What Do You Say to a Griever?

You want to express your condolences when a friend, employee or colleague is grieving, but it’s common to worry about saying the wrong thing. Read on to learn thoughtful ways to express yourself and what not to say to someone who is grieving. 

Sympathy cards for a colleague or employee.

Unsure about what to write in a sympathy card? Here are a few ideas:

  1. I am so sorry for your loss.
  2. We are thinking about you and your family.
  3. My favorite memory of your loved one is…
  4. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.
  5. I wish I had the right words. Know that I care and I’m thinking about you.
  6. My heart goes out to you and your loved ones.
  7. Sending healing prayers and comforting hugs.
  8. I’m grateful I got to meet/know __________. Sending my deepest condolences.
  9. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in any way that I can.
  10. Please know that I am here to listen and lean on at times like this.

Top 10 Worst Things to Say to Someone Grieving.

  1. At least she lived a long life. (Any statement that begins with “at least” is the wrong thing to say.)
  2. He’s in a better place.
  3. She brought this on herself.
  4. There is a reason for everything.
  5. Aren’t you over him yet? He has been dead for a while now.
  6. You can still have another child.
  7. She was such a good person. God wanted her to be with Him.
  8. I know how you feel.
  9. She did what she came to do, and it was her time to go.
  10. Be strong

The Worst Things a Manager Can Say to a Grieving Employee.

1 – Take as long as you need.

someone who is grieving, griever, what not to sayWhile this sounds like a generous statement, it’s vague and confusing. Depending on how much PTO they’ve earned, a grieving employee might not be in a financial position to take much unpaid time off once their bereavement leave is over.  From your perspective, you have no idea what “all the time” might be and you do need and want your employee back in the office. Companies need their employees to be fulfilling projects and workload. 

Instead, consider if there are specific ways to support your employee like offering a flexible work schedule for the time being. If that’s not possible, offer an office space or conference room where your employee can retreat if they need to collect their thoughts. Some companies also allow other employees to donate PTO hours to an employee struggling with a life disruption.

2 – How do you feel today?

Instead, ask your employee: “How much capacity do you have right now—or today?”

Can some of their assignments be shifted to other members of the team or put on hold temporarily? 

Likely, your employee would appreciate finding normalcy in their work life while their personal life has chaos. If they are capable of offering value for a few hours at a time, provide this opportunity while they adjust to the changes in their life. You will both benefit.

3 – When will you be back?

Your first contact with your employee should be to simply offer your condolences and support. Make sure your employee is aware of your organization’s Bereavement, PTO and Employee Assistance Program as well as  any other benefits that they might find helpful. 

Now that we’ve established what not to say, here are some of the best things to say to someone who is grieving. 

Top 10 BEST Things to Say to Someone Who is Grieving.

  1. I am so sorry for your loss.
  2. I wish I had the right words, just know I care.
  3. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in any way that I can.
  4. You and your loved ones will be in my thoughts and prayers.
  5. My favorite memory of your loved one is…
  6. I am always a phone call away.
  7. Offer a hug instead of saying anything.
  8. We all need help at times like this. I am here for you.
  9. I am usually up early/late, whenever you need me.
  10. Say nothing. Just be with this person.

And remember, don’t be afraid to say the name of the person who has died. People in grief love to hear the name of their loved one. It helps keep their memory alive.



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