I decided to write this short tips on the best things to say in offer of condolence to someone who has had a loved one pass away...and then the worst --or the non-helpful things I have had people say to me. I believe most people have no idea what to say, and end up saying cliches' , which by the way are the worst things to say, especially when someone has passed away suddenly, unexpectedly and tragically. My mother died at age 65 of a heart attack in 2008 , three weeks before my oldest daughter's wedding, and of course my Sarah died in a car accident, tragic and out-of-the-blue this last July 2010, when she was only 21 years old.
I think if someone passes away from old age, or they are much older say 80's-90's, then cliches' may be what many people end up saying. But I will tell you what has been more comforting to me, and start with the top condolence.
Most Conforting Condolences:
1. I am so sorry .
2. She ( or he ) was so beautiful, kind, loving, ( whatever ) and we will miss her ( or him ).
3. I know this is not right, unfair, such a terrible loss for you. ( commiserate with their loss )
4. I am going to help you by: ( bring dinner on such and such time, or filling in at work, or taking your other children out to the park tomorrow ).
1. Let me know if there is anything I can do for you. ( this usually comes after I am sorry--but I would tell everyone to just leave it off ).
2. Your memories will sustain you. ( untrue, especially in situations of tragic deaths---they are what you have left, but they do not sustain you. )
3. She or he is in a better place now.
4. Remember how she or he lived and not how they died. ( inappropriate until years after the death, and then personalize it if you were close to the deceased and recant a story of how they lived that was positive ).
5. Relaying any tragic deaths in detail of how someone close, or not so close to you died. Always inappropriate and not helpful or consoling.
6. Saying, " I cannot imagine how you feel, if it was my child ( spouse, parent, friend ) I would just die . "
The other thing I would mention is do not ask a grieving person how they are doing when you see them. Obviously they are not doing well, and it makes it uncomfortable for both of you. Just say you have been thinking of them.
I hope this helps someone end up saying the comforting words to a friend or family member, and not say the less-comforting ones in the future. I wouldn't have known this except for my recent losses.
Bless you all for caring for your friends,