You want to help a grieving friend, but don’t know what will truly help. Grief is different for everyone. This list includes a few places to start. Always take into account that the needs of your friend may be different. This is just a good place to start. If you really want to help a grieving friend the best way is to simply ask them.
How to Help a Grieving Friend
Be available when their need arises
“Let me know if you need anything” is a common request meant with the best intentions. But really, how many times have they actually reached out. Times of grief conjure up a lot of emotions. There are a multitude of reasons why someone does not “let you know.” Instead, be there for them. Be available and open to their needs.
If you see a need, take it upon yourself to make plans. Of course ask their permission and respect their wishes. Sometimes you may just need to say, hey I am going to come on Monday and clean your house and bring dinner. 9/10 times they will be relieved you took charge.
Avoid cliche comfort responses.
It is hard to know what to say when someone is grieving. There is no one size fits all response. Throwing out the old, “they are in a better place”, “at least they are no longer in pain”, etc has good intentions but rarely is helpful. Cliche comfort responses are something to try to avoid.
Don’t try to fix their grief
When you want to help a grieving friend don’t try to fix their grief. It is hard seeing someone in pain. Our immediate response is often, “how can I stop them from feeling bad”. The reality is that grief is hard. Bad feelings can’t be avoided. Truth be told, sometimes our desire to fix them is more out of our own discomfort. Creating a safe space for your friend to be vulnerable in their grief is the best way to help them.
Recognize the anniversary of loss
The immediate aftermath of a death garners empathy and condolences to the ones experiencing the loss. The days and the weeks after a loss can be a whirlwind. Emotions are running at a high. Often funeral planning draws everyone’s focus. Hugs and tears are in abundance. But as time passes the expectation for a need for remembrance can easily fade.
Grief however does not.
Send a card or flowers. Anything to let your friend know you are thinking of them long after the loss occurs is special. Whether a year or ten years has gone by recognizing the anniversary is help for a grieving friend.
Grief can wear us down in so many ways. Give your friend grace if they are struggling to accept help or tell you what they need. They may not be great at being a friend right now. Give grace for calls that don’t get returned. It isn’t personal, it is pain overflowing. Frustration and lack of clarity is normal during times of grief. Letting go of your own frustrations while they work through it is a compassionate way to help a grieving friend.
Connection is a healer. Let your friend know they are loved. Be available and willing to stand with them in their grief. Find additional grief support here.