The phrase 'sorry for your loss'

(227 Posts)
Numberlock Thu 26-Sep-13 11:10:13

It's so trite, where did it come from? It seems a fairly recent thing.

I can't stand euphemisms at the best of times, what's wrong with saying 'Sorry to hear about xxxx'?

'Loss' sounds like you've misplaced a handbag or credit card...

mrsbingle Thu 26-Sep-13 11:12:59

I think it arrived via American TV. I remember it vividly in NYPD Blue!

Numberlock Thu 26-Sep-13 11:13:52

Should have known it's another thing we have America to blame for...

VenusDeWillendorf Thu 26-Sep-13 11:14:06

It's a very common expression in Ireland, and is surprisingly effective at a funeral. It says a lot without gushing.

I think it best not to get uptight about semantics with regards to things like this as some people would probably avoid speaking to someone who had been recently bereaved if they had to worry about saying the wrong things and this would be sad.

Numberlock Thu 26-Sep-13 11:15:48

What's wrong with sorry? More dumbing down of the English language.

mrsfuzzy Thu 26-Sep-13 11:25:21

HATE, HATE, HATE the expression but then i don't like 'have a nice day' either, a pointless expression,

HoldMeCloserTonyDanza Thu 26-Sep-13 11:27:26

It's neither an Americanism nor dumbing down hmm

It's just a phrase to express comfort to the bereaved at a very difficult time.

If you have the eloquence not to need stock phrases that's great but many people don't. They feel awkward and as madame said, it's much better they say something rather than nothing.

Beeyump Thu 26-Sep-13 11:28:50

What is trite about it? confused You are sorry that the person you are addressing no longer has a loved one in their life, you are sorry that they are experiencing grief and loss

Numberlock Thu 26-Sep-13 11:30:27

Thank god someone agrees with me mrsfuzzy.

FrauMoose Thu 26-Sep-13 11:30:35

When my father died - five years back - I was grateful for all expressions of sympathy and all messages of condolence. I did not sort them into those which I considered 'acceptable' and those which did not meet my literary standards. Frankly I had rather more important things to deal with at the time.

DejaVuAllOverAgain Thu 26-Sep-13 11:30:53

Agree with Madamecastafiore. So many people are worried about saying the wrong thing that they say nothing which can leave the bereaved feeling worse. At least this way people are saying something rather than avoiding the person which can make them feel isolated.

exexpat Thu 26-Sep-13 11:34:39

Nothing you can say to someone when they have been bereaved will actually make them feel any better, but that phrase is an inoffensive way of expressing sympathy.

People often struggle to know what to say when someone has died, so they resort to set phrases - not a problem, as far as I am concerned.

I would much rather that than the people who, when DH died, came out with platitudes like "he's in a better place", which I found insensitive/offensive (but obviously did not say so).

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Thu 26-Sep-13 11:35:51

For that matter someone somewhere came up with 'dumbing down' which irritates me more.

As far as grief goes maybe the bereaved would rather hear a mumbled effort using a hackneyed expression than see people cross the street to avoid them for fear of saying the wrong thing.

CoffeeTea103 Thu 26-Sep-13 11:38:28

What's contrite about it. It's expressing sympathy and the thought behind it is most important. It seems like someone has a problem with every word these days.

IloveJudgeJudy Thu 26-Sep-13 11:41:16

I don't think there's anything at all wrong with it, especially if you don't know the people involved very well. You don't know their relationship dynamics. It's a phrase that expresses that you know that someone has died and you want to say something to the people left behind. It's so much better than saying merely "Sorry", or, even worse, nothing at all.

ifyourehoppyandyouknowit Thu 26-Sep-13 11:41:33

I don't see the problem, it says exactly what people are trying to express - I am sorry for all that you have lost.

sue52 Thu 26-Sep-13 11:41:51

It's a standard phrase in Ireland. It sums up feelings well. You have lost a loved one and people are sorry for you.

ButThereAgain Thu 26-Sep-13 11:41:52

What's wrong with it? Why is it more euphemistic than "Sorry to hear about ..." (Unless the "..." is filled with something deliberately dysphemistic). The bereaved person has lost someone. It is a frank and simple acknowledgement of that. And none the worse for being a conventional phrase: it makes a recognised, readily available space for the concern that we want to show. There are occasions when it is appropriate to show that concern in words that are original, individual, but other occasions when a formula is helpful, for example between people who don't know each other well.

waterlego Thu 26-Sep-13 11:43:07

I agree with the majority here. I have recently lost my dad and much prefer these sort of expressions to people saying nothing at all. One friend who I've known for 10 years didn't acknowledge the text I sent her to say that my dad had died. When I spoke to her some weeks later, she didn't mention my bereavement at all so I asked if she'd received the text. She said that she had but that she hadn't known what to say. I found that hurtful and would have preferred to hear any number of platitudes, even clumsy or trite ones.

But on the subject of 'I'm sorry', my brother phoned a utility company to report my dad's death as he had been the account holder. The woman on the phone said 'I apologise for your loss', which was just utterly bizarre.

PostBellumBugsy Thu 26-Sep-13 11:45:01

I've just written exactly that on a card for a work colleague. I don't know her that well & don't know all the details but it seemed better than not sending a card at all or starting to mention dying or death.

Hadn't realised that some people thought it was trite or somehow not a good way to express sympathy.

Teapigging Thu 26-Sep-13 11:46:05

As I said on the other thread, it's not remotely recent. In Ireland, it's a formula you would use as you move along the line of the mourners at the 'removal' part of a funeral. You are shaking hands with everyone, including people you don't know, and whose relationship to the dead person you don't know, and you have a big crowd of people coming behind you, so it's not the moment to be original or verbose.

I wouldn't say it to someone I was close to, or write it in a card, because its a bit impersonal in those circumstances. It's not a recent US import to Ireland.

MrsBungle Thu 26-Sep-13 11:47:14

I don't see anything at all wrong with it. I totally agree with exexpat that it is much better than the "she's in a better place" type comments.

harticus Thu 26-Sep-13 11:48:15

It is incredibly hard to find the correct words to express sympathy/empathy over a bereavement.
"Sorry for your loss" is as good as any I suppose.

After the sudden death of a very close relative a friend came to visit who did not mention the death at all because she "didn't know what to say and she felt uncomfortable talking about it".
It was rightly interpreted as rude and uncaring. Far better to employ a cliché than nothing at all.

ShatnersBassoon Thu 26-Sep-13 11:48:26

I agree that it's better not to nitpick about such things. Expression of sympathy is very tricky, so people use stock phrases to avoid making a blunder with their own choice of words.

AmberDextrous Thu 26-Sep-13 11:48:27

I just say I'm sorry to hear about so and so
Sorry for your loss sounds scripted and odd to me
But I am sure all phrases like these are said with the kindest of intentions in such situations

MrsBungle Thu 26-Sep-13 11:48:30

Also- I totally agree that it's not a recent thing. I've heard this phrase my whole life, my parents and grandparents used it.

Tee2072 Thu 26-Sep-13 11:48:54

Yes. Blame America. It's evil. Vile. Horrible place.


Some day America's going to get sick of your hate and over reactions to things 'American' and take back all of their TV, music and films.

Then you can go back to 3 channels that turn off at 7pm.

Will you be happy then?

okthen Thu 26-Sep-13 11:49:52

What's wrong with it?! Like other posters here, I think it is a good way to express sympathy. It is a loss, they are sorry about it! When my sister died I was just glad to receive the condolences. Tbh I'd find it more odd if somebody said directly 'sorry that x died' or whatever. But even then, the fact they were acknowledging the loss would be the important thing.

SilverApples Thu 26-Sep-13 11:50:25

I do find it's worse when people avoid either talking about a death, or actively avoid you because they don't know what to say or do.
However clumsy or awkward, they are trying to show that they have thought about it for a moment. Not everyone is eloquent or confident that they know how to approach the subject.

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 11:50:59

I don't have a problem with it.
It has been in use for a long time.

People don't know what to say. I would rather they said something than nothing at all

People using it are probably wary of using the words 'death', 'died' etc.

Some bereaved people can find these words impossible in the early stages. I know people who can't bear to type xxxxx died or talk about the funeral without using f*****l instead.

So everyone is different

Sorry for your loss may seem trite and if you are newly bereaved and raw it will not be anywhere near enough to describe what you have been through.

But then, nothing is.

Its still better than the fuckers who cross the road so they don't have to even look at you

CrabbyBigBottom Thu 26-Sep-13 11:51:17

FFS how picky can you get!! hmm

When someone dies the word 'loss' is used often, I guess because it seems less harsh than 'dead' or 'died'. It is euphemistic, but then much of our language is. The point is to give someone something acceptable to say to someone who is bereaved, to express their sympathy and caring.

In my experience, bereaved people certainly do feel an enormous sense of loss, so what on earth is the problem? Is it preferable that people say nothing, or start talking about 'in a better place' or other clumsy phrases?? confused

PuppyMonkey Thu 26-Sep-13 11:52:08

My mum died yesterday and if anyone says this phrase to me over the next few days I shall remember to be really snidey to them for using such a naff phase. sad

FreudiansSlipper Thu 26-Sep-13 11:52:22

i can not see a problem with it

it is sometimes difficult to face someone who has had a recent bereavement, people are often unsure what to say but to acknowledge their feelings is important could be done with a little hug (if you know them quite well)

Rockinhippy Thu 26-Sep-13 11:52:44

YABU - it's not the words used but the meaning behind it that's important & it simply means someone has bothered to express their concern over your situation - sorting that into what's acceptable phrasing or not is ridiculous - if you'd actually had to deal with the real grief of losing a close loved one, I doubt very much that you would give a flying one as regards to the words used by someone to say. "hey I care enough to let you know that I'm concerned"

& FTR is neither Amercanised nor trite

Tee2072 Thu 26-Sep-13 11:54:05

Sorry to hear that puppy. flowers

ElleMcFearsome Thu 26-Sep-13 11:54:07

My DDs father died in May. They were horribly enraged by people saying they were sorry. I explained to them that it's usually short-hand for:

I care about you and hate to see you sad.
It's so awful that your dad has died and I wish there was something I could do to make it better.
I'm scared that if that happened to your dad it could happen to mine.
I can't imagine my dad dying and I don't know what to say.
I love you and I wish I could help.
I don't want to say 'died' in case that upsets you more.
(and other similar things).

