5 Rules Of Condolences Etiquette

By on May 11, 2021

When you know someone who had just experienced the loss of a loved one, your immediate reaction is to reach out and offer your deepest sympathies. That’s instinctive. But sometimes, words can fail a person. Offering condolences can be difficult when you don’t know what to say, or how to say it. You know your compassion is genuine, and you share their pain, but sometimes, it can all be overwhelming. 

Expressing your sympathy can be hard. You worry about how your offer of sympathy would be interpreted or that you might sound insincere. Loss is a part of life, and the reality is that during these difficult times, there’s a good chance that someone you know, or someone close to you, has lost a loved one at one point. Sometimes, all you can do is just be there for them for there are times when actions speak louder than words. 

Be There For Them 

One thing you must remember when you don’t know what to say and you’re worried about how you’d sound is don’t sweat too much about it. It’s not about you. Communicate as best as you can to show your sympathy and deep care for the grieving person’s pain.

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Don’t worry about sounding too clichéd. ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’ may sound like an empty platitude, but it’s also an accurate and concise way of conveying how you feel. Let them know that you’re available to them and offer emotional support or any other practical help. It’s also fine to send funeral flowers.   

Below are other rules of condolence etiquette to remember:

  • Reaching Out To The Bereaved

After you’ve confirmed the news, it’s alright to directly contact the grieving person. Use courtesy, common sense, and compassion as guides if you’re at a loss to what to say. A phone call can be thoughtful, but remember that it might go unanswered or go straight to their phone’s voicemail. They might be inundated with a wave of phone calls from people expressing their condolences like you. 

If you know the bereaved well enough, pay them a visit. But keep in mind that there are people who handle grief in different ways. Some might welcome your presence while others might want to grieve privately. In whichever case, respect their wishes always. If there’s a funeral wake, offer your condolences to the family briefly. Don’t forget that other people also want to do the same thing. 

It’s proper etiquette to offer assistance along with condolences. Do what you can to comfort them, even if it means giving them space. Just let them know that you’re available if ever they need help.            

  • Offering Condolences In Writing

It’s also perfectly fine to put down in writing your condolences and send them via text or email. Moreover, if you found out about the sad news because the person announced it on social media, it’s all right to send your message of sympathy through the same platform. However, refrain from using emojis in your message. 

You can follow it up with a handwritten letter or card. The recipient knowing you took the time to write and send either of those during such times can mean a lot to them.  

  • Focus On the Bereaved

When talking with the bereaved, avoid comparisons to your own life. Show your compassion and not empathy. In this situation, empathy, which is identifying with what others feel, might be inappropriate. 

Empathy is a good thing, but it could lead to comparison. Remember, this isn’t about you. Therefore, avoid referencing your experiences with the loss they’re experiencing. People deal with grief differently. What you could do instead is share an endearing story or memory about the deceased.

  • Ease Up On Platitudes

Using statements like, ‘At least they’re no longer in pain,’ ‘They’re now in a better place,’ ‘It’s God’s plan,’ or ‘It’s meant to be,’ may sound insensitive for some people. Let the bereaved create meaning or interpretations from their loss on their own.  

You also shouldn’t say things such as, ‘Now you can finally move on.’ Death may seem like a relief, especially if the deceased suffered from a prolonged illness. But showing compassion also means letting them deal with grief at their own pace. There are no magical words guaranteed to take away a person’s grief, so don’t try. All you can do is support the grieving person.            

  • Late Condolences Are Fine

If you’re sending a letter, text, message, or email, don’t worry about it being behind schedule. It’s okay if some time has already passed. After all, the bereaved may have probably received tons of the same messages immediately after the event. 

Messages of sympathy from people would then gradually disappear. To receive a message or note of sympathy at such a time, whether it’s among the barrage of early messages or comes at a much later time, could bring comfort and a blanket of coziness to the recipient.  

Expressing sympathy isn’t always easy. It’s normal to feel at a loss about what to say to someone who has just experienced a loss of a loved one. Avoid platitudes, but saying ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ is fine. Let compassion, common sense, and courtesy be your guide.

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5 Rules Of Condolences Etiquette