Expressing sympathy when a friend has lost a loved one

It is hard to know what to say or do when a friend or co-worker has lost a loved one. Your relationship with them, the circumstances of the death, and other issues can make us feel awkward and unsure. Fortunately, there are many great resources out there to help you convey your feelings in a meaningful way.

One of the most important things to do is show you care, and to be supportive. If you knew the deceased personally, sharing stories of the time you spent with them is a great idea, as is talking about the positive impact they had on your life. Those glimpses into their life and the legacy they left can be very special for grieving family members. If you're trying to follow proper etiquette, it's best to send a note, gift or flowers within two weeks of the funeral. However, you can do it later, as long as you feel it is appropriate.

Sometimes, a simple offer of help is the best gift. Immediately following a death, there's often plenty of help. But after that initial rush of activity fades away, people in mourning still need support. Reach out to your friend to offer a helping hand, whether that means bringing a meal, running an errand, an offer of a listening ear, or other means of assistance.

The important thing is to make a gesture that lets the family know you’re thinking of them and share their sorrow. Whether you want to leave a condolence message in an online guest book, send a sympathy card or flower arrangement, or show you care in another way, the experts at Hallmark share practical tips of what to say and how to help in the links below.

What to write in a sympathy card

Ways to help immediately after a loss

How to help in the weeks, months and years following their loss