How to Support Someone Who is Grieving a Loss
- Grief Counseling
If someone close to you is grieving the death of a loved one, you may not know what to do or what to say to support them. Don’t let discomfort or fear of saying the wrong thing keep you from reaching out. During a time of loss, they need you more than ever. And often, just being there is the most helpful thing you can do.
Everyone grieves differently, and there is no timeline for the rollercoaster of emotions your grieving person may be feeling at any given moment. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Be careful not to judge them or have expectations for where they are in their grief journey. Facing pressure to “move on” may do more harm than good, and could even slow down the healing process.
Here are some suggestions for supporting someone who is grieving.
Don’t worry so much about what to say. Focus on listening. Acknowledge their loss, express your concern, and allow them to share about the person who died. Don’t try to change the subject. Don’t force them to talk if they are not feeling up to it. Get comfortable sitting in silence.
Ask how they feel, and accept their feelings. Their sadness, depression, guilt, anger and many other emotions will ebb and flow quickly, so don’t assume you know how they are feeling in the moment.
Don’t diminish their feelings or try to add a positive “spin.” Saying things like, “At least he didn’t suffer,” or “It could have been worse,” can be very hurtful to a grieving person. Their pain and grief are valid, no matter the circumstances surrounding the death.
Avoid comparisons. It’s natural to want to draw a parallel between your own experience and theirs, but not all deaths can be compared. The natural death of an elderly parent is much different than the sudden death of a spouse or a child. Sharing your experience may also appear self-serving, as it pulls the focus away from the grieving person.
Don’t assume the grieving person shares your faith. Avoid comments like, “It’s part of God’s plan,” or “She’s in a better place.” Keep your beliefs to yourself unless they ask.
Offer to help with practical tasks. As your loved one moves through their grief journey, daily tasks may seem overwhelming. Offer to shop for groceries, run errands, help with housework or yardwork, babysit their kids or pick them up from school.
Continue checking in with your person after the funeral. Often, friends and family offer an outpouring of support soon after a loved one has passed away. But a grieving person could use your caring presence for many months or years afterward. Their pain may lessen, but the feeling of loss likely will never go away.
If you know someone who is grieving, you may want to gently suggest they seek out professional help. The Hosparus Health Grief Counseling Center offers grief support not only to families who have used our hospice services, but also to anyone in the community who has experienced loss. For more information, call us at 502-456-5451 or complete the form here.