Providing Actual Comfort: What to Say to Someone Who Lost a Parent

by Mother Huddle Staff

When we see someone grieving, it’s easy to slip up and say all the wrong things. Carefully choosing the right or wrong words can make all the difference when communicating sympathy. So how do you know what to say to someone who lost a parent?

In 2018, the death rate was 8.685 deaths per 1,000 people. This is a 1.22% increase from the previous year. As the death rate in our country increases, we need to prepare to help loved ones who are grieving.

Here’s what to say when someone dies. With this guide, you’ll feel prepared with safe alternatives the next time you’re trying to console a friend or family member.

1. “I’m Here For You.”

After a friend or family member loses a parent, they probably won’t know what they need. Chances are they’ll struggle to explain what they need as well. Until they can determine their needs, it’s important you reassure them that you’re available.

Let them know that you’re there to offer your support.

It’s easier for people to handle grief when they have support from their social circle. After losing a parent, they need to know they’re not alone.

When trying to determine what to say to someone who lost a parent, it’s important to express your heartfelt condolences. However, you don’t want to minimize what they’re feeling. To accomplish this balance, simply let them know you’re there to offer the support they need.

This will help the individual feel comforted without feeling like they’re a burden.

2. “I’ll Drop By.”

Many people try to demonstrate their willingness to help with the phrase, “Let me know if you need anything.” While it sounds like you’re trying to remain helpful, the bereaved individual probably won’t ask for help. After all, they likely won’t want to feel like a burden at this time.

Instead of using this phrase, choose a specific, helpful task.

For example, you can cook a casserole, pick up groceries, or help clean the house. Performing these small, everyday tasks can relieve stress from the grieving individual’s shoulders.

Put a clock on it, too. “I’ll visit on Wednesday with groceries,” will give the individual the ability to look forward to your visit. Again, this reminds them that they’re not alone in their grief.

3. “It’s Okay Not to Feel Strong Right Now.”

When deciding what to say to someone who lost a parent, many people land on the phrase, “You’re so strong.” However, this phrase can add unintentional pressure on the individual’s shoulders. They’ll feel like they need to appear strong, which can make it difficult for them to grieve openly.

Instead, reassure them. Let them know it’s okay not to feel strong right now.

Crying is a normal part of the grieving process. Instead of feeling guilty for grieving, let the individual grieve in their own way, at their own pace. Trying to appear strong will only exhaust them further.

You can also give them a sympathy basket to show your deepest sympathy to the bereaved loved ones. A sympathy basket symbolizes your genuine concern and support. Most people usually include journals, cookies, prayer booklets, cards, or plants in sympathy baskets. These items can help them relax and find peace of mind amidst the grief of losing a parent.  

4. “There Was No Good Reason For This.”

Claiming this was all a part of “God’s plan” doesn’t always prove helpful. You also don’t want to assume the bereaved individual believes in a higher power. Instead of claiming there’s a reason this all happened, recognize the individual’s grief.

You can’t fix what happened. However, you can help them through the grieving process.

Grief can also affect the body, causing:

  • Chest pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach pain

Keep an eye out for these symptoms in case the individual needs medical attention during their grieving process. Home remedies to relax an anxious, grieving individual include offering a cup of tea or essential oil as aromatherapy. Green tea has calming properties because of the theanine content, an amino acid that helps a person achieve a sense of calmness. Apply a small amount of lavender or chamomile oil to the person’s wrist and have them smell the relaxing scent.

5. “After Seeing Others Grieve, I Know This is a Fight For You.”

Telling someone that thousands of people lose a parent every day will only minimize their loss. While they’re not the first child to lose a parent, they’re still the first child to lose their parent.

Try to turn the phrase around. Imply other people have experienced the same moment, but without comparison. This will help them recognize other people grieve as well and were eventually able to move beyond their grief.

Stating this statement allows the person to express their feelings. That way, they won’t feel guilt or repressed emotions later on that can negatively affect their mental health. It’s a strong and supportive statement, showing how you greatly sympathize with them.

6. “This Will Take Time, But I’m Here Through It.”

When trying to decide what to say to someone who lost a parent, avoid platitudes. “Time heals all wounds” won’t lessen their grief.

Instead, focus on the present and not the future. Don’t put a clock on how long they need to grieve. Rather, let the individual know you’re there with ongoing support.

You can also create an album on containing words of reassurance from family, friends, and loved ones. The grieving individual can read the album as a reminder of your ongoing support.

Stating this statement allows the person to express their feelings. That way, they won’t feel guilt or repressed emotions later on that can negatively affect their mental health. It’s a strong and supportive statement, showing how you greatly sympathize with them.

7. “I Have No Words.”

Sometimes, there’s no “perfect” saying. Grief is different for everyone, so there’s no always the perfect condolence message. It’s okay to admit that you know know what to say.

Instead of trying to force the words, offer comfort in other ways.

Focus on the moment and what the bereaved individual needs. That’s how they’ll know you’re there for them.

8. “It’s Okay to Feel This Way.”

Don’t make someone feel bad for what they’re feeling. A bereaved individual can feel numb, sad, or angry. Show your support by reminding them their emotions are valid.

Instead of telling them how to feel, this phrase will allow you to remain supportive through the grieving process.

9. “Tell Me About Your Mom/Dad.”

It can take time before a bereaved individual is ready to talk about the parent they lost. Don’t rush them. Rather, give them the opportunity to talk through their grief.

This phrase can help them focus on the good memories instead of the pain they’re feeling.

Supportive Grieving: What to Say to Someone Who Lost a Parent

Now you have options for what to say to someone who lost a parent. Instead of forcing their grief, you can support the individual through this difficult process. Remember to remind them that you’re there to offer your help along the way.

As a mother, supporting a child through their grief can feel challenging. Explore the Parenting section of our blog today for more helpful tips.

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