You have just received the news. A family member, personal friend, or coworker has passed away. What words of condolences should you say to the bereaved? Going to the family of the deceased and offering your condolences is something that we all hate to do. You may become tongue-tied at the funeral because you are afraid that you might say something that will make them feel worse. Being silent is not an option. The right words can give comfort to someone who has lost a loved one. Here you will find examples of phrases that you can use to express your condolences.
Words of Condolences During a Conversation
If you can’t think of anything to say or if you are feeling uncomfortable, a simple “I am sorry for your loss” will work in almost all situations. That simple phrase can help express your condolences and also save you from hurting the bereaved with the wrong words. If the deceased died from a medical condition, avoid bringing up the illness during the conversation. Simply say, “I am sorry for your loss. This must be a hard time for you and your family.”
When talking with family members of a deceased business associate, say “I am sorry for your loss. Please accept our condolences. He/she was a pleasure to work with and will be greatly missed.” This will let the family members know that the deceased had value at his workplace. It is very important to let his family know that the deceased was respected and had a good reputation outside the family environment.
If the deceased is a relative or a member of your own family, give the bereaved a hug and say something like “I am sorry for your loss, Uncle John. I am going to miss Aunt Mary, she was such a positive and kind person.” Make sure that you always focus on the positive. Talk with your family about the happy memories you shared with the deceased.
Words of Condolences in Cards and Letters
If you are unable to attend the funeral you can express your condolences in a sympathy card or letter instead. An example of a short condolence letter would be:
“Dear Joe, our family was very saddened to hear that your wife, Mary, has passed away. Our family wishes to express our sincere condolences during this difficult time for you and your family. Mary was a cheerful person and was always a pleasure to be around. She will be missed dearly.”
If you sent a floral arrangement to the funeral of a business associate or co-worker, you may want to write on the card:
“Dear Bob, everyone at XYZ Company is very sorry for your loss. The passing of Janet Smith is a huge loss for XYZ Company. Not only was she a hard-worker, but she also made the office a fun and cheerful place to work.”
If the floral arrangement is for a relative or a member of your own family, you may want to write on the card:
“We are very heartbroken at the passing of Uncle John. We are very sorry that we cannot be with you during this difficult time. We will always remember summers spent at Uncle John’s cabin when we were children. He was a very generous and kind-hearted man. Our prayers and thoughts are with you and your family.”
Hopefully these sample phrases can give you an idea on what to say to express your condolences. These are only a few basic examples of words of condolences. For more help writing a thoughtful condolence, we recommend that you read our articles on writing condolences or read more sample condolences.
Updated: May 31, 2012