When and How to Offer Condolences

When someone you know loses someone close to them, many people are unsure about what to say or do. However, your support can make a world of difference. Here’s a short guide for offering your condolences.

Sharing condolences with a friend

If a friend has lost someone close to him or her, reach out as soon as possible. In the case of a close friend, it’s usually best to share your condolences via phone or in person. You may be in a unique position to provide important support, so try to identify specific ways you can offer to help. If you aren’t able to be there in person or help in a specific way, consider also sending sympathy flowers as a follow up to show that you’re thinking of your friend.

Sharing condolences when the deceased was a friend

If a friend of yours has passed away, reach out to the family as soon as soon as you feel emotionally ready. In this case, email is often a good medium. Take the opportunity to share your own feelings about the loss, and considering including photos and stories that you look back on fondly. If the family has set up a memorial website, consider sharing photos and stories there as well.

Sharing condolences with a colleague

If a colleague of yours has lost someone, try to send a note within a day or so of finding out. An email is generally a good medium. If your colleague is out of the office on bereavement leave, sending sympathy flowers is often a nice touch.

Sharing condolences with an acquaintance

When an acquaintance loses someone, feel free to send a note right away, but you may also choose to wait a few days. This lets your acquaintance process condolences from those close to them immediately, but continue to feel supported as time passes.


For more information on what to include in a condolence note, read our blog post on sending condolences.

February 2018