How to Help a Grieving Friend

Rebecca Thair
By Rebecca Thair,
updated on May 16, 2017

How to Help a Grieving Friend

Things you can do and say to support a loved one in their time of need

An unfortunate inevitability of life is death. We all experience it at some point, and will often see people we love grieving. It’s a difficult time when you want to help and alleviate their pain, but finding the words can sometimes feel impossible. The pressure of wanting to say the perfect thing, combined with the terror of saying someone wrong, often leads us to simply say nothing at all.

The important thing to remember is that just by being there for someone, even if you don’t say much, is in itself an expression of support and love. There are a few things to keep in mind when comforting your friend in this difficult time:

1. Acknowledge their loss

Just asking how someone is doing and giving them a hug allows them to approach the subject if they want to. Give them the opportunity to open up and let it out if needed, or to make it clear if they want to avoid talking about it. By acknowledging the situation up front, you can remove any awkwardness and better understand what your friend needs.

2. Express your sympathy

Everyone experiences grief differently. Saying, ‘I’m so sorry for your loss’, or ‘I can’t imagine what you’re going through,’ might seem commonplace but will feel much more supportive that turning the conversation onto how you’ve coped with grief. Saying, ‘I know how you feel’ can be well-intentioned, but implies that the love they had for their person wasn’t unique. We all have strong connections to the people we have lost, but remember that this time is about your friend. They need to be allowed to grieve their own way, regardless of what happened for you.

The important thing to remember is that just by being there for someone, even if you don’t say much, is in itself an expression of support and love
3. Offer to help

With losing someone close, there can be a lot to sort out while still processing the grief. Keeping on top of daily routines can be difficult, so show up with the house essentials – milk, bread, dinner. Offer to pick the kids up from school or walk the dog. There are those little tasks, like cancelling a phone or gym contract, where they have to say the words – their loved one has died. They can be caught off-guard and get emotional talking to a stranger, so offer to help with anything that you can.

4. Bring some positivity

Whether it’s reminiscing over the person no longer here, distracting them with your own story of something embarrassing that happened at work, or making a plan to come back and have a catch-up in a few days, a momentary relief from the sorrow can truly help a grieving friend. Even if bringing up happy memories results in a few more tears for you both, it can be cathartic, and it’s so important not to lose those precious memories of the people you love.

If you or someone you know has lost someone and is struggling with grief, speaking with a dedicated professional can help. Visit Counselling Directory to find a counsellor near you.

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