YABU - we have many expressions in use that don't convey exactly what we mean in words of one syllable. This is a pretty mild one.

PostBellumBugsy Thu 26-Sep-13 11:54:50

Aw, Puppy - that is sad to hear. Don't read too much into threads like this - semantics aren't important. Big hug to you.

Beeyump Thu 26-Sep-13 11:55:28

thanks PuppyMonkey

FreudiansSlipper Thu 26-Sep-13 11:56:39

puppy sorry to hear about your mum thanks

PuppyMonkey Thu 26-Sep-13 11:58:44

Than you for flowerssmile

Sorry, only came on MN to do something that might distract me for a bit... Trust me to find this thread!

Bowlersarm Thu 26-Sep-13 11:59:44

Nothing wrong with it at all.

Expresses sympathy at a time of sorrow.

The trouble with your statement OP, is that a lot of people struggle to know what to say to a person who has lost someone they love through death. It is better to say something sympathetic than turn your back and say nothing at all, because you don't know what to say.

By stating something like the OP, it makes people increasingly worried and nervous about saying anything that could be construed as the wrong thing.

ElleMcFearsome Thu 26-Sep-13 12:00:16

In the interests of disclosure, the one that riles me is 'lost their fight against cancer'. How the FUCK can you be expected to fight against that, like 'oh if only you fought harder you'd still be alive' WTAF??


Puppy sending you thanks and condolences sad

Bowlersarm Thu 26-Sep-13 12:00:32 YABVVU

LRDMaguliYaPomochTebeSRaboti Thu 26-Sep-13 12:00:56

What a sad thread.

IMO it's impossible to find the right words for everyone, but what is comforting is when people try. When my gran died I remember one of her friends on the phone launch into a conventional 'oh, she was such a sweetie' (my gran was extremely sharp and didn't suffer fools), and then awkwardly realizing she'd sounded saccharine and making it worse by adding 'well, no ... she wasn't'. grin

It could have been awful but actually it made me smile, it made her laugh a bit, and it made us both feel a bit better. No-one would recommend that as an approach but there was genuine feeling behind it so it was comforting. Same is true of any other phrase.

mrsfuzzy Thu 26-Sep-13 12:02:35

as 'sorry for your loss' is a reasonably 'new' expression what were people saying before it was invented ? i think most have enough intelligence to think of something sympathetic to say,but choose to say nothing out of feeling awkward, because noone talks openly about this subject everyone gets jittery, when my beloved gramps died someone said "i hear you lost your grandad last week" i nearly said "yes, in sainsburys but i found him again in the cheese aisle!" i'm not am unfeeling bitch but saying things like 'he fell asleep' to me sounds terrifying, death is all part and parcel of the life cycle of every living thing as hard as it is to accept, and no as a pagan i do not believe in an after life.

DoJo Thu 26-Sep-13 12:02:42

I also think that it's needlessly picky to 'dislike' a phrase which is generally used to comfort and convey support - the words don't really matter (unless they are spectacularly poorly chosen as evidenced up thread) but the sentiment of feeling for someone when they are grieving is an important one that many people would find hard to put into words, especially when they are probably emotional themselves. And it's not American, and I am another one who doesn't understand the deal with blaming them for every single perceived cultural faux pas - they really aren't responsible for most of them.

HighJinx Thu 26-Sep-13 12:04:12

I don't have a problem with people saying 'sorry for your loss.'

I think when it comes to people saying things like this it is far more about how they say it than what they say. When my mum died I remember some people's words sounded empty while others said what could be considered a trite phrase but you knew they meant every word and more.

Numberlock Thu 26-Sep-13 12:05:16

... And my mum died on Saturday, hence the thread.

Fortunately no-one 'close' has said this phrase to me.

LRDMaguliYaPomochTebeSRaboti Thu 26-Sep-13 12:06:03

It's not new, is it?

Bowlersarm Thu 26-Sep-13 12:08:28

So you would feel less of anyone who did say it to you, OP?

MerryMarigold Thu 26-Sep-13 12:08:29

The nicest thing anyone did for me, when someone I loved very much died suddenly, was to put their hand on my arm, look me in the eye and say, "I'm so sorry." That was all. I think the touch and eye contact was great too.

AmandaPandtheNightmareMonsters Thu 26-Sep-13 12:09:28

I can understand that, in the depths of grief, 'loss' can make it sound like a misplaced sock.

But people are trying to find something to say that expresses sympathy without completely blundering in. Saying "I am really sorry to hear that your husband died" can feel rather blunt and unfeeling. I realise that, if you have suffered a bereavement, it is with you all the time and nothing can make it more 'there', but many people do struggle with even saying the word 'died' themselves, so it can feel rude to blunder in with it.

I do often say "I was so sorry to hear about Chris" or whatever as an alternative.

FreudiansSlipper Thu 26-Sep-13 12:09:48


sometimes no words are right sad

AmandaPandtheNightmareMonsters Thu 26-Sep-13 12:09:57

Sorry, cross post. Sorry to hear about your mum OP.

FrauMoose Thu 26-Sep-13 12:12:18

I rather like, 'I wish you long life' - though it's not widely used outside the Jewish community.


PostBellumBugsy Thu 26-Sep-13 12:12:42

Sorry to hear about your mum Numberlock.

hiddenhome Thu 26-Sep-13 12:13:42

When my first dh died I'd rather have heard "sorry for your loss" than some of the shit people came out with. Those comments, and avoiding me out of embarrassment, just added to the anguish sad

mrsfuzzy Thu 26-Sep-13 12:14:06

's/he's in a better place' what the hell is that all about ?? sounds like this life was such crap that it's good to leave it, how sad for the family and friends left behind. if someone has suffered a serious illness then death is a release but even so there is no proof of a 'better place'.

Op - you must be feeling very raw just now. I know when we lost somebody close (because it was a loss to our family, he died and we all lost something we had before) I felt like a snail without a shell. Very, very vulnerable. May I suggest therefore that you avoid AIBU for a bit? There are some very robust posts on this thread, made when people had no idea of the very personal application this had and I suspect it could just be hurtful to you rather than constructive. I am speaking from experience. We're not as tough as we think we are.
I hope you have some support in your bereavement.

StillSeekingSpike Thu 26-Sep-13 12:15:02

Better than
'I know how you feel'
'At least you won't see her get old'
'Have you thought of suing the hospital?'
' Oh that's a shame- I'm no holiday next week and can't make the funeral'

RevoltingPeasant Thu 26-Sep-13 12:15:28

So seriously, what are you supposed to say if you are approaching someone you don't know well?

Fairly often, I have to send emails saying things like 'I'm sorry for your recent bereavement. Please accept my condolences. Of course we will excuse you from lectures for the next few weeks, but in order to get an extension on your coursework......'

In that kind of situation a phrase like 'I was sorry to hear of your loss' is fine. It is a bit impersonal but you may be talking to someone you don't know well. It's just polite.

What else are you supposed to say? 'Someone told me your father is dead, that's a shame. Anyhow, you'll need a death certificate or hospital notes to claim leave......'


Also think it's incredibly rude to stigmatise certain things as 'American'. Can you imagine somebody saying that about any other nationality? 'God, it's so crass, so Chinese, I can't stand it'. angry

Tee2072 Thu 26-Sep-13 12:15:31

I think, really, people don't know what to say. So they say that. Because they are sorry for your loss.

I'm sorry to hear about your mum. flowers

Bowlersarm Thu 26-Sep-13 12:15:34

Good post northern

RevoltingPeasant Thu 26-Sep-13 12:16:26

OP - xpost - I am sorry to hear about your mum.

Stillseeking - I've read about 'at least you won't see her get old' being said about a young child. Unbelievable!

ButThereAgain Thu 26-Sep-13 12:17:02

I don't think "loss" euphemises "death". I think it draws attention to the speaker's primary concern, when that is with the bereaved person's loss rather than with the death itself. The person who has died might be unknown to the speaker. It might be simply untruthful for them to say that they feel sad/sorry about that death more than any other death on the same day. But they care about the person they are speaking to, they care about that person's sadness and their loss of a loved one, and they state that concern truthfully. It is sincere, unhypocritical in that it locates their concern accurately.

Numberlock Thu 26-Sep-13 12:17:40

I can handle the comments, I started a new thread so as not to hijack the other one where I originally mentioned it.

shoofly Thu 26-Sep-13 12:27:03

I'm from a rural area in Northern Ireland and it's very common at times of bereavement. To me it expresses perfectly that you are sympathetic and wishing to express it without being gushy and over familiar. I stood in a graveyard for over an hour having my hand shaken by many well meaning people after my father died.

I found it immensely comforting - many people went on to tell me lovely stories about my Dad, but that phrase and the other Ulster standard "I'm sorry for your trouble"came up a lot. They were immensely better than the people who crossed the street to avoid my Mum because they didn't know what to say. They were also better than the "I know what you're going through", which I really don't like.

boschy Thu 26-Sep-13 12:28:21

teapigging explains it beautifully on page one of this thread.

I certainly found it helpful at my father's funeral in Ireland, when I was 34 wks pregnant with DD1.

sorry to everyone who is grieving on this thread.

FrauMoose Thu 26-Sep-13 12:30:17

While we all have private niggles about phrases that are part of common currency, I'd suggest that some kind of displacement activity is going on here. Anger is one of the emotions that people feel after somebody has died, though it is one of the less commonly acknowledged emotions.

I would offer some kind of brief form of condolence to Numberlock - but as I'm not sure which phrases are/aren't acceptable - she will have to take the form for the deed.

