DEAR MISS MANNERS: Upon saying to a bereaved person, "I'm very sorry," I have, a couple of times over the years, received the response, "Why be sorry? It's not your fault."
Once I said, "Well, I'm sorry anyway," and walked away thoroughly embarrassed. On the other occasion, in my confusion, I'm afraid I simply snapped my mouth shut, stared wide-eyed a moment, and walked away without a word.
How should one respond to "Why be sorry? It's not your fault"?
GENTLE READER: Rattling people by pretending not to understand conventional expressions that are in common usage is a habit Miss Manners loathes. But we allow some leeway to the bereaved, so let us pretend that these people honestly didn't realize that "I'm sorry" can express sympathy as well as remorse.
So you should tell them somberly: "No, I mean I'm sorry for you. I'm offering you my sympathy." Let us hope they will be gracious enough to be contrite and thank you for your concern.