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How to Help a Grieving Friend

Comforting a grieving friend can feel stressful, awkward, and uncomfortable, especially if you’ve never experienced a loss yourself. It can be difficult to know what to say or what to do, but showing up and being there for them doesn’t have to be complicated. Here is some guidance on how to comfort a grieving friend and what to say.

Words to say to a grieving friend

Even though it may seem like a small gesture, sending the right words to comfort a grieving friend is something that gives many people anxiety. What if you say the wrong thing? What if your attempt at making them feel better actually makes them feel worse? There aren’t any universally perfect words to comfort someone who lost a loved one, but there are some common themes and statements you can abide by to ensure you’re not accidentally saying anything hurtful. Here are some ideas on what to say to a grieving friend.

  • “I’m so sorry.”
  • “I know you’re in a lot of pain right now and I want you to know that I’m here for you.”
  • “You mean a lot to me and I’m here to support you in any way that I can.”
  • “You and your family are all in my thoughts.”
  • “I know words can’t fix any of this, but I just want you to know I care about you and I’m here for you.”
  • “Please call me or text me any time, I’ll be available.”
  • “Can I do anything for you?”
  • “Can I help in any way?”

Here are some common phrases you may want to avoid using when attempting to offer comfort. These can come across as uncaring or thoughtless, even though there may be good intentions behind them.

  • “You should consider getting grief counseling.”
  • “When my dad died, I thought I would never get over it either, but I did.”
  • “They wouldn’t want you to be this sad.”
  • “Just try to remember the good times!”
  • “I know it’s hard, but crying isn’t gonna help.”
  • “At least they’re no longer suffering.”
  • “They’re in a better place.”
  • “At least they got to live for a long time.”
  • “How are you?”
  • “I totally know how you feel.”

What to do for a grieving friend

Knowing how to support a grieving friend can make a huge difference to a friend in need or someone who has just lost someone. If you’ve lost someone before, it can help to consider what you wish friends did for you when you were grieving. Was there something special someone did that made a huge difference? Was there something someone did that you wish they hadn’t? These can help you get started when coming up with ideas on how to help a friend who is grieving.

Know the typical grieving process

After losing someone, the grieving process includes the following areas:

  • shock and disbelief
  • numbness, denial, isolation
  • guilt, anger, bargaining
  • depression, loneliness, hopelessness
  • reflection and integration

It is important to remember that some people may go through the grieving process quickly, while others linger in one stage for a long time. These stages can be experienced at different times, altogether, or can skip around from stage to stage -- grief is not linear. Don't feel inadequate if you don't know how to handle the situation well. Try your best, listen, be patient, and comfort them in whatever they need. If you feel comfortable, talk to them about it. Engage with them around their grief. Ask them how you can best support them and how you should show up for them. Spend time researching ways you can help someone who is grieving and just show up.

Listen as much as possible and avoid advice

If you don't know how to comfort someone who is grieving, your first instinct might be to give advice or attempt to make them feel better, quickly. Try your best to validate, acknowledge, and listen instead of jumping to platitudes or focusing on "getting better" or "getting over it". Listening to your friend and being there as a shoulder for them to cry on can be extremely powerful in and of itself and this is unlikely to be a situation where a few words will do the trick.

Remember that crying is natural

When someone experiences a death in the family, crying is natural. Try not to push them to stop grieving or stop crying, especially if you're requesting this because it's too difficult for you. Offer your support and know that folks who are grieving are experiencing a high emotional state, they can cry unexpectedly and should not be shamed for it. If a friend starts crying, offer comfort in the form of silence, a hand on the back or on their hand, or by letting them know you're here for them and that it's okay to cry.

Try to remember anniversaries

Anniversaries can be powerful and important for someone who has lost a loved one. If you know what the date is of their loved one's death, try to remember to send them flowers or call them on that day. Other anniversary dates to keep in mind include their loved one's birthday, wedding anniversaries, and major holidays. Major holidays such as Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day, and Christmas can be especially difficult for people who have lost a loved one-- try your best to remember this and show them how much you care by spending time with them or letting them know you're missing their loved one on that day as well.

Offer to help

Keep in mind that, while grieving, many families and individuals are overwhelmed and assistance with even basic, daily tasks can be a huge help. Knowing how to comfort a grieving friend can sometimes come down to something as simple as eliminating a stressful or annoying task from their daily routine for a while. Offering to help with simple tasks can lift a massive burden off their shoulders. Here are some areas you could offer to help in:

  • Animal care (offer to walk their dogs or watch their pets for a few days)
  • Household chores (such as dishes, laundry, sweeping, trash, etc.)
  • Child care (let the kids stay over at your house for a few days, offer to pick them up from or drop them off at school or other activities, take them to the movies or on a day trip)
  • Help clean out the house of the person who passed away
  • Make and deliver some ready to go meals
  • Donate to a cause that was close to them or to their memorial fundraiser

Send a memorial gift

Memorial gifts can come in many, many different forms. Some folks send plaques, purchase benches, make slideshows, or send favorite photos that the family may not have seen before. Others make food or send sympathy baskets, memorial jewelry or other memorial gifts. Sending a memorial gift is a great way to show your support to a grieving friend in a nonverbal, yet effective, way. Don’t know what to send? Read this guide.

Regardless of how you decide to show up, your grieving friend will likely appreciate the effort you put forth when trying to show some support and comfort. As long as you’re genuine, supportive, and empathetic, it’s hard to go wrong. If you’re searching for memorial gifts to send to a loved one, be sure to check out Ever Loved’s marketplace. You can find anything from bracelets to self-care packages for reasonable and affordable prices.

Shop for sympathy gifts

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Last updated June 30, 2022
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