34 Tips on What to Say and Do When Someone Loses a Parent

You just received the phone call or saw the Facebook post. Your friend’s dad or mom passed. They’re sharing the news with close friends, and you’re in that circle.

How do you feel right now? Scared? Uncertain? Sad? Uncomfortable? These are all normal emotions that emerge when standing next to grief. Unfortunately, even best friends sometimes avoid talking about this discomfort.

If you want to support a grieving friend, it’s important to remember that there isn’t a perfect response. Grief can feel incredibly overwhelming to someone who has lost a parent. You won’t fix things, and you can’t change the situation. But here’s what to say to someone who lost their mom or dad.

Sympathy Messages When Someone Loses a Parent

Even if you don’t know this person all that well, it’s compassionate to offer your support. A grieving person can never feel too loved, particularly if they feel alone in their struggles. Here are some text messages or notes you can send:

I just want to offer my deepest condolences for your loss.

I am so sorry to hear this shocking news.

They will be greatly missed.

I am completely here for you.

I love you and am thinking of you during this difficult time.

Even though I didn’t know him/her, they sounded like an amazing person.

I have so many beautiful memories of them.

I am just reaching out to offer my deepest sympathy for your loss.

I know there are no words, but I am thinking of you right now.

You and your entire family are in my thoughts.

What to Say When It’s a Close Friend

Death often hits differently when the grieving person is a close friend. You may have known their parent or been around their family for many years. You may have very much felt their dad or mom’s love yourself. Regardless of the exact situation, here are some helpful ways to start the conversation:

I don’t know the right words to say right now, but I am truly so sorry for your loss.

I am so sorry- this is just awful.

Your mom/dad must have been wonderful to raise someone as incredible as you.

Your family is like a second family to me. Please know I’m here to listen.

Your mother was an amazing woman. This is so hard to hear.

I know your dad was such a kind person.

This is devastating. I am devastated with you.

What Not to Say to Your Grieving Friend

When you offer condolences, aim to acknowledge feelings without assuming you understand the situation. Try to avoid platitudes about time healing things or someone being in a better place. Even if there may be some grain of truth to these sentiments, they can come across as insensitive when someone is acutely grieving.

When my mom died…

This is all part of God’s plan.

Did you ever get that sympathy card I sent you?

Your mom needs you to be strong right now for your kids.

My parent’s death reminds me of this situation.

Everything happens for a reason.

Now they’re in a better place.

You should definitely prioritize self-care right now.

Your dad died doing something he really loved.

I can’t imagine going through something like this.

At least your mom lived a full life.

The silver lining is that he’s no longer in pain anymore.

At least you have a lot of positive memories to look back on right now.

Practical Steps for Helping Someone Who Has Lost a Parent

There’s no doubt that your friend is having a tough time right now. Sympathy messages can be supportive, but focusing on tangible actions may provide more of an immediate impact.

Remember that any significant loss can affect the quality of your relationship. This is normal. Aim to be compassionate with your friend and remember that their mental health may be compromised right now.

Be as Present as Possible

Even if you don’t have the perfect words (and nobody does), sitting with your friend’s feelings and holding space matters. It’s okay to acknowledge the pain or discomfort.

Share a Favorite Memory

Amid grief, people want to share and talk about the loss directly. If you knew their parent, consider sharing the parts of them that you most loved. If you’re not sure if talking about the loss is the right thing to do, ask for permission. That said, your friend will probably love hearing those special memories.

Provide Practical Help

People often struggle with basic life tasks during the initial stages of grief. Picking up dinner, helping with childcare, or sitting with your friend as they navigate funeral options can help during this extremely difficult time.

Keep Checking In

People are often bombarded with sympathy messages in the initial days or weeks after death. But, after a few months, the text messages and calls drop off significantly. This usually coincides with someone needing the most support. So check in regularly, particularly around holidays like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Coping When You’ve Lost a Parent Yourself

If you’ve experienced this kind of loss, your friend’s dad or mom’s death may trigger your own complex emotions. It can be challenging to be a good listener or offer heartfelt condolences when you’re having a difficult time yourself. This may be particularly true if you had a more complicated relationship with your late parent.

It goes without saying that grief is one of the most difficult things in life. We aren’t taught to talk about death, and there are no words that truly capture the experience of losing a parent.

Grief therapy offers a safe and supportive environment to cope with such loss. No matter your type of grief- and whether you lost a parent recently or many years ago- I am here to listen unconditionally and give you the holding space you deserve for your feelings. Contact me today to get started.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759

(512) 988-3363

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