Updated on September 3, 2016
What to Write in a Sympathy Card
Writing a sympathy message is just as difficult as knowing what to say when someone dies. It’s not as simple as just scrawling down any generic message—messages of condolences require one to be sensitive, mindful, and thoughtful as well as being sympathetic. There are also cliched and possibly offensive phrases to avoid.
Thinking of messages of sympathy can be a difficult process. Sympathy cards present a unique challenge in that they are for people who need comfort and support. This article will provide you with:
- General messages of sympathy
- Messages of sympathy for people close to you
- Pet sympathy card messages
- Messages that you should avoid
- How to write your card: things to keep in mind during your writing process
- A sample sympathy card template
- Additional links to a variety of sympathy card messages
Choosing your words carefully for your sympathy message will allow you to communicate the message you really want to get across. Make sure you put some time and thought into your message. Good luck!
Below, you’ll find some more general messages of sympathy. These are handy to use when you aren’t as close to the receiver or deceased and would just like to express your condolences.
- “I am at a loss for words. I know there is nothing for me to say that will make your loss easier but know that I am sending you my love and support. I hope you can understand what I can’t put into words.”
- “Love knows no boundaries. While ________ is no longer physically with us, his/her spirit is always around us. My deepest condolences.”
- “Please know that you’re in my thoughts and prayers. My sincerest condolences for an incredibly great loss. I’ll never forget _________.”
- “I was so saddened to hear about _________ passing. I hope and pray that you will have strength during this time of loss.”
- “My deepest condolences to you during this time. Know that you are not alone and that if you ever need to talk, please don’t hesitate to reach out.”
- “You have my deepest, sincerest sympathy.”
- “I am praying for you during your time of loss. Know that we are all thinking of you.”
- “We want to let you know that we are here for you if you need anything. Expect us to call you soon—you are welcome to come over whenever you want.”
- “I know that _________ was well loved and respected. He had great character and a big heart.”
- “Our sympathy is with you in your time of grieving.”
- “I have never been good at writing in cards, but I don’t want that to keep me from letting you know the deep sympathy I feel for you at this time.”
- “Those who love us never go away. I hope you know that even during this dark time, __________ will always be with you in spirit.”
- “My deepest condolences to you and your family during this dark time. Please know that our family is keeping you and yours in our prayers and thoughts.”
- “May all the sweet memories of ___________ bring you solace during this time. I hope that all the great moments that you were able to have with him/her before she/he passed away brings you comfort.”
- “My heartfelt condolences to you during this time of sorrow. You’re in my thoughts and prayers and I’m here for whatever you need.”
- “The loss of someone dear to us is never easy. I hope all the cherished memories that you have of ________ brings you some light during this dark time. My deepest condolences.”
- “I hope the love and support from your loved ones bring you peace during this difficult time. My heartfelt sympathies to you.”
- “There is no hurting, no suffering, and no pain in Heaven. While we grieve his/her physical loss, please be comforted by the fact that he/she is in a far better place now.”
- “Extending my most heartfelt sympathy to you and your family.”
- “I can’t imagine how you’re feeling right now and I won’t pretend to know the loss that you’re experiencing. Please know that you’re not alone and I’m just a phone call away. If you ever need any support or someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to reach out.”
- “These things are never easy to write, and with a heavy heart I extend my deepest condolences to you during this dark time. I’m here if you need anything.”
- “I hope that the love and support from your family and friends, including me, gets you through this time. You’re in my prayers.”
- “I wish you nothing but comfort and strength. Rest in peace, _________.”
- “I’ve never really written a sympathy card before so forgive me if this doesn’t come out sounding right. I am so sorry to hear about this loss and am deeply saddened. If you need anything, know that you’re not alone. I’m here for you.”
- “While there’s nothing I can do to change what happened, I can continue to offer you my love and support. Extending my most heartfelt condolences to you and your family.”
