How to Tell Someone Sorry For Their Loss

It’s hard enough to talk to someone who is mourning let alone comfort them. When grieving strikes, no words can express heartfelt sympathy. It feels safer to say nothing and let the days go by until the person is a little healed. However, finding a way to tell someone sorry for their loss is the best thing at that moment. It shows you care and genuinely share their pain. It comforts someone when you send a condolence message.

There are several ways of expressing a condolence message. If you are close by, make every possible effort to pass the message face to face. If it’s possible, embrace him or her while you passing the message. This lovely gesture has a magical effect on the bereaved. In case you are far, a video call would be the next best option to pass your condolences, followed by an audio call. Other avenues include an email, a text message or a card. You can also leave a message on their social media pages although this may seem too casual.

When you want to tell someone sorry for their loss, use sympathetic words, be brief, and avoid assumptions. Say “I’m deeply sorry, this must be hard” or “this is so sudden, I can’t imagine what you are going through right now.” the message may also contain an offer to help, for example, “I’m so sorry for your loss Jane, I am only a call away if you need me.”

While there are minimal alternatives to saying ‘I’m sorry for your loss’, there are words that can offer the same level of sympathy. Here are some of them.

Alternative words for ‘I’m sorry for your loss’

1.     My thoughts are with you

Death has a way of pushing us to the edge. The bereaved person feels isolated and lost in their world. The sad reality is that one could be extremely lonely even when they are surrounded by people. Sending warm thoughts makes them feel cared for, it reminds them that they exist and someone cares enough to be thinking about them.

2.     I have no idea what to say to make you feel better

The truth is a lot of people don’t have an idea what to say when someone they care about is going through a mourning period. When they get a chance to meet, the first reaction is mostly a blank stare and maybe a quiet embrace. If this silence prolongs, the moment becomes awkward. They really don’t know what to say and they may easily say the wrong things. Instead of this awkwardness, it’s ok to say you have no idea what to say. This is a polite way of letting the person know you care but you are at loss for words.

3.     I can’t imagine what this loss means to you

On losing someone, most people experience confusion and cannot unravel the mystery of death. They don’t know where to start or how to live anymore without the person they have lost. This mostly applies to a parent, a spouse, a child, or a best friend. When you try to imagine their life without that significant person, you simply can’t and they can’t either. When you say “I can’t imagine what this loss means to you”, you speak the same language and it’s easy for them to feel understood.

4.     I hope you find the strength to go through this period

This is a better alternative to “I’m praying for you” or “my prayers are with you.” Most people are usually angry at God or the supernatural power they believe in during the mourning period. They question everything about their faith. When you address their strength, they embrace it better than when you address their faith. I find saying “I hope you find the courage to ride through this storm” a fitting alternative to this.

5.     I miss your ‘mom’ already; I wonder how it is like for you

This is a great message to a close relative or friend. They miss their loved one most definitely and they may be afraid of reminiscing moments with them. This could be a smooth way of letting them open up and talk about their loss. You need to be extremely careful about the timing because this conversation may go both ways. It may be openly accepted or rejected. The bereaved may simply tell you “I don’t want to talk about that.” Don’t push it, let it go, accept and change the conversation. Just say “I understand.”

If they are open to talking about it, let them have the center stage. Re-live their favorite moments with them. Mimic their loved one if the mood is right and have a good time talking about it. Don’t forget to be extremely sensitive to this and to let the person lead the conversation.

6.     I’m thankful I don’t have to go through this alone

As you can imagine, the bereaved person has to be a common friend or a relative to the two of you for you to use this statement. A lot of times we forget to console the people right next to us yet they need us the most. This is the time to draw closer and find courage together. If your relative or friend has been distant prior, don’t bring it up at this time, instead, embrace their presence and find strength in each other.

Final thoughts

At one point, I thought there are no alternatives to “I’m sorry for your loss”. I sincerely couldn’t find fitting words to replace this ‘cliché’ statement. I was thrilled to find there is more than one way to say it. The most important thing to remember is your bereaved friend or colleague could not be in their usual character at this time. Whatever response they give, don’t argue with them. Allow them to be. Mourning is an excruciating journey and there’s no perfect way to go through it. If there is anything you can do, it is to show understanding.

Find out more on What to Say When Someone Dies Unexpectedly


Check out What to Say When You Can’t Attend a Funeral


Am a graduate sociologist and a regular contributor to national publications such as the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Journal of Applied Social Science and the Annual Review of Sociology.

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