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What to Say When Someone Dies

Finding the right words to say when someone dies can be incredibly difficult. Many people find themselves anxious and stressed over the “right” thing to say to someone who’s just suffered a loss. Sending a sympathy card or expressing your condolences to someone who has just lost someone is an important part of reminding that person that they have support and people who they can rely on. Grief can cause feelings of isolation and loneliness, expressing your condolences and remembering the life of a loved one can help ease that pain, if only a little bit. If you’re unsure where to start, here are some ideas on how to express your sympathy and condolences.

Famous sympathy quotes, death quotes, and condolence quotes

Sending along quotes of sympathy that were written by famous individuals is a simple way to both express your condolences and comfort those in need. Many quotes around death and sympathy have been written by famous artists, authors, writers, and anonymous sources. Here are some words of sympathy and sympathy quotes for loss you may find useful:

  1. “What is lovely never dies, But passes into other loveliness, star-dust, or sea-foam, flower or winged air.” - Thomas Bailey Aldrich
  2. “As we go through the journey of life, we must remember that the impressions we leave behind will define who and what we are. They are just as individual as the paths we have chosen to walk. So leave good impressions wherever you go.” –Dave Hedges
  3. “The Remembrance of the good done by those we have loved is the only consolation when we have lost them.” - Demoustier
  4. “When I am lonely, I think of you and all that you brought to my life. Your memory rests gently on my soul!" - Cindy Adkins
  5. “The object is not to forget, but to remember to go on.” - Unknown
  6. “Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” - Vicki Harrison
  7. “A great soul serves everyone all the time. A great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again.” - Maya Angelou
  8. "There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart." - Mahatma Gandhi
  9. "I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love." - Leo Buscaglia
  10. “As a well spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.” - Leonardo Da Vinci

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General messages of sympathy

The following messages of sympathy can be used as is or you can personalize them to the individual you’re grieving. Either way, the family will likely appreciate your condolences.

  1. “I am so sorry for your loss, you are in my thoughts and prayers.”
  2. “[Name] was a very special [woman/man]. [She/He] will be extremely missed.”
  3. “Hoping and wishing for you to be surrounded by love at this difficult time.”
  4. “I want you to know that I’m sharing in your sadness as you process the loss of [Name].”
    “Sending loving and caring energy your way. You are in my deepest thoughts and prayers. I am so sorry for your loss.”
  5. “Please accept my deepest sympathy as you remember the life of [Name].”
  6. “I was completely saddened to hear about the loss of your [parent/sister/brother/sibling/grandparent/other relationship]. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your family, and your community.”
  7. “We are thinking of you and yours during this incredibly difficult time. Please accept our sincerest sympathies.”
  8. “We are missing and remembering [Name] alongside you. With utmost sympathy.”
  9. “Our family is mourning alongside you and keeping you in our thoughts and in our prayers.”
  10. "[Name] was a fantastic [man/woman/person] and someone I'll never forget. I hope you know how much of an impact [he/she] had on all of us. They are truly, irreplaceable."

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Messages of sympathy acknowledging the life & achievements of the deceased

Messages of sympathy that acknowledge the life or the achievements of the deceased can help those mourning recognize just how great an impact their loved one had on the lives of others. It’s a good way to personalize your condolences and prevent yourself from seeming as though you’re copying basic sympathy quotes for loss or generic condolence messages.

  1. “[Name] lived a remarkable and full life. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to get to know [her/him].”
  2. “[Name] was a good person and an amazing [father/mother/husband/wife]. I thought [his /]her services were beautiful and were an amazing tribute to a life well lived. [He/She] will be missed.”
  3. “Please know that I’m celebrating the life of your [relation] and mourning the loss of [his/her/them] with you.”
  4. “[First name] touched the lives of countless people. I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to get to know [him/her] as a [friend/coworker/advisor/relation type].”
  5. “[First name] was a blessing on the lives of so many people [he/she] knew. I pray that you find peace and comfort in the beautiful memories you have of [him/her] and know that [she/he] will always be remembered.”
  6. "[Name] was one of the most important mentors in my life. [Her/his] knowledge of [subject] and ability to share that knowledge with others was incredible, and has truly helped so many people."

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Messages of appreciation and gratitude

If the individual who has passed away had an impact on your life, expressing your appreciation and gratitude to the family can be a great way to offer your condolences. Many families are grateful to learn about the countless ways their loved one has had an impact on those around them and offering your story can help them in remembering the good things about their loved one’s life.