Messages for Closer Friends and Family
Below you’ll find messages of sympathy and ideas on what to write when the deceased or receiver is someone you’re closer to know or know more well. Usually, these messages are a bit easier to write (though, still difficult given the subject matter). If you need some inspiration, here are some ideas. You can also include a nice memory or story too, as long as it’s appropriate.
- “__________ is in some of my favorite memories. Know that the mark he/she left is a great one, and because of this he’ll/she’ll never really be gone. My deepest condolences to you during this dark time—please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need a shoulder of support.”
- “This is devastating to me and we’re all experiencing this great loss. If ever you need to talk, know that I’m aways available.”
- “__________ was a kindhearted, generous person. As a recipient of his kindness and generosity, I will miss him greatly.”
- “__________ was one of my favorite people. I’ll never forget the time we __________. I hope this story brightens your day and helps you realize that number of lives __________ has touched. She’ll never be forgotten.”
- “I am deeply saddened by the loss we both share. I am assured that we will be comforted by our memories and our love which is very much alive. He’ll never really die this way.”
- “I will never forget the fond memories of __________. He was one of the funnest people to be around. He was able to effortlessly make everyone else have a good time.”
- “__________ always put a smile on my face and will continue to do so whenever I think about him/her. Many sympathies for your loss.”
- “‘(Quote from deceased),’ he/she would always say. This always struck me as memorable and I’ll never forget the lasting impression that ________ made on me. I know that you feel the same. Know that during this dark time, you’re not alone and we all grieve with you. My deepest condolences.”
- “When I felt my loneliest, __________ was there. Now, I’ll always know that he/she is there with me, whether on this Earth or in spirit. He/she felt the same way about you and while we’re experiencing a physical loss, I hope you know that no one we love really ever leaves us, as cliched as that may sound, it’s true. I hope this brings you comfort.”
- “The loss of a person as wonderful as __________ isn’t going to be easy. But much like _________’s character, I hope you know you’re full of strength and that I’m here to support you if you ever need it. Call me if you need anything.”
Pet Sympathy Card Messages
Pets are just as human as any other family member when they go. Below, find some samples of what to say to someone who has recently lost their pet. These can be tweaked to include the kind of animal and the pet’s name.
- “My heart goes out to you as you grieve the loss of a very lovable member of your family.”
- “My condolences to a loss of a very important member of your family.”
- “May you be comforted by the peace of knowing that you provided a loving home to your awesome pet for so many years.”
- “Some pets are really good pets, but then there are those who are flat out amazing. I am sorry you lost such an amazing pet. We will all miss him/her a lot.”
- “________ was such a good dog/cat, I won’t forget my furry little friend, either. Please call anytime if you need to talk about your loss.”
- “I was so sad to hear about the loss of your faithful friend. Please know that I’m here if you ever need anything.”
- “I am praying for you as you mourn the loss of your family member, playmate, and friend. I know he/she is having the time of his/her life up in doggy/kitty heaven “
- “You had one of the best dogs/cats that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting/knowing. I hope that the wonderful memories you have of your time with ________ bring you some comfort at this time.”
- “Extending my deepest sympathy to you and your family for the loss of your furry companion.”
- “I’m so sorry for the loss of your best friend. ________ was such a good dog/cat. My deepest condolences.”
What to Avoid WritingEven if your intent is well meaning, be careful with how you write your sympathy card. Sometimes your wording or phrasing can come off as too cliché, insincere, or just plain offensive.
There are both inappropriate and overused messages of sympathy that should be avoided. The following cliched or insensitive messages may offend, confuse, or generally harm the grieving person. This is not a time to display your own pride or be shallow. Do not use the following ten types of messages of sympathy:
- “He had a good life.” While this isn’t necessarily offensive, it is overused. On top of that, saying that the deceased had a good life may not even be true.
