Words of condolence are never easy, but they can be even more difficult when you do not know the grieving individual very well. There are a few tips that can help.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that people usually go wrong in expressing sympathy when they try do too much.
Condole: To express sympathy or sorrow: I condoled with him in his loss.
-American Heritage Dictionary
Making a simple expression of sympathy is all that you can do so most situations.
Does this situation sound familiar? Somebody you know is experiencing heart-ache and everybody is walking on egg shells around them. After the death of his wife, C.S Lewis describes, in A Grief Observed how he experienced this.
“An odd byproduct of my loss is that I am aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. At work, at the club, in the street, I see people as them approach me trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ’say something about it’ or not.”
There is a fine line between being comfortable around grief and not trivializing the pain of the bereaved. Grieving individuals sometimes wish that people would not feel awkward around them. At the same time, it is also baffling how many people can be insensitive.
Here is a no-fail way to be supportive and sensitive.
Ask non-invasive and open-ended questions, such as:
• “How are you coping today?”
• “I am so sorry for your loss.”
• “Could I help you…”
Don’t try to minimize their sorrow. It is common for people to make statements like, “He is in a better place now” in an effort to comfort, however these statements actually can be offensive.
See this list of common sympathy phrases you must avoid.
Whether or not you get an opportunity to speak to a grieving friend or co-worker, you should also send a sympathy card. Writing words of condolence can be much easier than speaking to a grieving individual. Our condolence letter examples can really help you write a comforting sympathy message.
Expressing Sympathy in the Workplace
According to Peggy Post and Peter Post of the Etiquette Advantage in Business, the following advice will help you support a bereaved co-worker.
• Attend funeral services.
• Send flowers to the home or to the service.
• Collect money from other co-workers for sending flowers as a group.
• Send a card or letter to the house, even if you sent flowers.
• Offer practical help. It can be somethings as simple as, “I will check you phone messages for you.”
• Send a gift basket to the home or consider asking co-workers to commit to a week long schedule of delivery dinners to the family.
Find great tips for arranging meals, free sign-up sheet and reminder cards, here.