How do you help someone who is grieving?
When someone in your life experiences a loss, it can be tough to know the right thing to do. We all worry about saying or doing the wrong thing, being in the way, or causing more stress to someone who is already going through a great deal.
The good news is that there are meaningful actions you can take to help.
What can I do to help a friend, loved one, or colleague who is grieving?
If you’re unsure how to support someone who is grieving, don’t stress. There are plenty of ways for you to express your support and make things easier for your friend, loved one, or colleague as they struggle through loss.
To help, here are our top ideas for supporting someone who is grieving.
When you’re grieving a fresh loss, it can be tough to focus on everyday tasks. Cooking can feel particularly overwhelming.
In the days following the loss, offer to send a meal (or a few) to their home. If you like to cook, you could make something homemade, but pre-prepared meals from the grocery store—think a frozen lasagna and a bagged salad—or even food delivery from a restaurant would likely be welcomed.
Grief is always difficult to navigate, but it’s a little easier with a full stomach.
Give comforting gifts
People who are experiencing loss may also forget to care for their own needs or take time for themselves. Deaths—especially sudden or unexpected ones—require countless arrangements, communication with family members, and paperwork. Amidst these demands, self-care can fall to the wayside.
Consider giving gifts for comfort, well-being, stress relief, or a good night’s sleep. At Hummingbird & Willow, we offer thoughtfully curated gift boxes that provide comfort and simple self-care.
For those who are grieving, these gifts may be a welcome alternative to flowers, as they provide opportunities for individuals to care for themselves and unwind.
Offer acts of service
Beyond meals and gifts, you might consider how else you can relieve everyday stresses or burdens while your friend or loved one is struggling with the loss. During the days surrounding any funeral services or traditions, you can offer support in a variety of ways, from picking up out-of-town relatives from the airport to helping with arrangements or taking care of cleaning around the house.
For colleagues or employees, arrange for their work duties to be taken care of, and assure them that they don’t need to stress about work until they feel ready to come back. For friends or loved ones with children, offer to provide childcare for an afternoon so they can have some time to themselves to process and rest.
If you are aware of grief support or resources in your area, you can also offer them. However, it’s critical to do so without any pressure or judgement. For some people, these options may not be right for them, or it might be too soon. Feel out the situation and decide if the offer would be helpful before going ahead with it.
Especially if the loved one who passed experienced prolonged illness, it can be common to dwell on the unpleasant memories surrounding their death. As a supportive friend or colleague, you can help by encouraging those who are grieving to share happy memories of the person they lost.
These conversations may be bittersweet, but they can also promote laughter, relief, and even the first signs of healing.
Give them space
This might be the toughest action on this list—but it’s important. Of course, offering comforting words, flowers, gifts, meals, and help are all meaningful gestures. However, it’s also vital for people who have experienced loss to have adequate space and time to grieve by themselves. Loss takes time to process, and it often requires quiet, solitary moments.
One of the best ways you can help? Consider how you can facilitate the time and space they need—and encourage others to do the same.
Make note of important dates
Grief doesn’t end in the weeks or months following a loss. It tends to return in waves, often around significant dates, or holidays. When those times arrive, your friend, colleague, or loved one may need your support more than ever.
Knowing this, take note of any dates that might spur grief or difficult memories in the future. These will likely include the date the individual passed, but it could also include their birthday, or related holidays (for example, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or Valentine’s Day). Many people who have experienced loss have difficulties during Thanksgiving or the winter holidays, as these occasions bring back memories of happier times with their loved one.
Record these important dates and follow up when they arrive. You may even consider adding reminders to your calendar, so you’ll remember to reach out.
One of the best ways you can help someone who is grieving? Simply listen. Grief is accompanied by many complex feelings, and it can be tough—but deeply cathartic—to articulate them out loud.
When you’re spending time with someone who has experienced loss, ask open-ended, non-judgmental questions, such as “How are you feeling right now?” or “What are you struggling with most?” When they answer, resist the urge to offer advice or place any judgement on their feelings. In fact, one of the best things you can say is nothing at all. Offer them silence and space to say what’s on their mind.