- “That is not fair that ________ died. Why did it have to be him? He didn’t deserve to die. He was a better man than most. It’s just not fair.” This type of message honing in on the unfairness only focuses on the pain that the living is already dealing with and doesn’t do anything to help with the healing process.
- “He is finally getting some rest now. He feels no pain because he is in a better place.” This is not necessarily offensive, but rather, again, is cliched and overused. Chances are the receiver has heard these phrases a few times already.
- “At least he was able to live a good, pleasurable, full, life. He lived much longer than some.” This message is similar to the one above and bringing up the fact that one lived a long life, regardless of how long, is unnecessary because the life is never going to be long enough.
- “I know how you feel. You’ll get over it. Time heals all wounds.” This comes off as insensitive and offers very little consolation to the receiver.
- “Try to stay positive. Everything works together for a reason.” This may come off as a bit condescending to the receiver. If not that, it’s unhelpful to hear in the mourning process.
- “At least you’re still alive, you have to be grateful for that.” The focus should never be on the receiver directly but rather their relationship to the deceased and their mourning process.
- “I guess it was just his time to go.” Again, this is unhelpful, unnecessary, and insensitive to say this, regardless of its truth (which can’t be verified, anyway.)
- “You should get over this in a couple weeks. He will be a faded memory and you will move on with your life.” While these things may or may not happen, it’s again very insensitive to dictate whether someone will “get over” something, especially something as serious and tragic as a death in an arbitrary amount of time.
- “I hated the jerk anyway. I’m glad he’s dead.” Self-explanatory.
What to Include in a Sympathy Message
Now that you have some ideas (and know what to avoid) for your sympathy messages, it may be helpful to learn about the actual process of writing those messages. The steps below should help you show your support and sympathy. Here are things to consider and focus on in your writing process:
- Express some words of sympathy. Tell the receiver that you are sorry to hear about the loss. You might want to mention some positives of the person who died. An example could read: “I am sorry about John’s passing. He was a blessing to me and a good friend for many years.” This positive example might make the receiver feel lighter and look back on the deceased even more fondly, which can help with the grieving process.
- Express your feelings. Tell the receiver how you feel about the loss. You want your card to read as personal rather than just one in a sea of many that say the same generic thing. This is really more of an empathy than a sympathy section though, as you’ll want to try to place yourself in the receiver’s shoes by empathizing without pushing it by trying to relate when you can’t. Be honest and express your feelings as simply as you can. An example might be: “I was deeply saddened when I heard that he died.”
- Add words of support. Although sometimes words of support can seem cliché, it is a good idea to include this in your message because you’ll want to try to let the receiver know that your support and presence is always available to him or her. This will help the receiver from feeling alone and helpless. An example could be: “I would love to talk or hang out with you some time soon. Just let me know.”
- Close your message of sympathy. Remember to always finish off your message so that it reads as complete, rather than something abrupt that came off as if you put very little thought into. An example could be: “While I don’t know what you need right now, know that my heart goes out to you.” Sign it “Kindly,” “Warmly,” or “Love,” depending on who will get it.
If you decide to do anything else with your message besides the above, you may want to review it to make sure it is appropriate. Some things are not appropriate for sympathy cards. Keep the cliches to a minimum, and write in conversational tone. Remember, don’t be patronizing and don’t ramble.
Sympathy Card Template
If you need a little direction and would like to include more than just a one liner, here’s a template that you can use in your sympathy card. See below for a longer, more involved message that the receiver may appreciate you taking the time out to write:
When I heard the news, I was incredibly (shocked/saddened/heartbroken.) We never really think that those so near and dear to us will really pass, so I know this must be especially hard on you and I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I know your (spouse/family/friends) are by your side during this difficult time, though.
(Insert any sweet or notable memory/story/recollection/quote from the deceased that you’re fond of that the receiver may appreciate.) (Expound on this if you’d like to emphasize how great of a person you think they were.)
(Message of condolence, use above for inspiration).
(Message offering support—include contact info if you aren’t certain they have it.)
