1. What to say

At the beginning, it's often more important for the bereaved to feel your presence than to hear anything you might say. Don’t feel you must have something to say. Especially with fresh grief, your embrace, your touch and your sincere sorrow are all the mourner may need. There are no words that will take away the pain of the loss. From personal experience I found NOBODY said any words that made a difference in my pain.

Phrases that DO help   Phrases that DON'T help
I call these phrases "door openers." They invite the bereaved to share their pain and memories with the listener. Your greatest gift is your invitation to talk, while you listen - offering no advice or judgment.

"This must be very painful for you."(Then the griever can feel free to describe the pain.)

"You must have been very close to him." (The survivor can then talk about their relationship.)

"I have no idea of what it must be like for you; I've never had a (spouse/child/parent) die. Can you tell me what it's like?" (Then listen.)

"It must be hard to accept." (Listen as they tell you their difficulties.)

"I really miss (name of deceased). He was a special person. But my missing him cant compare with how much you must miss him. Tell me what it's like." (Then listen)

  "She/he isn’t hurting anymore" and "It must have been his time" are examples of remarks that are seldom helpful. You may have already said some of these phrases, hoping to be comforting. If so, don’t be hard on yourself or feel guilty; just avoid them next time.

“Time will heal." (Time alone does not heal, though it helps. We need time in addition to working through the grief).

"It was God’s will." (First learn what the survivor's religious belief is. Some people may be comforted by the thought that a death is "God’s will"; to others it can be insulting or harmful.)

"I know how you feel." (None of us, even dealing with a similar situation, knows exactly how another feels.)

"Be thankful you have another child." (This diminishes the importance of the child who died.)

"There must have been a reason." (The griever's own search for a reason for the death is more important than any answer you can give. Don’t superimpose your beliefs.)