Expressing condolences to a friend who is grieving is a delicate matter. Being available for hugs if they need them or having your ear on call for when they're ready to talk is important. But in the meantime there's always supportive texts to send someone who's grieving. Remember that language is crucial. And there are a number of ways to express your condolences without saying something less than heartfelt.
As therapist Dr. Danielle Forshee, Psy.D, LCSW tells Bustle, "a lot of times acquaintances feel uncomfortable with how to reach out or what to say when there's a loss and that discomfort can come through if you're sending a DM versus reaching out on their cell phone." Whether through a phone call or a text, Dr. Forshee says "presence" is amongst the most important tenets for conveying support in a text. Instead of only saying that you're sorry, you can also let that person know that you're available to offer them comfort in person. Even if it's just to pick up groceries.
Instead of radio silence because you don't know what to say, Dr. Forshee offers a general structure to build a better text so you can reach out to someone who is grieving. "You should ... point out the situation. Like, 'I heard that ... passed away.' Then you want to empathize," Dr. Forshee explains, "and then you want to say your thoughts about it like, 'I will be here if you need anything.'"
Below are some text message examples, per Dr. Forshee's advice:
"I'm here for you if you ever need to talk."
Don't rely on the heart emoji. Let your friend know that you're there to talk to if they need to reach out to anyone.
"I heard about your loss and I know that you're going through a difficult time right now. I'm here."
If you heard about the loss of an acquaintance's relative or friend through the grapevine, don't DM. Send a text and per Dr. Forshee's advice, point out the situation and let them know that you sympathize.
"I can't imagine how you must be feeling. If you need anything please let me know."
Empathizing is important.
"I know that you're going through a tough time. I also went through this. I'm going to check in with you."
Letting someone know that you're going to check in with them here and there is a solid way to comfort them. Dr. Forshee says, "it's difficult to reach out when you're feeling bad." Having someone know you'll be there to check in with them can provide a certain level of comfort.
"Can I get you anything?"
Reach out, just to be there for them.
"I want to make you a weeks worth of food. What's your favorite food?"
If you're assertive, be available and provide for a person who is grieving. Let them know that you're going to be bringing food over and make sure that you know their dietary restrictions or diet per their lifestyle.
"I'm running errands, can I pick anything up for you?"
Be as available and present as possible. If you're going to pick up groceries for yourself, text your friend. They might want a chocolate bar or just to know that you're thinking of them.
"How can I help you?"
Ask how you can help. Maybe the person you're reaching out to already has a fridge full of lasagna from neighbors. But perhaps your comfort can be helpful in other ways, like picking up mail or dealing with logistics.
"I know what you're going through and if you need to talk I am here for you always."
If you've been through something similar, Dr. Forshee suggests that you can validate their grief, letting them know you know what that feels like. It could make someone feel less alone in the process.
"I know this is hard and I love you."
Let someone know that you sympathize with them, know what they're going through and that you care about them.
"Hey, I'm coming over with coffee."
Being present is one of the best ways to help someone grieve. If you're close to someone going through this tough time, being as available and present to them as possible is powerful in aiding the grieving process.
"Thinking of you. I can't imagine what you're going through. I'm going to drop off some dinner for you tonight."
If you're assertive, let the person grieving know that you are going to be taking care of things for them.
"If you need to talk I'm here for you 24/7."
Being available for your friend around the clock can offer a comfort knowing there's always someone to talk to.
"If you need anyone to sleep over, I'm here for you."
"Morning is a difficult time," Dr. Forshee explains. If you're close to someone who is grieving, letting them know that you're available to sleep over so nights and mornings aren't lonely or at least less difficult can be helpful.
"I'm here to listen and talk whenever you need, even if that's a year from now."
Let your friend know that your ear for their grief doesn't have a time limit.
"Can I come help you with dishes?"
With all the dishes being dropped off for dinner, it could help to hear that you're available not only to make dinner but to clean up.
"I know what you're going through and if you need any help writing thank you notes I'd love to help you."
Provide services to someone. Help them write their thank you notes to everyone who dropped off dinner or showed their support. Show up for a friend whose grieving.
"I'm thinking about you and your family."
Showing that a person is in your thoughts can be exceptionally comforting. Especially if you aren't very close to the person who is grieving.
"Do you need to go for a manicure? Let's go together."
You can show support for a friend who has lost someone by "physically being there for them," says Dr. Forshee. Check in to see if they need to get out of the house, get a manicure, grab coffee, pick up groceries and offer to do those things with them.
"I know that you're going through a really hard time. Take your time. I'm here when you need me."
Instead of trying to cheer someone up by being in-their-face-sunny-disposition about the world, let them know it's okay that everything sucks.
"I'm sorry for your loss."
While the person going through a recent loss has been fielding these texts left and right, these words can be sent sympathetically when other phrases escape you.
Danielle Forshee, Psy.D, marriage and family therapist
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