Dos and Don’ts of Helping a Grieving Friend

March 7, 2019

Helping a grieving friend can be daunting. You want to support them, but you may worry that you won’t be sensitive enough, or that you’ll intrude or give offense. While your relationship with your friend will be your best guide, these do’s and don’ts may also be helpful as you determine how you can give support in a difficult time.

Do Reach Out

Even if you’re not sure what to say or do, let your friend know you’re thinking about them. There’s no need for a grandiose gesture—often reaching out frequently in small ways can be the best support you can give someone who has experienced a loss.

Do Validate Their Feelings

The pain of losing a loved one can be overwhelming at times. When your friend expresses their emotions to you, often what they need is a simple validation. It’s natural for them to feel deep sorrow, and it’s okay just to let them know that you’re so sorry they are having to go through so much pain.

Do Act on Your Impressions

If you think your friend might like a meal brought to them, someone to babysit the kids, or anything else, just do it. Grief can make it difficult to make decisions and arrangements, so rather than a “let me know if you need anything,” just tell them you’ll be dropping dinner by around 6:00.

Don’t Compare

A person’s feelings at a time of grief are unique to them and should be respected. Even if you went through something similar, don’t tell them about it unless you’re invited to do so.

Don’t Diminish Their Feelings

It doesn’t matter if your friend lost their dad or a father figure, a friend they saw every day or someone they haven’t connected with since school. Your friend’s feelings of grief are valid, and diminishing their relationship or emotions in any way won’t help.

Don’t Avoid the Subject

If your friend has lost a loved one, they probably feel that their whole world has changed. Acknowledging what they’re going through doesn’t have to be awkward: a sincere, “I’m sorry,” in your own words is all that’s needed to let them know you have been thinking about them.

Helping someone through grief, while challenging, is a sign of a true friend. With consistence and compassion, you can help those you love to cope with one of the most difficult of life’s experiences.

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