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.

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