What to say to someone who lost a parent

what to say to someone who lost a parent

Losing a parent is an immense grief that can shake someone’s world. When your friend suffers such a devastating loss, you naturally want to support them through the pain. But it’s not always easy to find the right words.

As Sarah learned firsthand, the smallest gesture of comfort can make a big difference.

Sarah got an early morning call from her childhood friend, Eva. Through sobs, Eva told her the news that her mom passed away suddenly from a brain aneurysm. Sarah’s heart broke for her friend. She knew Eva and her mom were very close.

Though Sarah lost her own dad years ago, she struggled to find the words to comfort her grieving friend. “I’m so very sorry for your loss,” she started. Sensing her friend’s despair through the phone, she then asked, “What can I do for you?”

Eva asked if Sarah could come over to sit with her. Sarah rushed to her side within the hour. When Eva opened the door, Sarah wrapped her in a tight hug. At first, the friends just sat together, Eva sobbing into Sarah’s shoulder. Sarah rubbed her back gently without saying a word.

The simple comfort of her friend’s presence soothed Eva’s soul during the initial rawness of her grief. Sarah’s willingness to listen as Eva shared memories of her mom also reminded her that her mom would always remain alive in her heart.

Sarah’s thoughtful support demonstrates that comforting a grieving friend starts with showing up. No special words are required. However, understanding what to say and what to avoid can help you provide meaningful care as your friend processes their loss.

How to Offer Condolences

When you first learn about your friend’s loss, share a simple message of sympathy. You might say:

  • “I’m so very sorry to hear about your mom. Please accept my condolences.”
  • “My heart aches for you. I’m here for whatever you need.”
  • “You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.”

Keep any initial outreach brief. Avoid trying to cheer them up or say you understand exactly how they feel. Your message shows you care without making assumptions about their grieving process.

Tips for Comforting a Friend Who Lost a Parent

While your physical presence matters most, words of comfort can also help during a trying time. Keep these guidelines in mind:

Share positive memories: Reflecting on their parent’s legacy reminds your friend that happy memories can live on. You might say, “Your dad was so generous and wise. I’ll always remember how he helped me fix my car that one time.”

Reassure them: Comments like “Take things one moment at a time” and “This pain won’t last forever” reassure your friend they can survive this.

Acknowledge their grief: Phrases like “I can’t imagine how hard this must be” validate that it’s okay for them to feel devastated right now.

Offer practical help: Consider taking on tasks for your friend, like bringing meals, driving them to appointments, or helping with financial issues. Don’t just ask what you can do. Offer specific examples of ways you can help.

Listen without judgment: Sometimes a grieving person just needs to talk through their emotions. Listen attentively without feeling like you must “fix” their pain.

What Not to Say to a Grieving Friend

Avoid hollow platitudes that can invalidate their grief:

  • “They’re in a better place now.” This may not align with their beliefs.
  • “Everything happens for a reason.” Reasons provide no comfort in their raw pain.
  • “Time heals all wounds.” Grief has no set timeline and can resurface over the years.
  • “At least they lived a long life.” Length of life doesn’t make the loss less painful.
  • “I know exactly how you feel.” Every bereavement journey is unique.

While you can’t take away your friend’s heartache, small gestures that say “I care” speak volumes. By being present and offering realistic comfort, you help them feel less alone during the grieving process. Your support reminds them that eventually, the warm memories of their beloved parent will outweigh the pain of loss.

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