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Tips for supporting someone who’s grieving 

It can be difficult to see a loved one struggling with their grief. But sometimes not knowing what you should say or do to help them feel better can stop you from reaching out at all. Here we provide some ideas for supporting someone who’s grieving.

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A close-up of a young man's hands holding a young woman's hand - here we provide tips for supporting someone who's grieving

Tips for supporting someone who’s grieving

Reach out and continue to stay in touch 

Even when you don’t know what to say, just letting someone know you’re thinking of them can help. Many people report that support from friends seems to fade as time passes, so continuing to stay in touch over time can make a big difference. 

Listen and let them express their feelings 

Giving people the space to share how they’re feeling, without trying to fix or change how they’re feeling, can be really comforting. Allowing and accepting feelings, however hard they might be, can feel very validating. 

Talk about the person who has died and say their name 

Don’t be afraid to talk about the person who died or share your memories of them. It’s often important to people to know that others think of and remember the person who died.  

Be specific with your offers of help 

When someone is experiencing grief, well-intentioned people may offer support by saying something like “let me know if I can do anything to help”. 

Unfortunately, if someone is experiencing grief, they might feel so overwhelmed that it’s difficult to think of what they need help with. When something does come up, it might be too late to ask or they might struggle with asking for help. 

Instead, it can be much more useful if you offer to help with very specific and practical things. For example:

  • Meal trains – This is where you or a group of people organise to cook meals for the person or family who is grieving. This can help take the stress and/or chore of cooking away from them.
  • Offering to babysit their children.
  • Offering to walk their dog or look after their pet.
  • Running an errand for them.

Active listening

Relating to a person’s experience is subjective when it comes to someone who is grieving. People will often bring up their own experiences to connect with and empathise with someone, to show they understand. However grief is very personal. It can be upsetting when a person’s experience of grief is compared to something or someone else. It may be better to actively listen to the person sharing, to show you are focused on them and the person who has passed away.

Be patient because grief has no timeline 

Greif is complex and personal and does not necessarily end, but rather something people learn to live with. Greif is something people carry forward with them. Their lives may change and grow around it but the person who is gone will always be missed. Stick by your loved one and be supportive.

Remember important dates and milestones 

Special dates like birthdays or anniversaries can become even more meaningful after someone dies. Simply knowing that other people also remember these dates can be comforting to someone experiencing grief. 

Remembering these dates also means you can offer extra support on days that you know might be particularly hard. 

Keep inviting them to social events 

Even if you expect your offer to be declined, keep inviting them to social events and occasions. They may say no, but they will likely appreciate that you thought of them and feel more included. When they’re ready, they’ll start saying yes again. 

Focus on their experience of loss, not your own 

It might be that they’re describing feelings that you can really relate to, but it’s important to actively listen to their experiences of loss without bringing things back to you. Be present and give them the space to share their truth. 

Be willing to sit in silence 

Sometimes there are no words that will help and the most comforting thing you can do is to just be there with someone, without saying anything. Don’t be afraid of silence. 

Give them space when they need it 

They might need time to themselves and not want company. Respect this. You can send messages letting them know you’re thinking of them without putting pressure on them to respond. 

Understand that everyone grieves differently 

You might think they could be coping ‘better,’ but there is no right or wrong way to grieve and grief can look different for each person. 

Signpost them to support 

If you think they might benefit from additional support and the opportunity to speak to someone outside of their immediate network, signpost them to bereavement services that can help. You can find a list of useful services below. 

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Useful resources for supporting someone who’s grieving

Looking after yourself  

Supporting someone who is bereaved can also be difficult on you. Do what you can and, if possible, share this responsibility with family and friends.  

Be honest and clear about the support that you feel able to offer and remember to recognise your own limitations and boundaries. You might not be able to support your loved one in all the ways they need, but you can support them in some areas. 

And don’t forget to take time to focus on your own needs too. You’ll be much better at supporting them if you’re looking after yourself properly. 

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