(In retrospect it's clear to me that I was so angry with the behaviour of my brothers and my mother, before and after my father died that I simply couldn't have cared less about other people's chosen forms of expression.)

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 12:33:16

I am sorry about your Mum number

and yours Puppy

mrsfuzzy Thu 26-Sep-13 12:36:16

how are you numberlock? this must be a difficult time for you but i guess doing this thread is a help to you.

Nancy66 Thu 26-Sep-13 12:36:46

I think it's fine.

the person is thinking of you. That alone is a comfort.

It's awkward, people get tongue-tied but it's so much better than saying nothing at all.

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 12:37:05

I have been on the recieving end of a few 'she is in a better place nows'.

Fuck that.

And you are supposed to nod and smile because if you say 'what the fuck are you talking about? She was FOURTEEN. There is no better place for her than with ME'

They will get upset and maybe they will cry and tell you that they were just trying to be nice and now you have ruined their day.

Do you know how much of my energy I have to use NOT ruining someone's day because they have told me my DD is with God now or out of pain now or some such shite?

Just so I don't upset them.

I get your anger Number. I really do. But people will say this stuff and it will drive you insane. Try and let it wash over you. You have enough to deal with.

mrsfuzzy Thu 26-Sep-13 12:37:37

condolences also to you puppy at this very sad time.

Tee2072 Thu 26-Sep-13 12:45:04

MrsD I think you're doing very well not to deck someone who says something like that to you. Never mind worrying about their feelings.

fuzzywuzzy Thu 26-Sep-13 12:47:46

To close friends I would hug them say something meaningful and comforting because I know what would be comforting to the due to our close relationship.

However to a person I am not so close with, I have said 'I am so very sorry for your loss'. What would you people rather said on hearing news of a death of someone close to you?

Arabesque Thu 26-Sep-13 13:02:28

I used to tie myself in knots of agony wondering what to say to recently bereaved people. When my own father died last year I realised that I actually didn't care what people said as long as they said something. The worst thing you can do is just ignore the fact that someone has recently lost a loved one and I think overanalysing how people express their sympathy can make some people nervous of saying anything in case they said the 'wrong' thing. In fact, I remember my cousin saying to me 'sorry I don't think I'm saying the right things' and I said 'you're fine. There is no 'right' thing to say'. I just appreciated the fact that she'd rung from abroad to say anything at all to me.

CrabbyBigBottom Thu 26-Sep-13 13:02:32

I don't think "loss" euphemises "death". I think it draws attention to the speaker's primary concern, when that is with the bereaved person's loss rather than with the death itself. The person who has died might be unknown to the speaker. It might be simply untruthful for them to say that they feel sad/sorry about that death more than any other death on the same day. But they care about the person they are speaking to, they care about that person's sadness and their loss of a loved one, and they state that concern truthfully. It is sincere, unhypocritical in that it locates their concern accurately.

This ^
When my dad died I couldn't have given a flying fuck how someone expressed their condolences. It was the feeling behind it that mattered.

I don't like the 'they're in a better place now', even though I'm sure that for people who believe in the concept of heaven, it's intended to be a comforting and kind thing to say.

number I'm sorry to hear of the death of your loved one. Is that better? confused

puppy so sorry for the loss of your mum. flowers

echt Thu 26-Sep-13 13:03:27

I don't see how how "sorry to hear about xx" is any less euphemistic than "sorry to hear about your loss".

It's all sad and people are doing their best.


echt Thu 26-Sep-13 13:06:18

What crabbybigbottom said in the bold part of her post.

nennypops Thu 26-Sep-13 13:09:26

I think what I dislike about it is the use of "for" rather than "about". To be sorry for someone is to pity them, which sounds incredibly patronising. So far as I am concerned, when I hear that someone's relative has died, I am sorry about it, I'm not sorry for it.

zatyaballerina Thu 26-Sep-13 13:10:17

yabu, it's important to acknowledge the loss of the bereaved, when you've lost someone you love you're not concerned about the originality of peoples sympathetic comments to you.

Sorry for your loss comes from Sorry for your Trouble, which as far as I know is a translation from the it's our fault, not the Americans sad


soimpressed Thu 26-Sep-13 13:13:10

When my Dad died I was always comforted by people saying this but that was because so many people said nothing (including most of my colleagues).

Arabesque Thu 26-Sep-13 13:14:14

Seriously Nennypops, I doubt the bereaved person is analysing every word for grammatical correctness.

wigglesrock Thu 26-Sep-13 13:16:48

I know I say sorry for your loss, I think it encompasses more than the death of a loved one, obviously I'm sorry for the death, but also for the pain and unfairness and for the loss of the future someone thought they would have with the person that has died.

My mil says sorry for your trouble, my granny tends to go with "sorry for your pain", we are in NI.

Viviennemary Thu 26-Sep-13 13:22:06

I thought it was just me that didn't like the phrase. YANBU. On the other hand it's a fairly new phrase so I'm not very comfortable with it. If somebody said it to me I certainly wouldn't be offended but I just don't like it.

skylerwhite Thu 26-Sep-13 13:24:30

Sorry for your trouble is the older phrase used in Ireland. I rather like its awkward, distant sympathy. And the equally awkward response is thank you.

squoosh Thu 26-Sep-13 13:25:39

I always say 'I'm sorry for your trouble' I think most Irish people do and always have done, so no, not an Americanism. I have to say I fail to see what is trite about telling someone you're 'sorry for their loss'. It's not airy-fairy, its sentiment is pretty explicit. Anyway, the main thing is to express sympathy, do the exact words matter? hmm

Also why the constant terror that people may be using an Americanism? I can guarantee you already use plenty of them.

I got a 'sorry for your loss' card from the vets when they had to put one of my guinea pigs down. I was most bemused!

I am sorry about your Mum though Numberlock.

squoosh Thu 26-Sep-13 13:28:06

OP I'm pretty sure the phrase 'dumbing down' that you used would be classified as an Americanism. How will you cope??

AvonCallingBarksdale Thu 26-Sep-13 13:39:42

What a sad thread sad
Personally I don't use the phrase, but I appreciate that it is well-used and can be very comforting. My only issue is the potential for confusion for children. I remember when FiL died my friend told her DC that my DC had "lost" their grandad as she didn't want to talk to her kids about death. Therefore, her youngest DC thought that my FIL was lost, wandering the streets somewhere confused. FIL would have found that heartily amusing smile
So, as a term of condolence, I think it's totally appropriate, but perhaps not as a euphemism for someone having died IYSWIM.

tarantula Thu 26-Sep-13 13:39:51

The standard phrase in Irish is 'ní maith liom do thrioblóid/do bhrón'. lit. translation is 'I don't like your trouble/loss' which doesn't actually translate very well but means the same thing as 'I'm sorry for/about your trouble/loss'. The lack of standard grammar re for/about is probably due to this. The use of the words loss/trouble is also due in part to our love of understatement.

HighJinx Thu 26-Sep-13 13:42:02

TBH with the amount of threads there are on MN saying how people hate this phrase or that phrase it seems that every time you say anything you run the risk of irritating someone.

Arabesque Thu 26-Sep-13 13:47:34

That's my worry HighJinx. People will read a thread like this and be afraid to say anything the next time they meet a neighbour or colleague who has been bereaved, for fear of saying the 'wrong' thing and upsetting or annoying that person.

Even if people say something you don't like such as 'she's in a better place' they don't mean it in an upsetting way. They genuinely think they're saying something nice and are just anxious to acknowledge the death and be kind and supportive. Don't be too hard on them. People aren't mind readers.

tobiasfunke Thu 26-Sep-13 13:50:00

I'm from Northern ireland and where I come from people say "I'm sorry for your trouble". When my Dad died and I was standing beside his grave with a longline of people all telling me they were sorry for my trouble it was actually quite reassuring - like people had been saying the same thing for hundreds of years.

maillotjaune Thu 26-Sep-13 13:52:05

I think it's a very appropriate thing to day - if my friend is bereaved and I don't know the relative who died then what I'm sorry for is my friend's loss.

I have heard it all my life in an Irish/Scottish family, but I've also heard very English friends use it. I would prefer to say something than pretend a death hasn't happened.

maillotjaune Thu 26-Sep-13 13:55:41

Sorry about you mum, Numberlockthanks

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 13:58:04

arabesque you have illustrated my point exactly with your post.

You are expecting bereaved parents and children to be understanding of someone who cannot be bothered to be understanding!

What fuckwit thinks saying 'she is in a better place' to someone whose child has died is a good idea?

In the days after my child died I was expected not to upset anyone.

Can you not see how utterly bizarre that is?

Arabesque Thu 26-Sep-13 14:04:58

That's not what I'm saying MrsDeVere.

I'm saying often people who say something like that genuinely think they're saying the right thing and that a bereaved person might take comfort from knowing their loved one is in Heaven. I'm not saying it's always an appropriate thing to say, but it is meant very genuinely by the people who say it. They may have different beliefs or be from a different culture or generation from you and are saying to you what they would like to hear if they were in the same circumstances.
You may, without realising it, have said the 'wrong' thing to someone who's been bereaved, we all may have but none of us intended to.

AvonCallingBarksdale Thu 26-Sep-13 14:10:16

But Arabesque, it's one thing saying that to someone who perhaps has had a very elderly relative die (even then I'd be a bit hmm ), but otherwise can you not see what an inappropriate phrase it is? My friends' 5yo DS died this year - how could they possibly think he is in a better place FFS? That is, for me, the one phrase that is always better left unsaid, however well-meaning it might be.

lainiekazan Thu 26-Sep-13 14:11:04

Agree, Arabesque.

I cringe when I think of saying to people quite cheerfully, "Are you having another?" if they had one child. Then I experienced infertility and that question posed to me was like a red=hot knife between the ribs. People put their foot in it all the time but unless someone is being catty or downright rude then you have to take it on the chin.

I don't like "Sorry for your loss." It might have been all right a few years ago, but now it's trotted out so often it has become thoroughly empty of any personal sentiment.

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 14:11:38

It is what you are saying.

