The following are possible ways to help someone who is grieving:
Listening is the greatest gift you can give someone who is
grieving. Ask them to tell you about the person who died.
Encourage them to talk about their relationship and their
memories. Respond to emotions as they arise, try to be
comfortable with tears, and take time to listen.
Accept all feelings
Expressing emotions is a natural and necessary part of the
grief process. Do not pass judgment on how “well” the
grieving person is or is not coping. Everyone grieves in
their own way, and in their own time.
Many people who are grieving have difficulty imagining
they will ever be happy again. Believing in your friend or
relative’s ability to get through this time will strengthen
them. In time, with your support, they will rediscover their
own inner strengths.
Respect individual needs
Someone who is grieving may want to spend time alone.
The person may decline offers to visit or may not return
phone calls. These are signals that the person may need to
withdraw for a while; it is important to respect their need
Understand and accept cultural and
religious perspectives about death that
may be different from your own
It is important to understand that the way someone
experiences loss may be shaped by cultural, religious and
family traditions. Many cultures and religions have specific
rituals when a person dies. Interfering with, restricting or
judging these practices may complicate the grief process.
It is common to feel helpless when you care about the
person who is grieving. Although you may be tempted to
say something you think might be helpful, it is better to err
on the side of listening. Avoid clichés such as: “At least he
didn’t suffer,” “I know how you feel,” “God won’t give
you more than you can handle.” It is best to be honest
and say “I don’t know what to say ” or “I’m so sorry.”
Make specific offers of help
Instead of saying “please call me if I can help,” it is best
to offer to help with a specific chore such as caring for a
child, preparing a meal, running errands, doing housework,
helping with yard work, or shopping. For example, suggest
“I’ll bring dinner on Thursday, how many people will be
there?” If Thursday doesn’t work, ask what night will.
Specific offers of help are less stressful to the grieving
person, as the person does not have to spend time thinking
of a response to an open ended question such as “What
can I do to help you?”
Help the person ease back into activities
When they seem ready, help the person renew interest
in past activities and hobbies or discover new interests.
An example is, “Would you like to go to the museum on
Saturday to see the new exhibit?” The person may not feel
ready to do what you asked, so understand if your offer is
declined and ask again after some time has passed.
Remember to check on your friend or
relative as time passes and months go by
Periodic check-ins can be helpful throughout the first two
years after the death. Stay in touch by writing a note,
calling, stopping by to visit, or perhaps bringing flowers.
Be sensitive to holidays and special days
For someone grieving a death, certain days may be more
difficult and can magnify the sense of loss. Anniversaries
and birthdays can be especially hard. Some people find
it helpful to be with family and friends, others may wish
to avoid traditions and try something different. Extend an
invitation to someone who might otherwise spend time
alone during a holiday or special day, and recognize they
may or may not accept your offer.
If you think your friend or family member needs more
help than you can offer, talk to him or her about
contacting hospice. Hospices have bereavement
professionals that specialize in grief and loss and can
offer further suggestions or sources of support.
Hospice can also provide guidance or resources on
how to support others who are grieving.