(Closing message to let receiver know they’re in your thoughts.)
It is always a sad feeling whenever someone close dies, one of the most difficult things for most people to do is to find the right things to say when someone dies. It’s also very difficult to find something to say to the people affected when someone close to them dies, those undesirable moments has a way of putting us at a loss for words, it can be very difficult to express how we feel during those times. You can say, “You have my deepest, sincerest sympathy.” “You’re in my thoughts and prayers,” and maybe that’s true. Maybe you actually know what to think or pray on that person’s behalf. What about words like “I understand…” “I know how you feel…”
Do you really understand? The fact still remains that words can actually go a long way in amending the broken heart. Here are some words to say when someone dies
Good things to say when someone dies
1. “These things are never easy to write, and with a heavy heart I extend my deepest condolences to you during this dark time. I’m here if you need anything.”
2. “I hope that the love and support from your family and friends, including me, gets you through this time. You’re in my prayers.”
.3. “I wish you nothing but comfort and strength. Rest in peace, _________.”
4. “I’ve never really written a sympathy card before so forgive me if this doesn’t come out sounding right. I am so sorry to hear about this loss and am deeply saddened. If you need anything, know that you’re not alone. I’m here for you.”
5. “While there’s nothing I can do to change what happened, I can continue to offer you my love and support.
6. Extending my most heartfelt condolences to you and your family.”
7. “You have my deepest, sincerest sympathy.”
8. “I am praying for you during your time of loss. Know that we are all thinking of you.”
9. “We want to let you know that we are here for you if you need anything. Expect us to call you soon—you are welcome to come over whenever you want.”
10. 1″I know that _________ was well loved and respected. He had great character and a big heart.”
11. 1″Our sympathy is with you in your time of grieving.”
12. “Cheer up. Your (loved one who died) wouldn’t want you to be sad.”
13. “When you love deeply, you grieve deeply,” Heitger-Ewing writes. “Grievers need to be sad in order to get to the other side of grief.”
14. “Focus on all the blessings in your life.” (They are usually incapable of doing this.)
See Also: Famous And Popular Sayings
15. “She’s/he’s in a better place.” (The pain is still very real.)
16. “My deepest condolences to you and your family during this dark time. Please know that our family is keeping you and yours in our prayers and thoughts.”
17. “May all the sweet memories of ___________ bring you solace during this time. I hope that all the great moments that you were able to have with him/her before she/he passed away brings you comfort.”
18. “My heartfelt condolences to you during this time of sorrow. You’re in my thoughts and prayers and I’m here for whatever you need.”
19. “I hope the love and support from your loved ones bring you peace during this difficult time. My heartfelt sympathies to you.”
20. “There is no hurting, no suffering, and no pain in Heaven. While we grieve his/her physical loss, please be comforted by the fact that he/she is in a far better place now.”
21. “Extending my most heartfelt sympathy to you and your family.”
22. “I am at a loss for words. I know there is nothing for me to say that will make your loss easier but know that I am sending you my love and support. I hope you can understand what I can’t put into words.”
23. “Love knows no boundaries. While ________ is no longer physically with us, his/her spirit is always around us. My deepest condolences.”
24. “I have never been good at writing in cards, but I don’t want that to keep me from letting you know the deep sympathy I feel for you at this time.”
More Consoling Things to Say When Someone Dies
25. “Those who love us never go away. I hope you know that even during this dark time, __________ will always be with you in spirit.”
26. “The loss of someone dear to us is never easy. I hope all the cherished memories that you have of ________ brings you some light during this dark time. My deepest condolences.”
27. “Please know that you’re in my thoughts and prayers. My sincerest condolences for an incredibly great loss. I’ll never forget _________.”
28. “I was so saddened to hear about _________ passing. I hope and pray that you will have strength during this time of loss.”
29. “My deepest condolences to you during this time. Know that you are not alone and that if you ever need to talk, please don’t hesitate to reach out.”