Even if people say something you don't like such as 'she's in a better place' they don't mean it in an upsetting way. They genuinely think they're saying something nice and are just anxious to acknowledge the death and be kind and supportive. Don't be too hard on them. People aren't mind readers.

Why should the bereaved person, at the worst time of their life, have to worry that they are being hard on someone who has said something crap?

Saying 'I am sorry for your loss' is not in the same league as 'she is in a better place'.

Do you think you would feel kindly towards someone who said that to you if one of your children died?

ladymariner Thu 26-Sep-13 14:13:36

I used to tie myself in knots of agony wondering what to say to recently bereaved people. When my own father died last year I realised that I actually didn't care what people said as long as they said something. The worst thing you can do is just ignore the fact that someone has recently lost a loved one and I think overanalysing how people express their sympathy can make some people nervous of saying anything in case they said the 'wrong' thing.

^ ^ ^ ^
this totally.

I lost my darling Dad earlier this month, I am absolutely devastated and the fact that people have been so kind and taken the trouble to say anything at all has made a terrible time that bit easier.

Bowlersarm Thu 26-Sep-13 14:13:48

MrsDV a way I think you have illustrated that i think ''sorry for your loss' , which is purely expressing sympathy, is quite a nice thing to say, actually. It's simple. It's not ignoring what's happened. It's not saying 'I know how you feel', when you clearly don't. It's not 'she's in a better place' which is no comfort at all if you aren't religious.

I thought, until this thread, it was a perfectly kind way of expressing condolences.

squoosh Thu 26-Sep-13 14:15:21

I don't think I've ever actually heard someone say 'they're in a better place'. I'd hope that even the most unperceptive of people would realise that wouldn't be something those grieving would appreciate. I suppose it would only be appropriate if talking about an elderly person who'd had a long period of illness.

Arabesque Thu 26-Sep-13 14:15:36

Avon I think it's inappropriate and wouldn't say it. I'm saying the people who do say it aren't saying it to be hurtful, they're saying it in a misguided but genuine attempt to be comforting.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 26-Sep-13 14:18:04

'In a better place' is offensively awful, unless you know for absolute sure that that is the way the bereaved person sees it, too. Otherwise, it is foisting something YOU BELIEVE onto someone at an incredibly inappropriate time.

Loss, trouble, death... pretty much everything else, I think, would be taken as it was meant - and some would work better than others in certain situations. If a colleague lost her mum who I didn't know, I'd probably say sorry for your loss.... if a friend lost a husband I did know, I'd say 'I'm so sorry about X' or something. Think I've written in a card that I was 'so very sorry to hear about X's death', actually. All those have their place, but 'better place' does not.

Another one here who thinks it is fine. I was at my friend's funeral last week, and although I know her DH, I didn't know her large extended family, who were waiting to receive mourners after the service in the line-up. I used this comment a lot - it's brief, to the point, says what I was feeling, and in a state when I was simply not up to crafting eloquent and original thoughts.

Sadly, it's the latest in a string of bereavements over the past couple of years and like others, the kindness of simply having the grief acknowledged by people, whether by card, letter, phone etc. is almost indescribable. I will continue to use it.

Arabesque Thu 26-Sep-13 14:20:04

Squoosh When my cousin's 2 year old died some people said 'you've got a little Angel in Heaven now'. Her understandable attitude was 'I don't want an angel in Heaven, I want my little girl here with me'.
I don't think she felt angry with the people who said it, she just wished they hadn't. Again, I think it was mainly older people who said that, maybe from a generation where losing children at a young age happened more frequently and this was a common phrase at that time or something.

bragmatic Thu 26-Sep-13 14:20:26

Loss works for me. It's the closest thing that explains the feeling of something being wrong with the universe...something missing...something just not. quite. right anymore.

Loss doesn't mean you forget where you put them for goodness sake. People don't forget where they put their virginity, or their job, but they can lose those things, too. It's words. People are trying to acknowledge that they know you feel bereft and that they're sorry for that. So it works for me.

'Better place', not so much. Keep that to yourself. Unless you're talking about the very old and sick/frail. Maybe.

Habbibu Thu 26-Sep-13 14:20:51

The worst I got when dd1 died was "everything happens for a reason". I was too shocked to do anything. I may even have smiled weakly.

AvonCallingBarksdale Thu 26-Sep-13 14:21:43

Apologies for lumping you in with someone who may say that Arabesque. I read that wrong. We are going to have to disagree, though, as while I'm sure people aren't saying it to be hurtful, I think you'd have to be pretty non-functiioning on the empathy scale to think it was an appropriate thing to say.

Habbibu Thu 26-Sep-13 14:22:06

I like "sorry for your loss". I didn't want to hear the words "your baby died" over and over.

ladymariner Thu 26-Sep-13 14:22:22

I got " even though you expect it it's still a shock" written in a card to me!!
Actually, we didn't fucking expect it, should we have done just because he was old and ill? Should we have been grateful? I ripped that card up.

AvonCallingBarksdale Thu 26-Sep-13 14:23:15

Habbibu shock sad

squoosh Thu 26-Sep-13 14:24:59

Arabesque I hate all that 'angel in heaven' stuff, it's as though people are trying to Disney-fy death. I'm sure it comes from a good place but it just isn't appropriate, unless it comes from the parents themselves.

Arabesque Thu 26-Sep-13 14:25:15

No worries Avon. I suppose I'm used to hearing that phrase from older people here in Ireland. It is usually said in relation to an elderly person who had been suffering from a long illness. 'It's a merciful release' is another phrase used. I would never say that to someone who had been bereaved but I might say it about a death if I was chatting to my mother about someone who had been sick and in pain with no hope of recovery.

Beeyump Thu 26-Sep-13 14:26:32

Personally, I don't see what's so wrong with that ladymariner

squoosh Thu 26-Sep-13 14:29:57

To be honest ladymariner I can see why the person wrote 'even though you expect it it's still a shock' in their card to you. When an elderly person dies after an illness most people offering their condolences presume that you've been steeling yourselves for their death.

Of course you have every right to feel about it whichever way you feel, but I personally don't think it was a crass thing for them to write.

It's so hard to know what to say isn't it ?
There are no words
But listening to those who've been bereaved I'm encouraged to say something.
I think mentioning the person by name is especially appreciated.
But otherwise saying this can be some comfort too -
especially with a hug ?

Teapigging Thu 26-Sep-13 14:53:10

I was just thinking about this again, and decided that what i like about the phrase 'I'm sorry for your loss' is that it's neutral, while sympathetic.

It doesn't interpret your loss or try to minimise it ('she's in a better place', 'you'll have other babies', 'he's looking down on us now/reunited with your grandad' etc), or explain it away as some higher being's will ('God takes the good young').

I'm not denying for a moment that these approaches are comforting to some people, but they aren't for everyone.

FrauMoose Thu 26-Sep-13 15:58:28

Perhaps it is unrealistic/unreasonable to think that everyone will be able to speak the 'right' words after a death. In everyday life, we disagree with our friends and family and colleagues on many points. It would be nice to think that in a crisis we'd manage to transcend those differences. And perhaps at sometimes there can be a new closeness to those who have suffered similar bereavements. But I guess the sad truth is that others who mourn cannot/will not be comforted.

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 16:09:11

I would like to think that people could spend a few seconds thinking about what is coming out of their mouths before they open it.

Arabesque Thu 26-Sep-13 16:09:36

I agree FrauMoose. It's a delicate situation, and people can get very nervous about not saying the 'wrong' thing so stock phrases like 'I'm sorry for your loss' or 'I was very sorry to hear about your father' tend to be trotted out because they're safe. I don't think people's words should be overanalysed. No matter what way they're putting it they're really saying 'You poor thing. I just want to acknowledge what you're going through but I know nothing I say is really going to make it better'.

FrauMoose Thu 26-Sep-13 16:24:00

Well we could have a 'No condolences by request' notification. Rather like 'No flowers.' But that would be closing the door to words that we do find more helpful

Actually some words that have not been well received immediately after a death can strike a chord rather later.

For example was once told by my mother, after I told her about the death of a close friend from cancer, that 'I should be glad she did not suffer further illness.' At the time I found that unfeeling. But now that I have witnessed the stages of advanced cancer at close hand, I think my mother had a point. Even though at the time all I wanted to do was bite her head off.

(I think I wanted her to acknowledge my grief, but she just can't deal with difficult emotion.)

Arabesque Thu 26-Sep-13 16:37:28

One friend who was abroad at the time dad died sent me a text simply saying 'I'm sorry you've had so much sadness in your life lately' (Something else had happened a couple of weeks before). That was simple but lovely. Other people just said 'You've had a tough time. How are you'? You don't have to say anything eloquent or overly thought out. Just make the effort to say something and people will appreciate it.

squoosh Thu 26-Sep-13 16:45:30

The baby of a man I worked with was born prematurely and only lived for a couple of weeks. Some people in work were so clearly uncomfortable with death that they didn't even acknowledge it!

Yes it can be 'uncomfortable', especially if it's someone you don't know particularly well, but I don't understand how people can act as though nothing has happened. How difficult is it to string a few cliched (but heartfelt) words together.

UtterflyButterfly Thu 26-Sep-13 17:04:18

When DD1 died the only thing people said to me that offended me were those who said 'Jesus wanted her'. We are non-believers and frankly, Jesus can jolly well go himself and give her back. Apologies if this offends anyone, but really...

AmandaPandtheNightmareMonsters Thu 26-Sep-13 17:13:56

Utterfly - that is awful. Even if you are religious - well Jesus has got all of f'ing eternity hasn't he? I can't see anyone that that would comfort. So insensitive.

callow Thu 26-Sep-13 17:27:54

It is very difficult to do the right thing concerning death.

A few days ago I sent some 'thinking of you' flowers to a member of an organisation I belong to on behalf of the executive committee. It was discussed at a meeting that we should send them.

I saw her yesterday and the flowers were not appreciated. She made that very plainly clear to me. She only liked the ribbon.

I am very sorry that she was offended.

