What form of condolences should you use, and in which cases?

Published on August 15, 2016

  • Rituals

Much more than just a social convention, condolences pay tribute to the deceased and express your compassion to their loved ones. But when a person we know passes on, we don’t always know just how to express our sympathies to their loved ones, support them, or offer them some comfort, which is so necessary when in mourning. Depending on the type of relationship you have with the deceased or the mourner, there is an appropriate form of condolences that lets you respect customs without committing any impropriety.

The appropriate forms of condolences when the deceased was somebody close to you

When you attend a loved one’s funeral, it’s generally possible to express your condolences to the family members after the ceremony, and to write them on a register, or leave them in a box, or even leave a message on the form accompanying the online obituary. Generally speaking, the closer you are to the deceased, the more you can compose personal messages that differ from the classical forms of condolences, since you can instead speak your heart in your own words. But nothing is stopping you from using the standard forms such as “Please accept my deepest sympathies.”

The appropriate forms of condolences when you are close to the person in mourning

Depending on the affinity you have with the mourner and the implication you wish to express through your condolences, it’s possible to adopt a conventional or a more personal tone.

Here are some forms in a relatively conventional tone:

– “It was with the greatest sadness that we heard of your loss.”
– “We can only imagine your grief and pain, and you are very strongly in our thoughts.”
Or, in a more personal tone:
– “We were shaken up by this sudden loss and we feel your pain.”
– “Please know that we are by your side and support you in these challenging times.”

This can be accompanied by a short sentence offering your assistance in a concrete manner, such as:
“If I can help you through this ordeal by offering support or help in any way, don’t hesitate to turn to me.”

The appropriate forms of condolences for a professional relation who has just lost a loved one

If you aren’t close to the mourner:
– All my condolences;
– My sincere condolences;
– With you in your grief;
– We’re thinking of you;
– We’re thinking of you (in your moments of grief);
– We share your grief;
– We share your pain;
– We share your sorrow;
– With my deepest sympathies;
– With all my sympathy;
– With prayers and sympathy;
– With our warm thoughts and prayers;
– You are in our thoughts;
– We share your pain and offer our sincere condolences to you and your family.

If the mourner is a close colleague:
– I am deeply touched by your loss and share your grief;
– I am with you with all my heart and share your pain;
– It was with great sorrow that I came to learn of this sad news. I share your pain.

Words often seem too simplistic to express the true sadness and emptiness caused by the loss of the departed. In addition, there’s also the fear of not being able to find the right words, or awkwardly expressing your thoughts. By using the suitable forms of condolences, it’s possible to send a sympathy message and show your support while avoiding making a blunder.

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