30. “I can’t imagine how you’re feeling right now and I won’t pretend to know the loss that you’re experiencing. Please know that you’re not alone and I’m just a phone call away. If you ever need any support or someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to reach out.”
See Also: Great Things To Say About Family
31. “I’ll bring you some lasagna next Tuesday.” (Or offer another specific way of helping.)
32. “Would you like to talk about your loved one?”(People often want to talk about their loved one, but just need to be prompted.)
33. “How are you doing?” (Make sure you take time to listen to the response.)
34. “It’s been awhile since he/she died. It’s time you get over it.” (Never, ever say this.)
35. “Cherish all of the wonderful memories. They will bring you peace.” (Not particularly helpful.)
36. “Pull yourself together because you need to be there for your kids.” (Instead, you should offer to help with the kids.)
37. I feel your pain.” (Do not say, “I know exactly how you feel.”)
38. “How about a hug?” (Or just give them a hug.)
39. “I’m here for you.” (And then be there.)
40. “We all have to deal with loss”
41. “You shouldn’t feel this way”
42. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in anyway I can.
43. You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.
44. Give a hug instead of saying something.
45. We all need help at times like this, I am here for you.
46. I am usually up early or late, if you need anything.
47. Saying nothing, just be with the person.
48. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now.”
49. “At least his/her suffering is over”
50. “Things will be normal again soon”
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Happy Sayings for Unforgettable Moments
It was late afternoon, the autumn sun filtering weakly through the stained-glass windows, when the young woman walked into church. I’d come over to say Evening Prayer and invited her to join me. She demurred, but asked if I could spare her a few minutes: ‘I really need to talk with someone,’ she said. ‘I’m not religious or anything, but I thought you might be able to help.’ So we picked out a pew, and I asked her what was on her mind.
She began to unfold a story of painful betrayal and heartache. She’d recently discovered that her partner of many years had been unfaithful to her. The relationship had seemed strong to her, but she’d discovered that he’d been seeing another woman and that the affair had been going on for quite a while. They’d argued, and it had become clear that for some time he’d been cheating on her with a string of different women; their relationship had meant far less to him than she’d believed. He’d left her, and she found herself grieving, bitter, angry, disoriented, and filled with a desperate sorrow.
Is it right to pray for someone to die?
‘It’s the anger that’s killing me,’ she told me. ‘It’s been months now since he left, but the anger has stayed with me. It’s like poison in my stomach. I can’t get rid of it, can’t some to terms with it. I’ve been to see counselors, and they’ve been helpful, but the anger is still there. I don’t know what to do.’
I explained to her that I couldn’t offer her counseling myself, as I don’t have training in that area, but that I’d be happy to refer her to a colleague who might be able to help. ‘No,’ she said, ‘I don’t want to see another counselor. I don’t think that’d help.’
‘Fine,’ I replied. ‘Well, here’s what I can offer. I’m not a counselor, I’m a priest. I help people to pray. Would that be helpful?’She thought about it for a moment. ‘I don’t really know if I believe in all that. But I guess it couldn’t do any harm. I could give it a try, I suppose.’
I thought to myself, Well, from such mighty seeds of faith, who knows what oaks might grow? But I kept that to myself and simply answered, ‘Sounds good to me. Let’s start with Prayer 101, a kind of basic introduction. Prayer is simply talking to God. But there’s no point in telling God anything that isn’t true. So here’s my first question: what would be the truth for you right now? How do you really feel about this situation, about this man?’Her eyes flashed. ‘I wish he was dead.’I held her fierce gaze. ‘Well then, that’s what you need to pray. Pray for him to die.’
Praying the truth
The young woman was startled. This clearly wasn’t what she’d expected to hear either. ‘I can’t do that!’ she said.’What else are you going to do?’ I replied. ‘Sugarcoat a lie? Do you think God doesn’t already know how you feel, what’s going on in your life? There’s no point telling anything other than the truth.’She looked deeply sceptical. ‘I’m not doing that,’ she insisted.
