What to Say When Someone Dies That You Don't Know

Published June 4, 2021
Woman offering condolences to mourners

Death is difficult. Plain and simple. Finding the words to comfort someone who has lost a person close to them can be challenging, especially when you didn't know the deceased personally. Knowing what to say when someone dies that you didn't know can still be personal and intimate, with careful thought and consideration.

Focus on What You Do Know

If you didn't know the deceased, it makes it hard to personalize messages of understanding and support in difficult times. Use what you do know to express your sentiments. You didn't know the person who passed, but you know the person who loved them, so use that.

  • He/she was so lucky to have you in his/her life.
  • (Name of deceased) left this earth, but lives on in you.
  • I am so sorry for your pain.
  • I know that when (name of deceased) was alive, you gave them your everything.
  • You are a wonderful friend to me, so I know that you were a wonderful friend to (deceased).
  • This is hard, but you are so strong. You'll get through this.
  • (Name of deceased) would be so proud of how you have handled yourself through this loss.
  • The bad times do not define you, but how you move through them does. You are a testament to what it means to be resilient in the face of tragedy.

Be a Support in Actions and Words

You can not take the pain of loss away for anyone, but you can offer comfort and support with your actions and words. If someone close to you lost a person you didn't know, express your sympathies by reminding them that they have a shoulder to cry on in you.

  • Whatever you need in your time of loss, I am here.
  • I am always only a phone call away.
  • If you need me, I'll come running.
  • Take your time to heal, and I'll be ready to hang out when you are up to it.
  • There are no words for times like this. Just know you are in my thoughts during this difficult time.
  • You don't have to face this alone.
  • I am here to help you in all things.
  • I am your friend in good times and in bad times.
  • I wish I could take your pain away.
  • When you feel like you can not go on, I'll be there to hold you up.
  • We will make it through this loss together.
  • We are behind you no matter what you need. Just say the word.

Allow Them to Own Their Feelings

When someone passes, it sometimes feels right to jump in and tell a person that you know how they feel. Do you, though? If you have not suffered a loss of life, you probably don't know the feeling up close and personally. Even if you have lost someone close to you, everyone processes grief differently. Carefully offer support to a friend who lost someone you never knew by giving empathy and understanding, but also allow them to own their feelings of deep sadness.

  • I can not imagine how challenging this has been for you.
  • If you ever want to talk, I am here to listen.
  • I didn't know (deceased), but I would love to hear all about him/her when you are ready to speak about him/her.
  • I don't know what you are going through, but I know that I love you and support you.
  • Help me help you.
  • You and (deceased) will always share a bond, and nothing can break that, not even death.
  • However your grief comes out is fine by me.
  • There is no right way to deal with something like this.

Offer Your Services

If words are difficult for you in times like this, offer condolences to someone who has lost someone through actions. They might be too devastated to carry out decisions and plans leading up to a funeral, especially if someone passed away unexpectedly. Because you didn't have a connection with the deceased, it might be easy for you to step in and take some of the duties off of your friend's grieving shoulders.

  • Can I accompany you to the funeral home?
  • Would it be okay if I started a meal train for your family?
  • Could we donate to a charity or organization close to (deceased's) heart?
  • Is there a list of people you need me to notify about the loss?
  • Would it be helpful if I took the kids off of your hands so that you could plan a funeral?

Support Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes

Just as people grieve for a lost loved one differently, support can look different, too, depending on who is giving the comfort. The key thing about comforting someone who is in emotional pain is to be there for them in a way that makes sense to you. When the right words won't come, actions might be a better expression of love for a friend who is floundering. If you are good with words, choose ones that are personal, sentimental, and from the heart. The key to helping someone move through a loss, even when you didn't know the person who passed, is to be compassionate, patient, and empathetic.

What to Say When Someone Dies That You Don't Know