February 27, 2013

How To Support a Friend Who Is Grieving

Marina Mails, NCC, LPC
Bereavement Counselor II

It seems that most of us are nervous when talking about a recent death and the pain of grief that follows. Social interaction is difficult for the grieving person and tough for family and friends as well. No one is quite sure what to say.

When a friend loses a loved one, you may not want to ask about the loss for fear of upsetting the person. Most grieving people want a chance to talk about what has happened, at least sometimes. Ask your friend if he or she would like to talk.

If your friend does want to share, you can best support him or her by being a calm, listening presence. Don’t try to “fix” grief or hope to “say the right thing” to make the person feel better. There is no “fix” for grief that we can offer, other than the gift of our presence.


grieving friend


Know that your friend may be less able to do every-day chores and may feel overwhelmed by responsibility. Try offering to help. Make a specific offer, like “Can I do the grocery shopping for you this week?,” “Can I mow the lawn for you?” or “I’d be happy to pick your kids up from soccer on Wednesdays for a while.”

Avoid cliché comments like “he’s in a better place,” or “God must have needed to take her home.” These comments can really sting, and most likely don’t give comfort.

Grieving people often fear that friends will tire of their sadness, or wish a speedy end to their grief. Reassure your friend that you aren’t going anywhere. Keep checking in with your friend, even months after the loss.

Be patient with your friend, and with yourself. Grief may change how your friend communicates and behaves, and may alter his or her mood and energy level. Your friend may seem unrecognizable in some ways. Grief often provides a chance for friendship to deepen and grow, but like all changes, it may feel strange at first. Know that your support, flexibility and kindness are a valuable gift to a grieving friend.