  1. “I wanted to let you know that your [relation type] was one of the most influential people in my life. I am forever grateful to [him/her] for everything that they did for me. I am mourning the loss of [him/her] greatly.”
  2. “I’m grateful I had the opportunity to get to know your [relation type] and want to extend my heartfelt sympathies.”
  3. “Your [relation type] lived an inspiring life, one I’m thankful to have been a part of. Please accept my greatest sympathy during this time.”
  4. “We are celebrating the life of your [relation type] and keeping you in our thoughts and prayers. We are so thankful to have known [First name] and are grateful for all that [he/she] did for our family.”
  5. “We wanted to express our deepest condolences to your family during this difficult time. We are so grateful to have had the chance to meet and know [First name], what a blessing to our lives [he/she] has truly been. [He/she] will be sorely missed.”
  6. "I wanted to express my deepest gratitude to your [mother/father/brother/sister/husband/wife]. I know words will never do it justice, but I am forever indebted to you, your family, and [Name] for the [reason for gratitude]. Thank you so much and please know that [he/she] will be truly missed."

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Condolence messages with an offer to help

Families who are mourning a loss are often in need of help from their community and may be apprehensive to ask for it, so as not to impose on others. Being proactive about offering to help can lift stress and burdens from those in mourning. If you’re interested in offering help, you can do so in the form of a sympathy message or condolence message. Those who are grieving or are on bereavement leave, often need help in the form of funeral arrangements, household tasks, childcare, general household upkeep, meal preparation, and more. You’ll want to be sure that you intend to actually help should they accept your offer. Here are some examples, with some common tasks they may need help with:

  1. “I wanted to let you know that I am here for you during this difficult time. If you need anything at all, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I’m available to help watch the kids, make meals, help with the house, anything you need, just let me know and I’ll be there.”
  2. “I know you have a lot to deal with and work through right now and I wanted you to know that I am available to help in any way that I can. How about dropping the kids off at my house for the next few days? We would love to have them and I want to help you during this time. Please let me know.”
  3. “Our family wants you to know that you are in our deepest thoughts and prayers right now. We will be there to help you take care of the house for as long as you need, please let me know when is a good time for us to stop by.”
  4. “I know you’re dealing with a lot right now and I wanted to extend my deepest condolences. I also wanted to offer our home to the dogs during this difficult time. We’d love to watch over them for as long as you need, just let us know a good time to pick them up and we’ll be there.”
  5. “Thinking of you and yours during this difficult time. I’ve made a few meals and would like to drop them off, please let me know a good time and I’ll stop by.”

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Messages of sympathy on an anniversary or holiday

Knowing that your loved one was not forgotten by all of those that loved them can be a huge sense of comfort to those in mourning. If a holiday or anniversary is coming up (such as a wedding anniversary, birthday, anniversary of someone’s death), sending a sympathy note to the family can help them by letting them know they’re in your thoughts. Here are some examples to show that you’re thinking of them:

  1. “I know today marks the [number of year] year since [First name] passed and wanted to let you know that you are in my thoughts. We shared drinks and stories about [First name] and are remembering [him/her] fondly.”
  2. “I know the holidays can be difficult, especially after losing [First name]. I just wanted you to know that you’re in my prayers and we are thinking of you and [him/her] often.”
  3. “Sending all my love during this holiday season and letting you know that [First name] is always on our minds and in our hearts.”
  4. “I know this [holiday] won’t be the same without [First name], but I hope it provides some sense of comfort to know that you’re in our thoughts, especially during this holiday season.”
  5. “It’s hard to believe it’s been [number of years] years since we said our final farewell to [First name]. I wanted you to know that we are thinking of you and [him/her] during this anniversary.”
  6. “Thinking of the time when [description of memory] on this day. I miss [him/her/them] each and every day. You are in my thoughts.”

How to sign a sympathy card

Sympathy cards are generally relatively short and to the point, containing a condolence and sometimes a brief explanation of your relationship (if it’s unknown to the family). After you’ve written the bulk of your sympathy card, there are a few customary ways you can consider signing it. Here are some options when it comes to signing the sympathy card:

  1. Thinking of you, [Name]
  2. With heartfelt sympathy, [Name]
  3. Our deepest condolences, [Family name]
  4. With love, [Name]
  5. Our deepest sympathy, [Family name]
  6. Wishing you peace, [Name]
  7. Keeping you in our thoughts, [Family name]
  8. With sympathy, [Name]
  9. Thinking of you always, [Name]
  10. With deepest sympathy, [Name]

If you’re looking for an easy way for your community to share their stories and condolences about someone you’ve lost, you can set up a memorial website to do just that. Visitors are able to share stories and memories, leave condolences, and share in remembering and celebrating the life of a loved one with your community. Many families have found great comfort in the stories and condolences posted about their loved one through their memorial website.

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Last updated November 4, 2021
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