sure that you take time to prepare something simple to say to them either on the telephone or in person prior to the service, during the visitation, or after the funeral or committal service.  Below are tips for extending condolences.


Sorry for your Loss


Sometimes this is all that is needed, and all that can be mustered up, given the emotions of the situation. It is critical to reach out to the family to let them know that you are thinking of them during their time of need. By simply reaching out to them with a short acknowledgment of their loss, you are helping to provide the family with a desperately needed support system.



When extending your condolences, make sure that you include the name of the deceased, and don’t simply make a generic statement. Say something like “John was so sweet and funny. I will really miss him” instead of “He was a nice guy.” By being as specific as possible, you send the message that the decedent was valuable in your life.



If you choose to call the family prior to the service, have your initial statement prepared, since the call will more than likely be brief. Remember that the family will receive many calls of condolence and may not be up to remaining on the phone for any length of time.



If, however, while you are offering condolences, the family member begins speaking about his or her loved one or their own personal grief, take the time to listen. Speak in low, measured tones and don’t rush the call. Be a good listener, keep the focus on them, and do not ask them detailed questions about the death or decedent. Simply listen.

If you are expressing your sympathy when in person, and he or she is seated, you should sit or kneel down so that you are eye to eye and not towering above them. This creates intimacy and is a physical indicator of genuine interest and concern.

However, don’t force it. The focus is on the needs of the family, and since each person is different, they will not all be up to opening up about the loss.



Whether you are speaking to the family in person or on the telephone, refrain from giving direction to them. Avoid saying things like “you need to stay busy” or “you have to be strong”. Those statements are neither productive nor beneficial to the mourners. They already know what they need to do, and they don’t need to hear it. They also know that it will wait until after the service.



If you will be visiting the family at their home, a common form of condolence is to take food with you. It is a wonderful and highly personal gesture, and it will allow the family to grieve and not be concerned with having to prepare anything for themselves or their guests.


There can be no words that will alleviate grief immediately after a death. So, don’t worry about getting the words just right. What matters to the family is that you have taken the time to acknowledge their loss and their grief. So, don’t push it to the wayside. A simple gesture of condolence is a powerful tool to let the family know that their loss is important to you, and so was their loved one.


See Funeral Etiquette