How to Help Friends and Family Who Are Grieving

Category: Supporting The Bereaved


When someone you care about loses a loved one, it can be difficult to know what to do for the best. Some of us even avoid the situation altogether, fearing we might say or do the wrong thing.

But your support and comfort is crucial to helping your friend or family member cope with their pain. Whilst you can’t take away their hurt, there are many things you can do to show how much you care.

Be there

As simple as it sounds, often just being present can be enough for someone. Don’t let fears about saying or doing the wrong thing stop you from reaching out. If you’re not sure how to broach this face to face at first, then send a letter, email or text to show them you are thinking of them. Often people worry about the words they are going to use but actually just listening can be even more powerful.

It can be tempting to use generalised statements to help soothe your loved one such as “they’re in a better place” or “I know how you feel”. You don’t. Grief is such a personal experience, and belongs to the person experiencing it. Instead acknowledge the situation, tell them how sorry you are and be genuine; “I don’t know what to say but I want you to know I care”.

Be willing to witness pain

Seeing your friend or family member in pain can be hard. You may feel like you want to fix the situation. You need to be willing to accept you may not be able to. It is important to let them feel and express their pain without the worry that it is making you uncomfortable. Let them cry freely. Being around someone who is going through the grieving process isn’t easy either. Make sure you have your own personal support network around you too.

Be reliable

Make plans with your friend or family member and stick to them. Grieving can also often feel like abandonment, so it important they know that when you say you are there for them, you mean it. Asking your friend to pick up the phone when they need you is a nice gesture, but often they won’t take you up on that offer. Do it for them. Check in on occasion and make a small plan every now and then. Offering grief support could be anything from walking the dog together or grabbing a quick coffee.

Be practical

This is particularly important in the weeks following the loss of a loved one. Your friend or relative might have a lot to organise depending on the situation and even if they don’t, day-to-day chores can seem exhaustive. Running small errands, taking calls or picking up some shopping can be a huge relief and can also help you to feel you are being supportive.

Be loving

Above all, show them love. Doing something, anything, will always be better than nothing. Be a friend. Be a shoulder and stand with them, however hard it may be.