Grief Support Tips for Helping Someone Who’s Grieving
It’s normal to feel confused about how to help a bereaved friend, so let these tips for grief support be your guide.
It can be terribly confusing to know what to do when you’re faced with another person’s pain. Even if the bereaved person is someone you know well, like a close friend or family member, you may feel clueless about where to start when offering grief support. The truth is, for all the well-meaning people out there, our culture is a bit backward when it comes to the topic of grief. Too many people still see it as something you deal with on your own, behind closed doors. They view it as a topic best left undiscussed. Unfortunately, a lack of comfort with grief topics means many people aren’t receiving the kind of support that can truly impact bereavement.
Below, you’ll find eight tips on how you can support someone you love when they’re grieving a painful loss.
Tip #1: Let Them Be Sad
Here’s the thing about sadness: it’s healthy. Obviously, what you really want to do is take away your person’s pain and make them feel better. However, it’s better to come to terms with the fact that you cannot do that. Instead, take the powerful step of letting your bereaved person know that it’s okay for them to be sad around you and that it’s completely normal. Let them know you understand and that you’ll be around anyway. Their sadness won’t scare you away, and you will walk alongside them in this emotional state for as long as they need.
Tip #2: Ask the Right Questions
Once you’ve acknowledged that a grieving person will be sad and that you’re going to be there through it with them, it’s easier to know how to talk to them. Instead of questions like, “How are you?” or “Can I do anything?” think about asking questions that acknowledge their emotional state. Ask things like, “Is today feeling better or worse than yesterday?” and “What would feel comforting right now?” Their answers will help you to know what sort of grief support they need from you at the moment.
Tip #3: Remember the Big Dates
Be the person who always knows when a big day is coming up – the deceased person’s birthday or the bereaved person, special anniversaries, meaningful holidays, and more. Put them in your calendar and add reminders for a few days beforehand so that you can offer more grief support during these times. Sometimes, the act of simply mentioning that you remember a big date will go a long way toward a grieving person feeling supported.
Tip #4: Remember the Small Dates, Too
The big, important days are apt to be especially painful for a grieving person. However, a normal Saturday can be tough, too. If you want to provide grief support to someone you care about, be there on the big dates – but not just on the big dates. Make it clear from time to time that you’re still thinking about them and that you want to help with whatever they’re going through at the moment.
Tip #5: Leave Care Packages
In the early days and months of a loss, many people will offer to drop off meals or help with practical tasks like pet care. If you want to offer a similar type of grief support but at a deeper level, think in terms of care packages. You know your grieving person well, so surprise them with things that others may not think of. It could be a giant stack of celebrity magazines to serve as a distraction or a beautiful meditation journal to record their deepest thoughts. If the bereaved person loves fresh flowers, make it a point to drop them off regularly. Your care packages don’t have to be epic – they have to be personal.
Tip #6: Be Present
Sometimes, a bereaved person might feel lonely yet have very little energy for something as simple as a conversation. Make it clear that you’re fine with being together in silence or while doing parallel activities. For instance, you could both be quietly reading different books in the same room, or even just in the same house. A grieving person can feel comfort in knowing that a person in close physical proximity is there for whatever type of grief support is needed.
Tip #7: Say Their Person’s Name
So many people who have experienced loss harbor a deep fear that their loved ones will be forgotten. It can cause much stress and anxiety to feel as though they alone must keep their memory alive. That’s why it can be mighty to bring their person’s name up in regular conversation. Maybe you have a funny memory to share or a question about one of their hobbies. However you choose to mention their person’s name, your grieving loved one will likely feel a mix of joy and relief that you are still acknowledging their life.
Tip #8: Stop Trying to ‘Do it Right’ (And Do It!)
The most common thing that holds people back from offering grief support is that they feel like they’ll make a mistake. If you’re afraid to say or do the wrong thing, know that it’s widespread to feel this way. However, do you really want to let this hold you back from offering much-needed support to someone you care about? Make peace with the idea that there will be some awkward moments in your interactions with your grieving person, and commit to showing up for them anyway.
Concluding Thoughts on Grief Support
Grief support won’t “fix” someone’s grief, but it can be an important and meaningful part of their journey toward healing. If you want to help a bereaved person in your life and you feel unsure how the tips above can serve as a guide for getting started.