Sympathy Etiquette for the Loss of a Sister

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It’s always difficult to know what to say when someone loses a sister, but you still need to offer condolences. A few simple words can provide a lot of comfort to her siblings.

As soon as you hear about the death, start thinking about what to say, but don’t let much time pass before you express your sympathy. Call or send a message as soon as possible, but be brief.

Be intentional, show sympathy, and offer a listening ear. Sometimes it’s best to say a few words and then stop talking to listen to the survivor.

Remember that this is a very emotional time for the family members. So don’t expect to “cheer them up.” Nothing you say or do will remove the heartache from their loss. Instead, focus more on providing comfort and showing kindness.

Offer Comfort

Instead of trying to come up with the perfect words, express your sympathy with a simple, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Then be quiet and truly listen to your friend. 

She’s probably dealing with quite a few conflicting emotions that may range from sadness to anger and perhaps even some guilt. This is a normal part of the grieving process.

Show Kindness

Even if you’ve sent a sympathy note, call to express your condolences. If you are close friends with the survivor, visit and bring food.

Offer to do something helpful. If the person is involved with making funeral arrangements, offer to babysit, help with a chore, or do something to take some of the pressure off. 

What to Write in a Sympathy Card

After a friend loses a sister, there will be a void in her life that no one else can fill. Avoid the temptation to say it will get better over time. That won’t provide any comfort at a time when she’s hurting the most.

Here are some examples of what to write in a sympathy card:

  • I’m so sorry for your loss. If you need to talk, I’m a good listener.
  • Even though I never met your sister, I felt as though I knew her through all the wonderful things you told me. I am so sorry to hear what happened.
  • You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers during this time.
  • I’m heartbroken about the loss of your sister. She was so sweet, and I know she loved you very much.
  • Your sister always had such a soft heart for those less fortunate. She will definitely be missed.
  • I know this is a difficult time for you. If you feel like talking, please give me a call.
  • If you need any help with babysitting or running errands, please let me know. I’ll be glad to help in any way I can.

What Not to Say or Do

When someone loses a sister, avoid the temptation to give a pat comment. Here are some things you should never say:

  • She’s in a better place.
  • Try to smile. [Sister’s name] wouldn’t want you to cry.
  • You might be sad now, but time heals. You’ll eventually get over it.
  • Let this be a lesson. If she’d taken better care of herself, she’d still be alive.

You shouldn’t say anything negative about the person’s sister, no matter how you feel. It doesn’t help the survivors to hear bad things about the person they just lost.

Don’t try to force your friend to have fun or get back to her normal self any time soon. No matter how down she is, it’s up to her to decide when she’s ready to laugh and joke with her pals.

At the Funeral

Speak to each family member and offer your condolences, but don’t spend too much time talking. This is the time to show up to the funeral, show that you care, and give the family some space if they need it.

However, if you’re good friends with one of the surviving family members, she may want to talk to you a little bit longer. Be there for her but don’t put pressure on yourself to say the perfect words.

If you’re not sure what to say, don’t say anything. It’s often best to listen or simply give her a hug to show that you care. 

After the Funeral

After the funeral, give your friend a few days to grieve with her family. Then call and ask if she’d like to talk. Listen to her and accept her answer. If she’s not ready to chat, don’t take it personally.

In a couple of weeks, send her a card to let her know you’re thinking of her. Once again, offer your help and willingness to listen. So many people are swarmed with condolences immediately after the death, but it often stops shortly after the funeral. 

Things to Remember

A person who loses a sister will probably feel intense sorrow. After all, many people consider their sisters to be their best friend, and turn to their sisters first when they have good news or bad news. She may have been the person your friend went to first for advice, and it will take quite a bit of time to come to grips with her death. 

Regardless of what you say or what you do, you can’t “fix” the loss. The survivors will feel pain and heartache, no matter what words you use. Whether you’re writing a sympathy note or talking to family members, keep your message short but heartfelt. The kindest thing you can do is show that you’re thinking of them and that you care.