FrauMoose Thu 26-Sep-13 17:29:46

One of the weirdest experiences I ever had was when I was a 19 year old student. I learned that the woman in the room across the corridor had witnessed one of her close friends - they were in a group of cyclists - being run over (and killed) by another student who was a drunken driver.
She and her friend were/had been active members of the Christian Union.

When I said what a terrible shock and how sorry I was to hear about it, she said, 'Oh no, God wanted it to happen. At the funeral we were all so happy.'

I could not think how to reply, so mumbled something and retreated. It was scary.

Some people are able to be fairly happy at a funeral depending on a lot of circumstances, but if they are I think they're mainly thinking about that person's life. As a teenager I felt fairly happy at my grandfather's funeral because he was such a lovely and happy person, and maybe I felt that was what he would have wanted. Also there was very little suffering AFAIK.

But I understand how you were left not knowing what to say Frau.

Also I think she was probably in shock to say that.

Alisvolatpropiis Thu 26-Sep-13 17:50:07

I can understand you not liking it op - it doesn't matter how sorry they does it, your mum is still gone. My friend took any and all ways of expressing sympathy very badly when her dad suddenly died a few years ago. Like you she felt what people were saying was either v insensitive or trite.

But people do have to say something and I think "sorry for you loss" is a more acceptable and less likely to offend thing to say than many others.

"They're in a better place now" is one I don't like. No, the better place would be here, with them being well ffs.

I tend to just say "I'm so sorry"

Isabelonatricycle Thu 26-Sep-13 17:50:08

I'm on the fence on "Sorry for your loss" - I've always felt it is better to say the name of the person who has died (have a rather strong dislike for "passed away") but I won't object to SFYL - unlike some of the other things on here. I am religious, but won't dream of saying something like "Jesus wanted her too much" or things like that shock

However, this thread has made me paranoid now. A friend has recently given birth to a stillborn daughter and I wrote to her, because bereavements shouldn't be ignored, but I didn't think we are close enough friends for me to visit/phone this soon afterwards. I wrote something along the lines of:

Dear X, I am so very sorry to hear about Y. I will hold you and your husband in my prayers.

(I know her partly through church, otherwise would have used thoughts rather than prayers)

Is that appropriate or have I committed a huge faux pas? If the person who has died is old (or even young, but has lived some life) then I might say something about them eg I always loved to hear his stories/ she was always so helpful to me etc, but you can't really do that in this case. Thoughts please?

Alisvolatpropiis Thu 26-Sep-13 17:50:36

*they are not they does it hmm

TheYamiOfYawn Thu 26-Sep-13 17:54:21

I'm Irish, so it is a standard appropriate phrase to me, like "happy birthday" or "congratulations". One of the things I like about it is that it doesn't make assumptions about the relationship the bereaved person had with the person who died or the way that they are feeling or expressi.g their grief. You can say it to someone who has list an abusive parent or the love of their life, and the slight cliche kind of feels as though you have a community there in the background thinking of you.

Alisvolatpropiis Thu 26-Sep-13 17:56:42


I don't think you've done anything wrong there. Plus you carefully considered the most appropriate way to send you condolences (by post not in person) based on your friendship. I think that would be appreciated.

diddl Thu 26-Sep-13 17:58:55

I'm afraid I associate it with police dramas, so it seems formal to me & as if the person saying it didn't know the deceased.

squoosh Thu 26-Sep-13 18:00:51

Isabel very few people would object to being thought of in someone else's prayers, whether they're a believer or not. I think your wording was very apt.

FrauMoose Thu 26-Sep-13 18:07:20

I think one of the problems is that we've all got so individualised. (This is what I believe. This is what I think is right. If you talk to me in a way that I don't think is right I will feel disrespected. If you make some gesture that I feel is unnecessary/inappropriate I shall act as if I have been insulted.)

Whereas, I think, mourning rituals were more widely shared and understood in earlier communities.

Personally I'd hope that even when staggering under grief, I would hope to have enough grace to appreciate kindly intended words and deeds - and to say than you. I think most people do have that grace. (And perhaps those who seem to lack it, are just struggling, and will appreciate the worth of such gestures later on when the fuss has died down and they are just being left to cope as best they can.)

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 18:11:57

I hope you never have to find out just how difficult that is frau.

I am sure you don't mean it but your posts are coming across as rather pompous and dismissive of other's valid and deeply held feelings.

'I would hope to have enough grace' indeed.

My beautiful, beloved and precious little girl died. She suffered for two years and then she died. Ravaged by cancer. My baby. She died in front of me. I nursed her for two years and witnessed her terrible agony.

Days after watching undertakers remove her from my house in a box I have to fend off people telling me she is in a better place and is now an angel.

You talk about grace ffs.

LRDMaguliYaPomochTebeSRaboti Thu 26-Sep-13 18:17:22

I would hope most people have the grace to realize that when someone has been bereaved, they may respond in all sorts of upset ways and the least anyone else can do is to let them do that without judging.

Towanda Thu 26-Sep-13 18:29:33

I'd rather people had just said I'm sorry for your loss when dd1 died just after birth than 'it was for the best' or 'she's in a better place' or 'you can have others' or 'hope you're back to your old self soon'.

I much prefer seeing it written on facebook than 'RIP' which I despise. I tend to use that or I'm sorry for the loss of X - some people don't like to use died or dead and a more gentle phrase is better, imo.

travellingwilbury Thu 26-Sep-13 18:32:16

Do uou know something b?

I fucking wish I hadnt acted with grace sometimes . I really wish that I had shouted and screamed morev, that I had told people exactly how hurtfil they had been by crossing the road and ignoring me for two or three years .
I wish I had walked away from really painful situations
But I didn't wantbyo upset anyone , I didnt want anyone to judge me as being not a good enough griever . This is what most of us do , this is my everyday normal . Even nearly 12 yrs on I am careful to jot ipset others so is it really too much to expect a little thought from others .

farewellfarewell Thu 26-Sep-13 18:33:38

"sorry for your trouble" is the standard phrase in Ireland. When my own parents died I found the most upsetting comments were the ones where people tried to cheer me up, eg. on hearing that one of my parents survived only two weeks after diagnosis, my (well meaning) neighbour said "Well isn't that great?" hmm.Also people who look for a lot of detail were difficult for me to deal with. I felt afterwards that I had been cornered into giving more information about my loved ones suffering than I really wanted to. A stock phrase such as "sorry for your trouble" is not offensive in any way.

travellingwilbury Thu 26-Sep-13 18:34:07

That is actually notwritten by a stray spider honest .Stupid bloody phone !

cg13 Thu 26-Sep-13 18:39:47

Criticising someone for trying to come up with some heartfelt words at a time when nothing is really the right thing to say is just as thoughtless. What else do you expect someone to say.... Sorry X died? FFS.

FrauMoose Thu 26-Sep-13 18:42:33

I've been trying to reflect on loss/bereavement and language and the way society works because a) these are things I am interested in and b) as a woman of 54, I have experienced bereavement and loss.

It's a bit scary to realise that doing so triggers anger in others.

Perhaps as a person with a religious background 'grace' does have a particular meaning to me. It isn't - in my case the kind of faith that means people will go to Heaven/or be with Jesus. I suppose it does mean that when people I've been close to have died, I have - so far - been able to draw unexpected strength from one source or another.

I'll bow out of this thread now.

travellingwilbury Thu 26-Sep-13 18:44:43

Actually cg13 that would work .

Better than trying to cheer me up .

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 18:46:56

So do you think 'She is in a better place' is an acceptable thing to say to a bereaved parent CG13

What about 'its for the best really' to the mother of a disabled child who has died?

or 'I know how you feel, my cat died two weeks ago'

All 'heartfelt' and 'well meaning' all things that have been said to people who have lost children.

Yet again I ask, WHY should people who are in the darkest pit the ones who are being expected to consider the feelings of Mrs Blogs from the corner shop just because she has taken the time to say 'something'?

I can't believe this thread has upset you enough for you to leave it Frau.
That would be ironic to say the least.

2tiredtocare Thu 26-Sep-13 19:05:08

'Its for the best really' that has to be one of the worst things I have ever heard, that poor mother

One thing I've learnt from mumsnet is that most people handle the death of somebody's child very badly indeed. I've learnt that when I've written to two bereaved sets of parents I know that I need to say 'we will remember your child' because most people will never mention that child again and it's true. I do remember, so I say as much. Nothing could possibly be more upsetting than people acting as though a child had never existed.

I think that in Christian circles there is a temptation to be very upbeat about death and that's very alienating. We lost a good friend a few years ago. Her funeral was a fantastic celebration of her faith and I know that she went home to her Father in heaven and I know that death is not the end. Does any of that make her absence easier to bear? does that mean her family did not break their hearts at losing her?

Death is part of life and as a Christian I believe that death is not the end. But none of that makes the shattering pain of a loss better. Grief hurts.

I think it's been said enough that the phrase the OP was referring to is generally used and generally well received. There are countless more awful phrases though which people clumsily and thoughtlessly use and whilst they don't mean to hurt, they DO hurt and the fault for that lies with the person saying it not the person hearing it.

If you walk away from a conversation with a bereaved person feeling you out your foot in it then you just need to breathe and move on. Don't blame them and don't eat yourself up with it. Just try and do better next time because there will be a next time and honestly who knows what to say?

JamieandtheMagicTorch Thu 26-Sep-13 19:29:15


Rather than being bemused by anger. I'd think you'd show a bit of humility and apologise.

cg13 Thu 26-Sep-13 19:40:12

MrsDeVere, I would say none of those things are acceptable. Or they wouldn't be to me. I was in fact referring to the OP, and my opinion is that criticising someone for saying "sorry for your loss" seems wrong to me. I'm reminded of the text of a SANDS leaflet which says

"It's more important to listen than to worry about saying the 'right' thing and certainly don't worry if you feel you have said the wrong thing. It is better to try to communicate and understand than not to make that attempt at all."

