Expressing Condolences

When a person dies, it’s our natural impulse to want to reach out to the family with words of sympathy. Some people are reluctant to do so, though, fearing they’ll say the wrong thing. Bereaved families need the support of others, so we’ve come up with a few simple rules to guide you in the proper way to express condolences.

  • Say it simply. “I’m sorry for your loss.” “You are in my thoughts.” “This must be hard for you.” “He/she was a wonderful person who will be truly missed.” All of these are perfectly acceptable ways to express sympathy in a simple, honest way.

  • Avoid clichés. Don’t say “He’s in a better place” or “Everything happens for a reason.” Don’t say, “I know exactly how you’re feeling” or “How are you holding up?” because the answers to those are “No you don’t” and “Not so well.” Think about your words before you say them, and check to make sure they’re not insensitive or condescending.

  • Feel free to send a card. If you tend to choke when speaking about something difficult, it may be best to send a card or letter. That way, you can plan carefully and really think about what you want to say as you’re writing it down.

  • Flowers express sympathy without words. The most popular and traditional way to send condolences, flowers can be sent to the funeral home, for display during the funeral, or directly to the family. You can also choose to send a potted plant or tree, for a longer lasting memorial gift. Different flowers have different meanings, and some cultures do not associate flowers with funerals, so make sure the family in accepting flowers before you order them.

  • Sometimes people prefer donations. Families sometimes ask for donations to charity in lieu of flowers, especially if the charity was important to the person who has died. Even if no such charity is designated, if you know the family well enough to choose an appropriate charity, aligned with their beliefs, you may choose to designate a donation as a tribute to the person who has passed away.

Since 1843, the Cincinnati Catholic Cemetery Society has worked to help Greater Cincinnati families plan their final arrangements and commit loved ones to the peace of our Lord. Well-versed in funeral etiquette, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have. Dedicated to caring compassionate service, we are committed to helping Catholics plan funeral services for their loved ones and find burial space in consecrated grounds, as well as providing preneed services for those who wish to preplan their own funerals. Visit our website to learn more about us and find out how we can help you plan a meaningful funeral.

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