How to support friends through grief

  • It can be difficult to know what to say or do to support friends after the loss of a loved one.   Depending on the person, the type of loss and how much time has passed, friends will need different types of support. Grief comes in waves and is often unpredictable. Friends need different types of support as they navigate the grieving process. Here are some useful ways to support your friends through loss.

     

    Show up

    If you can, be there in person, and show up as much as possible. Grief can feel like you’re in a tunnel all by yourself. Having someone by your side really helps beat the loneliness of the days and months after a loss.

     

    Be quiet

    You may worry that you will say the wrong thing. You don’t have to say anything. Just being present and actively listening is key. In fact, some cultures dictate silence and waiting for the mourner to speak first. Watch their cues and hear what they need or want to talk about.

     

    Don’t try to “fix” their loss or say, “how can I help” or “let me know what I can do.” By asking what they need, you are actually burdening your friends to find ways you can help them.

     

    Don’t give advice or compare this loss to yours or another.   And don’t start any sentence with “at least your loved one…” Each death is different and you can’t know how your friend is processing this one. Being present and silent is often the best gift you give someone who is grieving.

     

    Run Errands

    Do practical things for your friend. Take out the trash, watch the kids, plan a sleepover at your place, do laundry, buy groceries, or walk the dog.   Drop off a cup of their favorite coffee with a croissant.

     

    Show up virtually

    If you can’t be there in person, show up virtually. Send a text or a photo. Call to let them know you are thinking about them. If the call goes to voicemail, make sure to say they don’t have to call you back. Offer support that does not require an action or add to their burden.

     

    Make a donation

    Make a donation in honor of their loved one to a cause they cared about. You can donate directly on their GatheringUs memorial and your friends will receive notification of your donation.

     

    Take them places

    Shift the energy and get them out of their element. Go for a walk in nature, attend a yoga class, or bike ride. Plan a picnic with their favorite foods or prepare a relaxing bath for your friend. Head to a book reading or concert. Take a boat ride or drive (if they are up for it).

     

    Send food and snacks

    Do you know what they like to eat? Send a meal with Ubereats or food shop with InstaCart. Sending snacks to the office such as Kind or Peeled Snacks are a thoughtful way to show support. If you have connections to others in their community, set up a meal chain/train.  

     

    Send a subscription care package

    After the first few weeks when events end, people stop showing up as much. But that’s when the grieving process can get tough and lonely. A subscription box renews each month, so you can continue to support friends and family in the months to come. Respyre, tea subscription box can help calm and soothe. Therabox is a self-care box curated by therapists to promote wellness and reduce stress. Make sure to send something personal that they’ll appreciate.

     

    Send a temporary tattoo

    We used to wear clothing that showed our losses to the world. Send a tattoo to inspire, commemorate or encourage. Consider ordering a batch for a group of friends to wear in solidarity.

     

    Some final thoughts

    If you are at a loss, ask “what does support look like for you?” The answer will vary for each person and often by the time of the day. Remember the grief process is just beginning after the funeral. Keep leaning in during the weeks and months to come. Birthdays, anniversaries and holiday often trigger grief. This is a new normal for your friend and you have the opportunity to become closer through this process.

     

     

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