I decided to try a different tack. ‘I understand it’s difficult. Here’s another idea. Would you be willing to pray a prayer written by God?’
‘I suppose so,’ she answered uncertainly.
I picked up a Bible from the pew and opened up the book of Psalms. ‘This is a collection of prayers right in the middle of the Bible,’ I told her. ‘And the Bible was written by God, right?’ (This wasn’t the time or place for a philosophical exploration of the nature of Scripture.) ‘So these must be good prayers, with the divine seal of approval. You can’t go wrong praying one of these, can you?”Sure,’ she replied, ‘why not?”Well, here’s the prayer I want you to use.’
I took a pen and circled these verses from Psalm 55: ‘It is not my enemies who taunt me – I could bear that;it is not adversaries who deal insolently with me – I could hide from them.But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend,with whom I kept pleasant company; we walked in the house of God with the throng. Let death come upon them; let them go down alive to Sheol; for evil is in their homes and in their hearts’ (Psalm 55:12-15).
‘It’s a prayer asking that a betrayer might die,’ I told her. ‘It’s your prayer, the true prayer of your heart. I want you to take this Bible home and pray this prayer every day.’ She took the Bible from me, somewhat unsure, but agreed to do as I’d asked.
Finding a new truth
A few weeks later we saw one another again. I asked her if she had been using the psalm to pray. She told me she had.’Have you noticed any result?’ I asked her.’He’s not dead yet!’ she replied with a surprising vehemence.But I refused to be discouraged. ‘Keep going,’ I urged her. ‘Keep praying.’
Some weeks later we met again – the last time I ever saw her. Once more I asked her if she was still using the prayer.’Not every day,’ she replied. I asked her why not. ‘Well, you said I was never to pray anything that wasn’t true!’ she said in an accusatory tone. ‘And one day I found myself looking down at those words, and they just weren’t true any more. At least, not that day. I’m still hurting. But I realized I didn’t want him to die.’
‘So what did you do then?’ I asked.’I looked through some of the other prayers in the book,’ she answered, ‘and found one that seemed more suitable. I’ve been using that one. I hope you don’t mind.’
The honesty of biblical prayer
That young woman was shocked and surprised when I suggested that she pray for her former partner to die. I’ve told this story in many contexts since that day, and wherever I tell it people seem equally startled at the advice I offered. Which raises a simple and straight-forward question: what should she have prayed?
It sounds marvelously pious to say that she should have prayed for grace to love him, for mercy and forgiveness, for a change in her own heart so she could come to terms with his behaviour. And these would have been good things to pray. But they wouldn’t have been true.
Hodder & StoughtonChris Webb is a Benedictine Anglican priest, inviting people to live a ‘God-Soaked Life’.
If we learn anything from the school of prayer we find in the book of Psalms, often described as the ‘prayer book of the Bible’, it’s that honesty is everything. The poets who wrote these ancient prayers were unafraid to expose their hearts to God and to the community, creating songs filled with joy, wonder, celebration, pageantry, satisfaction, gentleness, peace, and more – but also with rage, horror, lament, darkness, doubt, shock, and despair. Nothing was held back.
Chris Webb is the author of ‘God-Soaked Life: Discovering a Kingdom Spirituality’, from which this extract is taken. It is published by Hodder and Stoughton, price £12.99. For more on Chris Webb and his book click here.
, CP Guest Contributor
| Friday, January 23, 2009
More than likely, you’ll have the opportunity to minister to someone who is dying this year. The question is, how do you deal with it? I’m ready to die. More than likely, you are too. Most people are not, though. That means you play a critical role as a minister to help people deal with their own death.
