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Helpful tip: Hospice care tends to last from several days to six months. For someone who spends months in hospice, there will be more opportunities to write and visit, so consider reaching out multiple times.
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When death shakes a family’s foundation, offering words of condolences when their family member is dying is one of the many ways of being there for them. Saying words of love and encouragement can mean the world to a person who is suffering the loss of their loved one. Even if it feels challenging, know that you don’t need to say anything profound or offer expert advice.
Sharing your sincere sentiments can go a long way in helping others cope with their grief. Nothing takes away their immediate pain and suffering, but they can find some measure of comfort in your expressed condolences.
If you have a friend who is dealing with the impending loss of a cherished loved one, here are some words to share in person or on the phone. Sharing in their grief helps create a sense of community and will help your friend and their family feel less isolated.
Post-loss tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, the emotional and technical aspects of handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one’s family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.
Deciding what to say can sometimes be the hardest thing to do. Should you do it in person? By phone? Or by text? Some people don’t know what to say, and thus say nothing at all. They create this awkward situation that leaves them feeling shame and guilt over not having offered their condolences.
The more time that passes, the harder it is to address the family’s loss and grieving. Not saying anything at all is one of the worst things you can do when someone you know is suffering the death of their loved one.
Was this someone whom you only saw on occasion, or was it someone who played a major role in your life? Are you closer to certain family members than to the deceased? Are you expressing your condolences out of respect for the family’s loss? Or do you share in their pain and suffering? You should consider all these things when deciding what to say and how to say it.
Another common thing to say is, “ May God be with you during your time of grief. ” Be mindful when offering condolences centered on religion or spirituality. Not everyone has the same belief system, and some may not be open about their religion, faith, and spirituality. Other ways of expressing condolences vary among the different cultures in our society.
According to Tracy, it’s stressful for someone in hospice to worry about how loved ones will get along without them. So even though it probably feels far from okay to lose someone close to you, it’s important to communicate that you will be okay, and that important people and pets will be taken care of, too.
Helpful tip: It’s fine to honestly acknowledge how awful or unfair it is that this person you care about is dying. But don’t dwell there. Try to follow the acknowledgement with comfort: “This is so hard, but it’s good to know you’re home with your family around you…” Or, “I really hate the thought of losing you, but I’m glad you don’t have to keep struggling so hard anymore…”
It’s also helpful for a person who is dying to hear they added something good to the world, their life mattered, and their influence will live on—in things they achieved, lessons they taught, traditions you’ll keep, and beyond.
Helpful tip: “The end of life is hard, but it can also be beautiful,” Marn says. “So be present however you can. Do your best to make it about that person and not about you or your nervousness about saying the wrong thing.”
Your loved one who is dying of cancer might like to know that their family and friends care about them. Even though you don’t feel like you’re doing anything, just being there sends a message that you love. You can say or do the following things to help them on their final journey:
Death is a sensitive topic, and what you say following death will depend largely on the circumstances. When death comes as a surprise, the shock might be even greater. When a loved one dies, these are some of the most common encouraging phrases to say to their loved ones:
To say goodbye to someone you care about requires time and effort; it is not something you can do in a split second. What to say to a family when someone is dying doesn’t need to be formal. After you’ve said what has to be said, keep showing your support and love. Speak from the depths of your soul and trust your intuition. Be guided by the love you have for one another.