Helping Others Grieve by Doing and Saying the Right Things

If you have a friend that has recently suffered a loss, you can help them through the grieving period. And, remember that every person grieves differently, so your friend’s feelings of grief may be totally different than yours. Here are some tips to help a friend through the loss of a loved one:

  • Acknowledge the death.
  • Refer to the deceased by name.
  • Be there to listen. Let to them talk about their feelings. Don’t worry about how you are going to respond, just try to be understanding.
  • It’s important that your friend remember their loved one, so don’t shy away from conversations or stories that involve the deceased.
  • If your help is not wanted, don’t be afraid to leave your friend alone. Let your friend know that you would like to spend time with them when they are ready.
  • Allow and encourage others to help because it’s important for a grieving person to have a wide network of support.
  • Commit to contacting your friend on a regular basis, once a week or once a month.
  • Take your friend out to have fun to show them that life still holds many pleasures.
  • Offer to clean, cook, or do other chores.
  • If your friend remains depressed for a long period of time, find a tactful way to suggest therapy. Many people reject this idea but it can help.

Remember that it can take years of work before things begin to feeling normal again.


  • Don’t fill in conversation with outside news. Other topics can overshadow the mourner’s grief.
  • Your friend may question his philosophy of life and death. Don’t use this as an opportunity to push your beliefs on him.
  • Don’t use cliches to try to console your friend.
  • Don’t talk about your own losses or problems.
  • Don’t try to take the place of the deceased.

Remember, it can take a long time for the grieving person to feel normal again, so don’t expect one visit to cause a change of heart. The most important part of helping a grieving person is being there when they need you, so make yourself available.

More Thoughts on Grief

Other Considerations About Supporting the Bereaved

Each death is unique. Here are some thoughts about how you can be even more helpful to bereaved families in special situations.

  • People who are developmentally challenged, or mentally retarded, feel grief as intensely as other family members. Don’t overlook their needs.
  • Grief can affect performance in the workplace. Employers need to be especially sensitive to a grieving employees needs.
  • Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Christmas. A birthday. An anniversary. Acknowledging the deceased on important days is not morbid or unnatural. Go ahead and share your memory with a grieving family member. The loved one is already on their mind. Let them know it’s OK to not feel OK.

Doing and Saying Just the Right Things in Special Situations

Whether friends or family lose a loved one in infancy or childhood, through an accidental death, a suicide, an illness or naturally, you can respond in ways that will support their unique needs. Below are some special situations that make losing a loved one especially difficult. Keep in mind that more than one of the situations can apply to one death.

Here are some situations in which you need to be sensitive as possible to respond to he unique needs of the bereaved:

Death of an Infant
Death of a Child
Accidental Death
Terminal Illness
Supporting Children
Death of a Spouse
Death of an Elderly Spouse

Also see: Good Grief, Stages of Grief, and Your Grief

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