And just think it's a shame if the reality is that somebody who is trying their best to communicate by using a fairly innocuous phrase is being judged for their attempts.


babybarrister Thu 26-Sep-13 19:46:15

As someone who has been on the receiving end of sympathy I think that it is a perfectly acceptable comment to make, particularly if you don't know the person well but want to make they understand you are thi king of them. Ironically enough though, when I asked DS aged 6 to repeat the phrase to a friend whose brother had just died, he refused as he could not understand why he should say sorry as in his words 'I haven't killed him ...' hmm

So maybe it is a euphemism too far but I far preferred that to silence or the pretence that nothing had happened

Groovee Thu 26-Sep-13 19:48:08

Dh and I went to a Theme Park in New Jersey when we stayed with my cousin in NY. The bloke asked what kind of passport dh had and when he said British, the bloke burst into tears and told us how sorry he was for our loss.
confused. Turns out he meant Princess Di!

CeliaLytton Thu 26-Sep-13 19:54:20

I have had it said to me and appreciated the sentiment, as I have felt a loss.

Some people would rather have this said than 'I am sorry about the death of X' as they struggle to hear the reminder over and over.
Some people want the name of their loved one said aloud to acknowledge them.
There is no way of knowing what kind of condolence the bereaved wants to hear, but it is safe to assume that they want to speak words of comfort.

People react in different ways to condolences so unless they say something truly thoughtless or insensitive it shows that they care, they are thinking of you and they are sorry for the loss of someone important to you.

I am thinking of all of you who have lost someone important to you on this thread.

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 20:31:04

CG but you seemed annoyed that any words of heartfelt sympathy would be unappreciated.

Not just the ones in the OP.

The thread has moved on a fair bit from 'I am sorry for your loss'.

Where do we draw the line at what is acceptable just because someone is 'trying to be nice'?

When do the bereaved get a say?

It seems to me that the onus is always on them to behave themselves and suck it up in case anyone else gets upset.

I just think that is an odd state of affairs.

everlong Thu 26-Sep-13 20:39:16

I agree with that northern.

Most people have no clue about what's needed to be said and done when a child has died.

People who haven't lost a child equate the loss to a parent or sibling or god forbid a pet.

That hurts.

Of course losing your parents or a sibling is terrible, it is, I know that but the ongoing pain that is always just simmering when you've lost a child is exhausting.

But I have found in RL and on here to a degree that you aren't supposed to keep bringing it up. People can only cope with a very small amount of the bereaved parent.

I suppose you only know if you know.

cg13 Thu 26-Sep-13 20:40:40

Not sure if I've committed a MN sin, but I only responded on the basis of the OP, I didn't read the 150 odd replies. The OP asked a question, I answered. I also think its an odd state of affairs. There's no "how to" guide or rules, yet a "sorry for your loss" is still deemed to be wrong. I defy anyone to come up with the "right thing to say" in all circumstances, that will be right for every recipient. Judging people who use a standard phrase seems off to me. Clearly nobody would mean it in the same way as a wallet or purse.

fuzzywuzzy Thu 26-Sep-13 20:41:09

If it's not acceptable to say something as neutral and comforting as 'Sorry for your loss', I'm not actually surprised people avoid getting into a situation which would require dialogue with a bereaved person.

I'm pretty worried I may have inadvertently seriously offended a bereaved person myself, I can't think of anythign else to say to someone who is bereaved but not a close friend for me to be more personal.

cg13 Thu 26-Sep-13 20:44:24

Exactly fuzzy. If this is the judgment people receive for saying "sorry for your loss" it's not surprising people end up not saying anything at all. But then that is "wrong" too, so it's a lose-lose situation. Like I said, there are no rules, so think people should be less judgey for at least trying with a simple "sorry for your loss".

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 20:48:34

I can't imagine what its like for you all.
To have your feelings hurt by a thread on the internet.
It must be awful.
I hope you find a way to cope.

Don't give up. Everything happens for a reason.

fuzzywuzzy Thu 26-Sep-13 20:59:16

My feelings arent hurt, I'm confused now as to the 'right; thig to say in such an instance, I'd certianly not want ot add to a bereaved persons grief.

We have a standard religious rpely in our religion which literally means 'From God we came to Him we return' but that's utterly inappropriate for a non religious person.

So what exactly is acceptable, if you're not close enough to the bereaved person to be more personal?

I really can see the logic in avoiding bereaved aquaintances going by this thread.

LRDMaguliYaPomochTebeSRaboti Thu 26-Sep-13 21:04:12

There isn't a 'right' thing to say.

But there is a right response when you accidentally say the wrong thing. You just accept this person is hurting and you can help by accepting that.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Thu 26-Sep-13 21:05:52


It's not a "MN sin" but you do look a bit silly if you haven't kept up with the conversation

travellingwilbury Thu 26-Sep-13 21:08:03

I think the point that I would like to make as I cant speak for every bereaved parent or person out there is just that yes I appreciate it more than you will know when you mention his name to me and when you acknowledge that my life is less because is not in it but a clumsy half arsed " he is with the angels now " or " at least you can have another one " or " I know how you feel as my boyfriend has left me " will piss me off and deserves to be moaned about . I dont care how well meaning they were !

And for the record I dont mind sorry for your loss .

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 21:08:09

If you avoid a bereaved person do not blame it on a thread on the internet.
If someone is the type to avoid a bereaved person they would do regardless.

The OP has very recently lost her mother yet people are whinging about how uncomfortable her views have made them feel.

The majority of bereaved people on this thread have said they don't mind 'I am sorry for your loss' yet this fact has been repeatedly ignored by other posters who just want to get across how hard it is for them

Which pretty much mirrors the experiences of bereaved people (particularly parents) in real life.

Which is interesting don't you think?

fuzzywuzzy Thu 26-Sep-13 21:12:14

I've never avoided a bereaved person, I always say 'sorry for your loss' and actually completely mean it.

This thread will definitely make me think twice tho.

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 21:14:39

About what?

About saying something that the majority of people think is an acceptable term.

You are throwing your toys out of the pram because one or two people don't like the term?

So a couple of people, at least one who has just lost her mother, have ruined everything?

everlong Thu 26-Sep-13 21:16:21

I'll back what TW said about saying their name. It means so so much. When someone mentions his name they are remembering him.

That's all we have now. Memories.

I hope folk will take away at least one point from this thread for when they meet a bereaved parent.

fuzzywuzzy Thu 26-Sep-13 21:19:36

I'm not upset at all.

Taken aback that a generally acceptable response when it's very hard to know what to say, could be considered offensive to the person one is trying to offer a little comfort too.

I will most certainly think about it before offering condolences to someone I am not close to.

I'd rather not add to someones sorrow.

travellingwilbury Thu 26-Sep-13 21:19:38

Fuzzy thatbjust sounds like a cop out to me .

Of all the terms you could say that one is the most accepted . If you are worried then say it and watch the reaction and decide what to do hext .
tell them you really dont know what to say but you are sorry .

There are many ways to show someone you give a toss .

Bowlersarm Thu 26-Sep-13 21:22:43

But MrsDV, the whole thread is a bit unfortunate in that people piled in at the beginning without knowing the ops incredibly recent bereavement, and when they did find out it put the whole thread on a different footing.

If anything, it's made me think there isn't a right thing to say but many many wrong things.

'Sorry for your loss' seems to be the least inoffensive and probably one that I would now use if I don't know the particular person i'm talking to well.

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 21:26:39

Fuzzy Your reaction seems extreme considering the majority of views on this thread.

Do you usually change your life according to the opinions of one or two people on MN?

concretebox Thu 26-Sep-13 21:27:29

'Sorry for your loss'

I could never find that offensive.
Today got terminal cancer diagnosis for a close relative.
Beyond belief to find anyone wanting for expressing such a sentiment.

ABaconAndOnionTart Thu 26-Sep-13 21:28:22

I haven't read the thread, sorry, but the team 'lost' is not an Americanism, think about the lost boys in Peter Pan-it was a euphemism for someone who has died, the children who would never grow up.

One aspect of grief is anger, and it is difficult to know what to say to the bereaved for fear of upset, or being angry at what is being said.

At the moment I am happy to hear anything that people have to say about my 'loss'. I have lost so much and the fact that people care enough to say so is heartfelt.

Kyyria Thu 26-Sep-13 21:30:33

I can't stand the phrase "fell asleep" when referring to someone who has died. If they had just fallen asleep then you wouldn't have a problem!!!! grrrr!

WorraLiberty Thu 26-Sep-13 21:33:26

When my Mum and my Sister died, I really didn't care what words people used to acknowledge their deaths.

I was just grateful they took the time to say something, that's all.

Death often makes people feel awkward, without worrying about the words they choose to use.

rhetorician Thu 26-Sep-13 21:35:09

As others have said it is a standard expression of solidarity with someone who is grieving in Ireland. I think it enables one person to say something to another without presuming (remember that in Ireland everyone goes to funerals, so you might find yourself at a funeral for someone you didn't know well or even haven't met). The point is less the words than the intention behind them. I think when you have experienced a loss everything that is said is painful, and fails to speak precisely to your experience, that's what grief is like. OP, I am sorry that you are suffering (no less a cliche than the original, I'm afraid) and hope you have friends and family to support you.

expatinscotland Thu 26-Sep-13 21:43:46

What MrsdeVere said.

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 21:44:37

Death often makes people feel awkward, without worrying about the words they choose to use.

But its ok for those who have actually lost someone to feel upset?

Would you really have been ok with someone telling you that your mother or sister's death was 'for the best'?

I think there's a lot to be said for cultures where death isn't a taboo and people can freely discuss the death of a loved one and how they feel, without feeling like they're making other people uncomfortable.

I have always said I'm sorry for your loss and I'm sorry for your troubles, but like others have said, it's probably because I'm Irish and it's what I've grown up hearing.

I have to say though - being angry after experiencing the loss of a loved one is perfectly ok. If I say something crass, through not knowing/understanding and I'm told to stop being so fucking stupid by a mourner - well that's fine. It's a momentary embarrassment for me that I can attempt to put right.

