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Finding the right words to say was something I thought about more than I should have. My dad passed away when I was 18 and it was the heaviest and most emotionally tolling period of my life. Despite the pain I was feeling I worried about how to make the people who care about me feel more comfortable. If you have recently experienced a loss the first step should always be to take care of yourself and emotional health, but here are some tips if you are wondering how to share this news with unknowing friends and respond to those who give you their condolences.

How do I tell someone about him/her without killing the mood?

If you feel it’s the right time to talk about the person you lost then you should. Just because they are no longer with you doesn’t mean that they didn’t have a significant impact on your life. Anyone that cares about you will be interested in hearing about them.

What do I say to “I’m sorry” or “my condolences”?

Neither of those phrases ever felt good to me, but don’t blame them, blame the English language! My go-to has always been “thanks for saying that” or “no need to say sorry” (with a smile). For the first 2 years those words felt empty to me, and I used to avoid speaking about my dad because I didn’t want to hear those responses. Now I realize that words don’t matter – what matters is the intent. I know those people really meant to say – “I’m sorry you experienced that pain. Is there anything I can do to help?”. Now my response is always “Thank you.”

What do I say to a friend who just experienced a loss?

This is a tough one. If you’re like me then you know this is thin ice. Your friend may not be ready to speak yet or be in a place where they can cope with what’s happened. If you’re close to this person then use your judgement to make the right call. I don’t remember much about the months surrounding the loss of my dad. I may have blocked out those memories for my sanity, but I do remember the outpouring of love and support I received from my friends. I remember every text I received saying I was in their thoughts and every tight hug.

Everyone knows this is a time in your life that will just suck. Take care of yourself first and try not to dwell on the language that you and the people who care about you say. What’s important is remembering and knowing that you do have people that care for you and love you, regardless on what words are used to express that.

Avion – Former AMF Chapter Leader at Boston University

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