Pastor, no matter how much training you’ve had or how well you know your Bible, walking into the hospital room of someone who is facing death can turn anyone to mush. What do we say? How do we help somebody who’s dying? You can’t promise that they’re going to get well. You don’t know if that’s God’s plan. But you can C.O.M.F.O.R.T. them.
Confront your own fears.
Before you can help anybody else, you’ve got to deal with your own fears. Death exposes the hidden fears in us. That’s why people avoid funerals. We’re afraid of death. And so we want to hide from it. This is as old as Adam and Eve.
Instead of hiding you have to confront those fears. You’re not going to mess anything up. You aren’t going to make things worse. You’re going to be O.K. Before you minister to someone who is dying, deal with the very natural fear you have. Admit you have the fear. And then get over it. You’ll be fine.
Offer your physical presence.
The greatest gift that you can give to someone who is dying is your presence. You just need to show up and be with them. That will mean more than any words you can say. People want someone to be near them as they deal with the dying process.
People do not want to face death alone. And they shouldn’t have to. You don’t need to say anything profound. You may not even talk to them. But you need to be there with them. Real ministry begins by being with the person who is dying. No one should ever die alone.
Minister with practical assistance.
The important question to ask is, “How can I help?” You do whatever they need done. I know you’re busy. But ministering to someone who is dying is some of the most important ministry you can do.
For example, when somebody’s dying, they usually don’t feel well. They’re often in pain. What do you do when somebody’s in that situation? Whatever you can do. You want the lights on? You want the lights off? Can I get you some ice chips? Can I rub your back? You do anything. The little things you do will show love. You offer practical assistance to relieve pain and discomfort.
Fortify them with emotional support.
When someone is dying, they’re carrying a heavy burden. Don’t let them carry it alone. Provide emotional support. How do you carry somebody else’s emotional burden? Pray for them aloud.
How do you pray for them? Whatever they say, mirror it back to them in a prayer. When the person who is dying says, “This really frustrates me…” You pray, “Lord, Susie’s really frustrated by this…” When the person says, “I’m really angry and irritated,” you pray, “God, Bob is really having a tough time right now. He’s upset and angry. He’s frustrated.”
When you do that, you’re lifting their burdens. When somebody is sick, sometimes they just don’t have enough energy to pray. So you pray for them. That’s what intercession is all about.
Open them up with questions.
When people are dying, they’re carrying an enormous emotional load. They’re carrying worry, fear, doubt, shame, guilt, regret, joy, sorrow, and anxiety. Help them get that out. How? Ask open-ended questions they can’t answer with just “yes” or “no.”
Your open-ended questions will often start with their questions. Let me give you three of them that are almost always asked in some manner by a person who is dying: Why me? Why now? Why this? Nobody knows the answers to those three questions. They are unanswerable on this side of eternity. The Bible tells us that in eternity we will see how it all fits together. But we don’t right now.
Whenever you get asked a question that is unanswerable, ask it back to them. Just rephrase it. Why? You don’t want to answer the question. You want to get them talking.
For example, if someone who is dying asks, “Am I going to die?” Don’t answer that question. You don’t know for sure. Rephrase the question back to them and ask something like this: What does dying mean to you? Then wait. That will get them talking and help them talk about some things that they need to talk about.
By the way, if they don’t want to talk about death, that’s O.K. Some people don’t want to talk about it. It’s not good for them to bottle it up, but don’t force them to talk.
Remember the family has needs too.
You can be helpful to the whole family – not just to the person who is dying. For example, you can ask questions that the family might feel uncomfortable asking. It’s perfectly O.K. to ask the dying person if they’ve made any preparations for their death. Somebody’s got to find that out, and you’d help the family by asking. Friends take care of friends, and they take care of friends’ family as well.
Turn them to Jesus.
More than anything else, you want the dying person to accept God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. You want them to be at peace with God.
Tell the dying person that Jesus loves them, that he died for them, that they can spend eternity with him, and that you’d be glad to pray with them about this.
It’s the most important prayer the person will ever pray – one that turns death to life.