Let’s Talk About Sympathy

Helpful tips for approaching someone who is grieving.

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When someone you know loses a friend or family member, it’s not easy deciding when and how best to respond. You may find yourself unsure of what to say or do. Sometimes a simple phrase such as “I’m sorry for your loss.” can be extraordinarily meaningful. Here are some helpful tips on how to approach someone who is grieving:


Allowing a grieving person to express how they feel can be a huge help. Try to listen without offering advice or interrupting. Letting them share memories and talk about their loved one can be a part of the healing process.

Be Specific When Offering Help

Make a specific commitment to being with the person who needs you. Offering assistance with day-to-day matters can be very comforting, but be sure to offer something specific, such as “I’m coming over with groceries on Saturday.” That way, you’re offering help without placing the burden on the grieving person to figure out what to bring and when.

Navigate Social Media Appropriately
When acknowledging the news of a loss, stick with the communication medium through which you initially received the information. If the news came by phone call, return the call. If you learned about the death through social media, it is appropriate to reply on social media, just be sure to keep your message brief on public pages. More detailed expressions of sympathy should be conveyed in private posts.

Be Patient

It is normal for someone grieving to experience a range of emotions. It takes time to heal, so be patient and allow them to grieve at their own pace.

Send a Card

Show your concern and support by sending a card. You can even put your own personal message inside.

Don’t Minimize Their Pain

It is important to keep the focus on the grieving person. Resist the urge to share stories of times that you’ve lost a loved one. Let your friend or family member share their own stories and memories and listen. has created an online sympathy hub for tips and advice, directly from experts, on how best to express sympathy and condolences. Topics include Appropriate Sympathy Etiquette Across Different Religions, How to Write a Eulogy, How to Create a Memory Garden and How to Cope With Grief Around The Holidays.

Expressing sympathy doesn’t have to be scary. Our goal is to help people have a greater understanding about how to help their friends, family and coworkers in coping with a loss. For us, this is about being a resource to people in their time of need and making their experience a little easier to manage. For more information, visit our sympathy resource at

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