How to Help a Friend through the Grieving Process

By: Myles O'Riordan
Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Grief is a complicated process that everyone handles differently. As a friend of someone going through the grieving process, it can be difficult to know what to say or do to help. You might feel you are intruding at a very personal time, or be afraid that you will say or do the wrong thing. You may feel powerless to help your friend through a difficult time.

If you know someone who has suffered a loss, we have compiled this short list of guidelines to help you do the right thing.


You may think that you know how they feel. Even if you do, don’t say that. Listen to what they have to say, don’t put words in their mouth. Instead, ask them how they’re feeling. Accept and acknowledge what they’re feeling, rather than telling them how they should feel.

And if they don’t want to talk, then be prepared to sit in silence. Don’t force the issue, and instead, offer support through your presence or a friendly hug.

Offer Practical Assistance

Grieving people can find it difficult to ask for help. Rather than waiting for them to ask, make the first move. “I’m going to the store, do you want anything?” or “I have some leftover turkey. Do you prefer it sliced or in a sandwich?” is a lot easier to answer than a vague “let me know if you need anything.” Concrete offers are more likely to get a response than ambiguous or vague promises.

In some cases, you may need to take the initiative, such as helping with funeral arrangements or even screening calls from family and friends if they’re not feeling up to talking. If they have children, take them to or pick them up from school. There may be certain days where they need more support, for example, birthdays or anniversaries. On those days, make more of an effort to be there for them.

Find Support for Yourself

Grieving can be a rough period, and mourners can be difficult to deal with. They go through conflicting emotions and may say or do things they don’t really mean. You may need some support of your own to get through it, but make sure it doesn’t come at the mourner’s expense.

Above all else, be there for them. Be prepared to see and hear things you would never have expected. Be there and be present, and everything else will (hopefully) fall into place.


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