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What would one say to their mother/father/brother/sister-in-law when their spouse has passed away? 「ご愁傷様でございます」「心からお悔やみ申し上げます」, which are the phrases one typically uses to convey their condolences, feels too distant but I am not sure there are other options available.

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    In my opinion, it's perfectly OK to just follow the protocol in this case. You don't have to endeavor to be authentically heartfelt or anything, just say the formulas and be available for support. Each culture already has its codes to deal with grief and loss, and they work fine in the context of that culture; there's no need to try and get creative. The Japanese, if anything, are even more comfortable with distance and protocol than most. This blog is a bit harsh (actually very harsh), but I think has real insight. Jun 9, 2017 at 11:45

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I agree that 「ご愁傷様でございます」「心からお悔やみ申し上げます」 would feel too distant in your situation. Your mother/father/brother/sister-in-law is basically your 身内, so I would say (and it seems most people usually say) something like:

「おかあさん/おとうさん/おねえさん/おにいさん、大変でしたね。
(お体(のほう)は、)大丈夫ですか?
(気を落とさないでくださいね。)
何か(お手伝い)できることがあったら、(なんでも)言ってくださいね。」

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「ご愁傷様でございます」「心からお悔やみ申し上げます」

Good!

Only you have to remember is
この度{たび}は、ご愁傷{しゅうしょう}様{さま}です。
or
この度{たび}は、ご愁傷{しゅうしょう}様{さま}でございます。

Konotabi-wa Go! Shoe Show sama-desu.
or
Konotabi-wa Go! Shoe Show sama-de-gozai-masu.

Besides what to say as condolences, I'll tell you some knacks.

  1. Even Japanese natives are not familiar with the protocol of the funeral services. So, we would follow what others do or follow the instructions by the staff. The staff would usually guide you.

  2. Presenting condolences should be uttered in a low voice, especially the latter part of them should be spoken vaguely (not clearly). As a matter of course, the condolences seem to be said clearly only at the starting phrase "この度{たび}は" ... , and seem to be muttered at the rest of them with keeping bowing.


Here are some examples.

お悔{く}やみ言葉{ことば}の例{れい} 

-「この度は、ご愁傷様でございます。心よりお悔やみ申し上げます。」

-「この度は、ご愁傷様でございます。さぞお力落としの事でございましょう。謹んでお悔やみ申し上げます。」

-「この度は、ご愁傷様でございます。大変お辛いでしょうが、お力落としされません様に。」

-「この度は、誠にご愁傷様でございます。さぞお力落としの事でございましょう。ご看病のお疲れが一度に出る時ですから、どうかご自愛くださいませ」

-「この度は、ご愁傷様でございます。あまりにも突然のことで悲しみにたえません。心より、お悔やみ申し上げます」

-「この度は、ご愁傷様でございます。急なことでお慰めの言葉もございません。心よりご冥福をお祈り申し上げます」

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