When my nan died, I was told it was a release and that she was in a better place, with her husband and children - and it was. She was in her 90's, with dementia, her skin was breaking down, her organs were failing and she was in unbearable pain. I think a death like that is possibly the only time that those phrases are acceptable - to say it to someone who has lost a child is just dense, to put it nicely.

OP and Puppy - I'm sorry to hear about both your mums. Take it easy on yourselves for the next while.

WorraLiberty Thu 26-Sep-13 21:47:49

Would you really have been ok with someone telling you that your mother or sister's death was 'for the best'?

Oh God no not at all...sorry! shock

I was going on the OP worrying about 'sorry for your loss'.

I didn't realise the thread had moved on...that'll teach me to read it all before commenting.

ssd Thu 26-Sep-13 21:51:51

I found when my parents died I most appreciated honestly from people, not clichés which is mainly what I got. But I also know no one who has suffered deep awful grief has a clue what to say. I remember saying something really daft to a neighbours teenage child when his dad had just died very suddenly. I was so tongue tied I said "I seen your sister, her hair is really nice after being cut today"...I mean WTAF!!!

I can get people not understanding my grief, but what hurts the most is it being ignored.

ABaconAndOnionTart Thu 26-Sep-13 21:53:08

But its ok for those who have actually lost someone to feel upset?

When you are bereaved, nothing, in my opinion can make you feel more upset. Isn't bereavement the worst upset you can experience?

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 21:53:22

Its ok worra smile

You are not the only poster to say that they don't mind what people say as long as they say something.

But when we look at it more closely that isn't really true. Because people say some really stupid things even when they are 'trying to be nice'

I have been trying to get that point across without much success so far.

ssd Thu 26-Sep-13 21:58:18

agree baconandonion

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 21:58:24

Of course things can make you feel more upset.

When my daughter died my niece posted on the internet that it was my punishment for adopting her sister's baby.

When my friend's daughter died the undertakers refused to return her clothes until she could find the £50 she owed.

Just after my DD's funeral the local Dog Warden told me it was my own fault that my dog got out on the day of the funereal and I should think myself lucky that he hadn't put her down.

I could write pages of the things that made me 'more upset' after the death of my daughter.

Crassness, selfishness, carelessness and downright nastiness.

Losing a child doesn't make you somehow immune from these things.

fuzzywuzzy Thu 26-Sep-13 22:00:39

MrsDevere I'm not English, I know the norm for my own culture.

I do take threads on MN seriously, if a lot of the people here say they prefer the condolences to include the name of the love one I take that on board.

But if 'sorry for you loss' is going to cause hurt, I'm not about to impose myself on someone who is already in a lot of pain.

I've lost a lot of very close family, I don't remember the words said by the people who came to pay their respects. I remember they cared.

BlackDaisies Thu 26-Sep-13 22:01:56

I agree with the OP that I don't particularly like the phrase "sorry for your loss". I remember getting a card from work, with about 50 signatures in it, ALL of which saying "sorry for your loss"/ "sorry to hear the news". Of course I appreciated the card, but I do remember feeling a bit taken aback and upset and thinking "it's my lovely dad who died, why couldn't even one person mention him" sad Seeing all those signatures mentioning a "loss" or "news", seemed to sort of wipe him out of the equation.

I also had the odd person ignore me completely, but strangely enough could understand that better, as I do understand it can be so difficult to know what to say face to face. As for the "with the angels" type comments - have never had those, but I wouldn't find them particularly comforting or helpful. A (lovely) friend did say "it must be good that you're no longer seeing him suffering" or something like that, a few days after my dad had died, and I remember just feeling very sad and saying I just really missed him and just wanted to see/be with him again.

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 22:06:05

Fuzzy are you deliberatly ignoring the fact that the majority of posters are saying that phrase is ok

And please don't tell me you wouldn't remember or care if someone had turned up at your house after you lost a loved one and said 'never mind, its for the the best, at least thats one less Christmas present to buy'

* 'never mind, its for the the best, at least thats one less Christmas present to buy'*

WTF shock - Did someone actually say that to you? I hope you told them where to go???

ABaconAndOnionTart Thu 26-Sep-13 22:09:04

Those are not really examples of people 'trying to be nice'.

My grief is still recent so maybe I have a different perspective, however I too have had some nasty comments made by people who were close to the person I 'lost' but not close to me and I just don't care about their opinions. I care about me and my family and friends.

I think this thread is about people trying to be nice, not trying to be nasty.

ssd Thu 26-Sep-13 22:12:39

to me, its the crass, utterly insensitive things close family said to me after mum died that keeps me awake at night , losing her was truly awful but hearing some of the things said was insult to injury

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 22:16:27

I am sorry but that is simply a matter of opinion and degree.

Someone saying 'your baby is with the angels' or 'at least you can have another one' or 'it was for the best' DO think they are being nice.

So all this talk of 'I don't care what people say' and 'I don't remember what people said, just that they said something' is not strictly true is it.

We don't tend to remember the innocuous. We remember the good and the bad.

Bacon you didn't mention people being nice. You said it wasn't possible to be 'more upset' once you were bereaved. It is not my experience that the death of a loved one gives you some sort of invisoshield that repels fuckwits.

I think people say stupid things, yes, but I think (hope) that it comes from a good place and a desire to somehow, any how, comfort a bereaved person, however clumsily.

Grief is a terrible, burning, awful but also very personal thing. It's horrible, and words can't even touch it, so people turn to cliche in the hope that saying something close to appropriate will cover the emotions which are beyond words.
Here (Ireland ) it's a form of solidarity. We're here for you, we're sorry for your troubles, we've brought food. It is just what is done, and what has always been done. Clinging to convention in the face of desperate loss.

The "better place" idea is also meant to be a clumsy comfort to those left behind. I've heard it said by the grieving as well as the supporters. I honestly believe that no harm is meant and those who say it would be devastated to realise the upset it has caused. That doesn't undermine or negate that upset, but maybe mitigates it a little?

Mrs DeVere I'm so sorry. There are actually no words for what you have experienced and I hope you have RL people behind you and beside you sad

MrsDeVere Thu 26-Sep-13 22:20:05

I am very sorry about that ssd and that your family behaved so badly.

Of course its possible to be made more upset when you have lost someone.

Unfortunately one person's crass, insensitive remark is another's advice/plain talking/trying to be nice.

Which is why I don't think people should be so quick to dismiss the feelings of the OP.

cg13 Thu 26-Sep-13 22:20:50

BlackDaises, you've reminded me that a colleague's mum died recently, and we sent a card. I didn't know her that well so really struggled to know what to write. My thought processes were along the lines of "if I write the word 'mum', or 'death', and she reads the card at a good moment, or when she's not feeling so upset, what if my words act as a trigger and make her cry, or make it worse?" So, I crafted a suitable vague sentiment, which the card was already full of. It pains me to think that the eventual decision we all made caused her any more upset, but it clearly may have. sad I'd also like to offer my condolences, but after this thread genuinely don't know how to write it. Instead, thanks.

mrs d, i think youve put your points across really well on this thread
and i totally agree with you

personally i dont mind the phrase
but i hate the way the breaved are expected to be oh so fucking understanding
of rude hurtful insensitve thoughtless comments

and we are expected not to be hurt by others cowdly actions
like avioding you etc, crossing the road
because that person can't handle your grief
they can't handle encountering us for a few moments as it makes them feel so bad
how the fuck do they think we feel that is is our life now and forever

ssd Thu 26-Sep-13 22:25:30

thanks MrsDeVere thanks to you too

tips for dealing with breaved

dont say anything that starts with well at least xyz
that will not help

dont offer empty offers of help, such as, if you need anything just ask, that person probably doesnt feel able to ask, so make actual offers of real help
such as could i pop round a few meals for you, coudl i do the school run for you, coudl i have your other children round to play on xyz day
make actual offers, not empty offer

dont advise people what to do think or say
for example, a friend of mine told me, that as soon as my sons funeral was over i should take down all the sympathy cards in my
what a rude thing to say

dont ever tell anyone to move on or get over it or words to that effect
it will not help and they will hate you

do listen
do be there
do say the naem of the person thats died
do remember key dates anniversarys and birthdays that will truely mean the world to the breaved
do realise that person probably wont ever be the same ever again

and when you realise this
you will see you are not helpless
theres actually alot you can do to help someone through this type of thing

ABaconAndOnionTart Thu 26-Sep-13 22:29:12

Mrs devere, what I am trying to say, not very well it seems is that I am so truly, utterly devastated by my own grief that nothing can, at the moment, make me feel worse.

I hope that I have not upset you and if I have then I apologise. We all feel things differently, and maybe it is hard to see beyond our own experiences, especially with emotive topics such as this.

Trills Thu 26-Sep-13 22:33:01

ButThereAgain is "dysphemistic* a word?

Please teach me to use it!

I love it!

fuzzywuzzy Thu 26-Sep-13 22:33:53

MrsDevere, nobody ever said that to me and I would not dream of saying anything like that to anyone either.

The culture I come from we say a short prayer on hearing of a death.

I will in future pay my respects using the loved ones name.

I've never ever had nayone be nasty to me when bereaved, so no I personally don't remember what they said apart from the prayer but I remember all the people who came.

ChippingInNeedsSleepAndCoffee Thu 26-Sep-13 22:34:12

MrsDV flowers Even after all of these years & the number of times you have written it, I still can't believe that people said that after B died. I know people struggle to say the right thing, I know it's difficult to find the words - but FFS 'It's for the best'????????? That isn't even approaching 'ok' for a very elderly, very ill, person - it just isn't - let alone for a beautiful, amazing, loving, child.

It is odd how you spend so much energy (when you are bereaved) not upsetting other people, gracefully hmm acknowledging peoples condolences, trying to focus on the sentiment & not the (sometimes ill thought out) words people use.... it is exhausting and frankly, there were days when I was just glad when everyone had left and I didn't have to 'hold it all together'. People said some really insensitive stuff, none through malice, but certainly through not actually thinking before they opened their mouths and all you can do is bite back the retort and smile - there were a few times when if I had actually spoken it would not have been pretty.

