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.
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.
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.
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. Ask specific questions about what's going on in their lives, not "how are you?" 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).
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.