Just as birth is required for all of us to enjoy the miracle of life, death is also a necessary part of the human existence. 

Regardless of how healthy a life is lived or with however much attention is paid to wellness, nutrition, and self-care, death will eventually take us all. The latin phrase ‘memento mori’ reminds us that we will all eventually die. 

As natural as death is to us, it’s never an easy subject to address. When someone close to you or close to a loved one dies, there is an understandable confusion about what to say. Or, do you even say anything at all? 

The truth is that there are some comforting things you can say in the wake of death. Shell Mutual Insurance is here to help you with the words that can sometimes be difficult to find during this challenging time. 

Understanding the Grieving Process

what to say when someone dies 2People grieve in different ways. 

Some people shut down completely; others look to friends and family for support when they’re especially hurting. Regardless of how we grieve, it’s important to remember that it’s not anyone’s sole responsibility to make the grieving person ‘feel better’ about what has happened. 

Keep in mind that whatever you do decide to say, it’s not your obligation to say just the right thing that will somehow miraculously make things better. At best, your words can serve as a communication of your understanding, showing the grieving person that you empathize with their pain and that you are there for them in this time of need. 

Here are a few phrases that can help accomplish this:

  • “I cannot imagine how hard this must be for you.” This statement is powerful because it immediately legitimizes the suffering that the grieving person is experiencing. It shows that, even though you cannot begin to know just how painful this loss is, you acknowledge the pain itself and you respect it coming from a place of support and kindness.
  • “If you need anything at all—even just to talk—I want you to know that I am here for you.” Those in mourning are constantly relying on coping mechanisms to help them manage their emotional pain. Sometimes, long bouts of crying are required for this. Other times, it’s confiding in friends and family about the loss that helps. When you tell the grieving person that you are available to them, it bolsters their coping resources, which can help a lot.
  • “My fondest memory of __________ was ___________.” Sharing anecdotes about the life of the deceased helps to immortalize them in memory. When you share a fond memory involving the person who has recently passed, it helps those in grief to focus on the net positives that the passed person embodied. This can significantly assist in the grieving process.
  • “You are in my thoughts (or prayers).” When those in grief know that they themselves are cared for, mourning a loss takes a more natural, unobstructed course. It’s always comforting for grieving individuals to know that their emotional welfare is a top concern among those who love them. Reinforce that point by reminding the grieving person that they are in your thoughts. In some circles, using the term ‘prayers’ may not be relevant or appropriate, so choose your words accordingly.

Remember that it’s completely normal to ramble or talk nervously when comforting someone after the death of a loved one. No one is expecting you to deliver an eloquent, uplifting speech that will somehow lighten the mood. Dealing with death is difficult. 

As long as you maintain an air of respect for the grief that the affected person is experiencing, and as long as your words comes from a place of genuine compassion, you’ll probably end up saying just the right things. 

Lastly, think about how you’d like to be treated at a time like this. For many of us, the simple presence of loved ones in our midst can go a long way in helping to soothe the pain of grieving a passed loved one. Try to be present first, and to not worry about picking just the right words so as not to offend or embarrass. 

Talking Helps to Heal

At Shell Mutual Insurance, we’re mindful of the gift that every day is for each of us. While death is not a pleasant topic of discussion, it is eventually a necessary one. 

If you or someone you love is enduring the loss of a recently deceased friend or family member, we offer our sincerest condolences.