Chapter 1: Communication essentials

Offering condolences

The grief expert says
Dr. Chris MacKinnon speaks to the importance of offering condolences after the death. (3:22)Video transcript

Several common phrases are used when speaking with someone about serious illness, dying, death, and grief. Some expressions of sympathy, while well meaning, can have the opposite effect. They can be unintentionally insensitive and shut down conversation.


Simple and heartfelt expressions of sympathy are often all that’s needed.


Phrases to use Phrases to avoid
We'd like to offer our condolences. He's in a better place.
I'm sorry for your loss. At least her suffering is over.
This must be a difficult time for you. At least he's with (another person who died).
  God doesn't give us anything we can't handle. It was God's will. 


If you’d like to go further, the best approach is to use open-ended prompts that are exploratory, relationship-building and respectful.

Conversation Prompts

Tell me about your Mom.