I think 'Sorry for your loss' is fine. It's a little impersonal, but it's fine and it does the job.

expatinscotland Thu 26-Sep-13 22:38:22

I always see it is that we were handed a life tariff and she got a death sentence, but I agree with MrsD and whiteiris.

rhetorician Thu 26-Sep-13 22:46:23

whiteandyellow thank you For your guidance, and sorry that you are in a position to be so knowledgeable. I have a colleague who lost her daughter earlier this year and I have struggled to find the right thing to say.

ImagineJL Thu 26-Sep-13 22:48:31

Sorry, I haven't read the whole thread, but I remember when my brother died, the comment I found hardest to handle was "I don't know what to say". Several people said that to me at his funeral. It made me feel that they were uncomfortable, "didn't know what to say", so it was my responsibility to put them at their ease and tell them it was OK! "Sorry for your loss" would have been better.

I'm a GP so I spend a lot of my time sympathising with people for various reasons, and I tend to say things like "I really feel for you, life can be so cruel, you must be feeling wretched, it's just not fair". Having gone through such a horrific bereavement myself I feel it's important to acknowledge and "permit" the bereaved person's misery, rather than making them feel they have to minimise their distress in order to save you discomfort!

MrsBeep Thu 26-Sep-13 22:56:22

I work in a call centre and sometimes people have to call up and tell me someone close to them has passed away and to cancel their insurance. All I can ever think to say is "I am very sorry to hear of your loss". What would you suggest I say differently? I have always only ever got a "Thank you" from the relative on the end of the line.

rhet, seriously you can help our colleague friend
if you do those things such as remember the dates, maybe send her a little card, if its easier, as idon't know what its like in your workplace
it will honestly mean so much to her
make sure you use her childs name
i and people i know in this shitty position love to hear our childs name said out loud
realise at christmas it will be espeically hard for her, her emotions will probably feel even more intensifed
and its a really tough time to get through
and she probably putting on the act, pretending to be better than she actually is
see though it
and all these things will really really help her
i hope that it really helps you both

theres a couple of poems i particulary like that explain the grief and loss in a far more eloquent way than i ever could
but this is one of them
it mighe help with understanding a tiny percent of the pain

sk My Mom How She Is

by Author Unknown

My Mom, she tells a lot of lies,

She never did before

But from now until she dies,

She'll tell a whole lot more.

Ask my Mom how she is

And because she can't explain,

She will tell a little lie

because she can't describe the pain.

Ask my Mom how she is,

She'll say"I'm alright."

If that's the truth, then tell me,

why does she cry each night ?

Ask my Mom how she is

She seems to cope so well,

She didn't have a choice you see,

Nor the strength to yell.

Ask my Mom how she is,

"I'm fine, I'm well, I'm coping."

For God's sake Mom, just tell the truth,

Just say your heart is broken

She'll love me all her life

I loved her all of mine.

But if you ask her how she is,

She'll lie and say she's fine.

I am here in Heaven

I cannot hug from here.

If she lies to you don't listen

Hug her and hold her near.

On the day we meet again,

We'll smile and I'll be bold.

I'll say,

"You're lucky to get in here, Mom,

With all the lies you told!


An Ugly Pair of Shoes"

I am wearing a pair of shoes.
They are ugly shoes.
Uncomfortable Shoes.
I hate my shoes.
Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair.
Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I do not think I can take another step.
Yet, I continue to wear them.
I get funny looks wearing these shoes.
They are looks of sympathy.
I can tell in others eyes that they are glad they are my shoes and not theirs.
They never talk about my shoes.
To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable.
To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them.
But, once you put them on, you can never take them off.
I now realize that I am not the other one who wears these shoes.
There are many pairs in the world.
Some women are like me and ache daily as they try and walk in them.
Some have learned how to walk in them so they don't hurt quite as much.
Some have worn the shoes so long that days will go by
before they think of how much they hurt.
No woman deserves to wear these shoes.
Yet, because of the shoes I am a stronger women.
These shoes have given me the strength to face anything.
They have made me who I am.
I will forever walk in the shoes of a woman who has lost a child.

Namechangesforthehardstuff Thu 26-Sep-13 23:00:40

Mrs DV I've just finished reading the thread but mainly your posts and I just say that your argument is being heard, is simple and is clear and that I'm so sad to read your examples of being treated with a basic lack of humanity following your bereavement. So unbelievable that people would treat you that way.

rhetorician Thu 26-Sep-13 23:05:54

Thank you. I have tried to do some of the things you suggest, remembering her daughters birthday, a text the day all the children went back to school. Acknowledging her grief but also that I really don't know what it is like or what she and her husband are going through. But I do know that she won't 'get over' it, only somehow, painfully, learn to live with it. I really appreciate your responses, thank you so much.

I hope that you have support, love and understanding from those around you.

BlackDaisies Thu 26-Sep-13 23:07:37

cg13 thank you smile. Don't worry, my main feeling was that it was nice to get a card, and I appreciated that people cared enough to send it. It did shock me a bit, seeing a whole card full of comments about my loss/ news, but it didn't make me in any way think anyone was uncaring. It made think about how I would word a card in the future, or what I would say. The only difference now is that I would include "I'm sorry to hear about your mum/ dad "etc rather than a loss.

rhet, no problem, glad to have hopefully helped.
you are clearly a thoughtful caring person
and im glad this person has someone as sensitive looking out for them
wishing you both the best of luck

i am v lucky that i do have good support because it makes a huge huge difference

WeAreSeven Thu 26-Sep-13 23:45:08

"I'm sorry for your loss" or "I'm sorry for your trouble" is fine by me. I know a lot of people have disagreed with Numberlock on this. Numberlock, I am so sorry about your Mum, I'm sorry the words hurt.

"She's in a better place" , no not fine, she was seven weeks old, she belongs with her Mum and Dad, if she is in a better place, she has no business being there without us.
"God wanted another angel" Did he indeed? Well, why did He take mine? Why was I singled out to make that sacrifice? He didn't fucking take your child, did he?
"She would have been a vegetable anyway?" Er, no she wouldn't. She was as bright as a button, she died suddenly and unexpectedly and who, in this day and age, refers to any child as a vegetable, no matter how disabled they are. You have just equated my child, and many other precious children with a carrot or leek.
"I know how you feel" No you don't, all your children are alive. On one memorable occasion this statement was followed with "My dog died". I like dogs, I get that you loved your dog, but losing a dog is not like losing a child, in any way, shape or form.
"At least you have your other children" Well, I suppose one child is much like another, like having four chocolates left when you had five. Except that it isn't.

And then there is the scuttler. The one who ducks into a different aisle in the supermarket or rushes past in a hurry. It isn't catching, you know!

My uncle arrived at my house and just said "I don't know what to say." And that was fine, too. He was right. He couldn't say anything that would bring her back, work no magic that would make me better.

Accepting that nothing you can say will make it better is a good start. And that saying nothing will make it worse. Just say you're thinking of them. Praying for them if you do pray, that's fine, even if they've fallen out with God themselves.

The lovely white has said it very well. I will never forget the neighbour who brought a shepherds pie or the school Mums who said nothing and just hugged me,or the people who invited me over for coffee and cake. The cousin who brought a rose in a pot for me to plant in the garden.
And the lovely ladies on the Bereaved Mums thread who let you know that life will always be just that bit more shitty than it used to be but that life can go on.

Growlithe Fri 27-Sep-13 00:10:52

Firstly, OP, I'm really sorry that you are suffering bereavement at the moment, especially of someone so close.

It almost seems a part of the process to strike out at somebody/something. Better to start something like this on an anonymous forum than do what I did and start a big row with my lovely DBro and his equally lovely wife.

But these people don't know what to say to you. They want to say something to help you, but what words would do that? They are frightened to upset you, but what could they say that would make you feel worse? So they say this, because they are scared, so go easy on them.

Since I lost my mum I've always tried to put a memory of the person whilst writing a sympathy card, but it takes experience to realise this would be well received.

Try to go easy on everyone at this time, and look at the number of people who at least tried to say something to comfort you.

All the best for the journey you are about to make back to what we call 'normality'. It's a bumpy one, and you don't end up back in the same place.

MerryMarigold Fri 27-Sep-13 09:11:57
Arabesque Fri 27-Sep-13 11:27:28

At my father's funeral someone came up to me, offered her sympathies and started gabbling away about some work thing and they'd be sending it on to me etc.

I thought it was strange but afterwards I realised it was just nervous chatter because she wasn't sure what to say. I didn't take offense, she had dragged herself out on a Saturday morning to come to the funeral and had probably spent the afternoon kicking herself. But she came and she sympathised, however awkwardly she handled it. You just can't go around analysing and mulling over things people say at a time when they're feeling anxious about doing the right thing. Yes,some people say particularly nice things that mean a lot and you remember those words. And some people say something awkward and crass and you remember that but appreciate that they really tried and just got it wrong. And loads and loads of people just say 'I'm sorry for your loss' and you just remember, with gratitude, that they acknowledged your loved one's death.

OliviaMMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 27-Sep-13 18:42:35

Hello OP

Sorry about all of this - do let us know if you'd like us to move this thread out of AIBU.
Peace and love

Imaginethat Fri 27-Sep-13 21:22:22

When my sister died one of my colleagues emailed

Sorry for yur loose

Which I thought was pretty crap, really.
Sheesh, at least spell it right.

I tried really hard to be grateful for words, however clumsy, because I think people mean well. But sometimes it does hurt.

everlong Fri 27-Sep-13 21:38:32

Imagine bloody hell, yes at least get the spelling right!

When ds died one of DH's friends posted a card. It was a condolence card but with no message just a rushed scribbled autograph. That made me sad.

Imaginethat Fri 27-Sep-13 22:02:35

everlong Oh my gosh I would feel so hurt. Your son, your beautiful son. I'm so sorry.

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