I've only considered myself an atheist for a few years now and recently was in a situation of talking to an elderly neighbor who's sister had just passed away. I don't know my neighbor real well, but I do mow her lawn in the summers and keep the snow cleared for her when I can in the winter. Her sister had been fighting cancer and I'd get the updates every week when I was over doing her yard; until last week when she told me she has died the previous day. I found myself at a loss for words to say in response. Of course there is the traditional "she's in a better place now", which I'm sure would have made my neighbor feel better, but I really wanted to avoid saying something I don't believe. I also of course want to be respectful to someone else in their time of grief. So as I finished mowing the yard that day I thought of a few standard phrases I could use if/when put in a similar situation in the future.
It may sound cold to prepare phrases to use when talking to someone who is grieving the death of a loved one, but I don't think so. Even right now when not "on the spot" speaking to a person I'm having trouble thinking of what to way in this type of situation. Some people are naturals at providing comfort to individuals, and then some of US are not and really have to work at it. Additional suggested phrases to put in my memory bank are welcome!