Experts share their best tips for checking in on someone who’s experienced a loss.
When some you care about has lost someone, being available for hugs if they need them or having your ear on call for when they're ready to talk is important. But if you can’t be there in real life or in real time, there are always supportive texts to send someone who's grieving.
It’s easy to spiral down into a panic about saying the exact “right” thing to someone who’s mourning a loss — but it’s still important that you try. "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,” says therapist Danielle Forshee, Psy.D, L.C.S.W.
Instead of radio silence because you don't know what to say, Forshee offers a general structure to build a better text for someone who is grieving. "You should ... point out the situation. Like, 'I heard that ... passed away.' Then you want to empathize," Forshee explains, "and then you want to say your thoughts about it like, 'I will be here if you need anything.'"
For some people, that might mean bringing them groceries. Others might need a night of Netflix comedy shows. “There is no one size fits all response to grief,” says Sherese Ezelle, L.M.H.C., a licensed behavioral therapist at One Medical. “It’s important to be ready to acknowledge cues as they happen. It’s important to let your friend or family member feel whatever feeling full and when they are ready.”
It doesn’t make you a bad friend if you’re not sure of exactly how to comfort someone who lost a loved one over text, Ezelle tells Bustle. And therapist Lisa Viglietta, MHC, says that it’s better to say something instead of nothing. “It’s very easy to avoid difficult and painful conversations, but these are the times when conversations mean the most,” Viglietta explains. “Don’t be afraid to talk about a loved one that is lost. By sharing memories of them and talking about them, you are honoring them and supporting the grievers during a most difficult time.”
When you’re unsure what to say to someone who’s grieving but you want to say something, these 25 texts can give you a starting point.
"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 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.
"Can I get you anything?"
Reach out, just to be there for them.
"I'm here for you if you ever need to talk."
Don't rely on the heart emoji alone. Let your friend know that you're there to talk to if they need to reach out to anyone.
"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 and favorite comfort foods.
"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, 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."
Showing up with goodies in tow can 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.”
Sometimes keeping it simple is the best you can do.
"If you need to talk I'm here for you 24/7."
Being available for your friend around the clock can offer the comfort of 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," Forshee explains. If you're close to someone who is grieving, it can be helpful to let them know that you're available to sleep over so nights and mornings aren't lonely, or at least less difficult.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
“It’s OK if you’re having a good time right now.”
“Grief can look like sadness, anger, or happiness,” says Brooklyn-based mental health counselor intern Bernie Crowl, MHC-I. Your friend might need a reminder that they don’t have to feel guilty for having a good time, even when they’re in mourning.
"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 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 you loved...a lot and you have shown that throughout your entire relationship.”
If your friend has lost someone, Ezelle says that validating their love can help a lot.
"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 OK that everything sucks.
“You don’t have to feel guilty if you feel some relief.”
It may help to remind your friend that they’re allowed to feel complex emotions simultaneously, says psychotherapist Lillyana Morales, LMHC. She tells Bustle that it’s common to feel relief along with mourning: for example, “I feel sad that my mother has passed away and calmer because the relationship had a lot of toxicity to it” is a normal thing for your friend to say, and you can respond by telling them so.
"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.
“I am going to give you a call this afternoon to check on you.”
Crowl tells Bustle that it can be helpful to tell your friend when you’ll call, rather than asking if you should. They don’t have to pick up, of course, but he says that “making a commitment to check in on your loved one during this troubling time shows them that they are not alone.”
Danielle Forshee, Psy.D, marriage and family therapist
Sherese Ezelle, L.M.H.C., licensed behavioral therapist at One Medical
Lillyana Morales, L.M.H.C., psychotherapist
Bernie Crowl, MHC-I, Brooklyn-based mental health counselor intern
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