When a friend, co-worker, family member, or a public figure you admire posts news of a loved one’s death, your first instinct is to reply with condolences. But it can be a daunting task to post something meaningful and show your support. It’s normal to question everything you type or come up with a perfect message that doesn’t sound cliche. However, you can follow a few basic guidelines to write a sensitive, kind message that shows your support.
Consider your relationship and why you want to post
If you’re close to the person who posted the death news, a personal message or a phone call may be better. However, a call can be intrusive because they might be busy.
A simple message is best when the person is not a very close relative or friend. If it’s a celebrity or public figure, a simple comment sharing your love and support for them is a better option. Keep the messages brief. A long message may come off as though you’re trying to show how supportive you are.
Avoid generic messages
Avoid posting Bible verses or quotes which try to contextualise the loss. Saying things like “everything happens for a reason” or telling people to read a specific Bible verse can make it appear like you’re telling them death is something they should get used to.
Generic messages like “they’re in a better place” are also odd because it’s likely that your friend would prefer to have their loved one back in their home. It can also be offensive, especially if the person doesn’t share your beliefs. If the loved one died after an illness, don’t share how death has at least freed them from pain. This can be insensitive.
Don’t make your shock at the news of the death your friend’s problem. You can express your surprise to your friends. But don’t post, “I can’t believe it.” Instead, think about what you would like to hear during such a hard time. An outpouring of love and support is better than performing.
Tell your friend that you are there for them. Make yourself available for what assistance they need, which you can provide. Be as brief as possible, and don’t keep sending multiple messages. If, for example, your friend has lost a spouse, you can contact their sibling and offer whatever services you can. You can attend any meetings or share that you can volunteer for funeral committee duties. Be specific in how you can offer assistance, whether it’s babysitting, doing house chores, sending care packages, or coordinating communication.
Read also: How To Handle Family Gatherings After The Death Of A Family Member
If you’re not close with the bereaved person, don’t act as if you know them. Don’t try to give advice, such as “You will always have their memories.” You don’t know if the memories are painful or a good thing. Stick to straightforward comments like, “I am sorry for your loss. I’m thinking of you and your loved ones at this time.”
Don’t personalise their pain
Don’t reply to news about the death with how you also went through the same thing. Don’t also share platitudes like, “Time heals all wounds.” You don’t know the scale of their loss. Offering love and support is enough. If they need space or someone to listen to them, offer an ear or let them be.
If you had a long-lost loved one who died, don’t tell your friend that at least they got a chance to say goodbye when you didn’t.
Don’t try to cheer them up
Death isn’t something that can be dealt with by raising moods. Don’t bombard the person with funny memes or try to make them look for the bright side. Unless the person specifically asks for some comedy or to be cheered up, stick to offering support and sharing condolences.
Don’t ask too many questions
If the details haven’t been released yet, you may naturally be curious about what caused the death of the loved one. However, asking too many questions just after they’ve posted the news is inappropriate. It can be cruel to ask for answers or start speculating about what happened. Wait until they release the information.
This could be especially important if the person died by suicide. A lot of harmful misinformation can be spread about suicide. If you see people speaking inappropriately about it, call them out and try to get them to take down their replies.
Keep showing up
Once the funeral is finished, many people stop posting messages of support. However, your friend is likely still grieving. Keep checking on them with visits where possible, calls, and messages. Offer to listen, share memories or get their minds off things with simple activities should they need that kind of support.
If you’re not close with the person, you can still send simple, straightforward messages of support. Social media responses may seem enough, but a note of condolence or a personal chat can go a long way in showing support. When a person you know has experienced loss, the first step is to send a message of support. A brief, genuine reply to the news works better than making jokes or sending advice.
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