Response to death


Sometimes when somebody close to us meets a misfortune, we often say “I am sorry to hear that.”

Now that we learn not to be too attached to our body and death is part of life, how do we respond with empathy and wisdom when somebody informs us that a person close to us has passed on?

Thank you.


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The most appropriate way according to Buddhist teaching would be to say “may he or she attain Nibbana in the very next life”. But IMO conventional language is preferred by many even including Buddhists. Non Buddhists can even get angry when they hear it. Therefore, the best way would be to mentally wish Nibbana and follow the convention which is sort of a hybrid.
With Metta


Why not just say, “Oh I’m so sorry for your painful loss.” Aren’t Buddhists supposed to be compassionate? Since we can assume that almost nobody we know has achieved nibbana, we can also assume that when they lose a loved one they experience painful grief, and feelings of loneliness and need. One thing they need is for their pain to be acknowledged and validated as normal.


I do not see a difference between “I am sorry to hear that” and “Oh I’m so sorry for your painful loss.” But both are conventional and therefore suitable IMO because as I said in the previous post even some Buddhists do not practice it in the strict sense of the word.
With Metta

That is I would say.
We have to give a conventional respose rather than an ultimate response as a Buddhist.

"A mendicant whose mind is freed like this doesn’t side with anyone or fight with anyone. They speak the language of the world without misapprehending it.”

Perhaps there may be a time to council the greving person. Perhaps we can use some of our Buddhist thoughts.

Lately, i say “may memories bring comfort, peace and ultimately joy”. I hope this voiced suggestion benefits.


I don’t mean it is a “conventional response.” I mean that you should actually have compassion for them because they are in real pain.


I say, “Hello.” And I look into their eyes mindful and aware, listening to whatever they say or do. Often we both look at each other, smile and that is enough. Other times talk happens. Sometimes a hug. Sometimes they turn away and I bow. It is different every time. A quiet and accepting gentleness is always appreciated. If one feels a need to hug, ask for permission and respect the answer. Offering wisdom and advice is rarely appreciated.


I’ve found “How are you?” to be a good open-ended invitation


Say whatever helps them feel that you are there to support them off they need it. That will depend on your relationship to them, their religion, etc. I usually am very sorry to hear the news. Death is suffering after all, as is grief and lamentation.

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