Supporting Someone Who is Grieving

It can be difficult to know what to say or do to ease the pain of someone who is grieving the death of a loved one. You may be fearful of saying the wrong thing, intruding, or adding to their pain. You cannot take away their pain, nor should you, but you can do many things to offer comfort and support. Do not let your sense of helplessness prevent you from reaching out to them. Here are some ways to show someone who is grieving you care about them:

Be compassionate
Allow them to express their feelings without judgement or criticism. Let them lead you through their grief journey; refrain from directing them.

Listen with your heart
If you are genuine in your offer of support, be prepared to listen…really listen. The person you care about may repeat the story many times, but this is how they are coming to the painful reality that someone they loved has died. Be prepared to listen…. in silence.

Understand the loss from their perspective
Each person’s reaction to the death of a loved one differs. You are not an expert on anyone’s pain.
Step out of your shoes and into theirs to see what the death truly means to them.

Avoid clichés
Although well intentioned, they do more harm than good. In our effort to relieve pain, we resort to these platitudes: “They’re not suffering”, “At least they lived a good, long life”, “Thank goodness you have other children”, “Call me if you need anything” or “Tears won’t bring them back”. But this minimizes the person’s pain. When words fail you, instead try “I don’t know what to say”.

Don’t make assumptions on outward appearances
A griever’s outward appearance doesn’t always match how they feel on the inside.

Allow them to get the tears out of the way
Generally, we are uncomfortable with crying. However, if the person you care about expresses their pain and sadness through tears, create a safe place for them to allow the tears to flow.

Understands laughter is healthy
Knows spontaneous laughter during grief is necessary and ok.

Offer specific practical assistance
Be clear about what you are prepared to do, offer, and then follow through.

Keep in contact
Many people do not keep in contact with the bereaved person beyond the funeral or for a few weeks after. The bereaved person requires ongoing support long after the funeral is over. We never “get over” the death of someone loved; we learn, over time, how best to live with it.

Offer hope
Without minimizing or dismissing their pain, reassure the griever to continue to actively mourn so that pain will diminish and life will once again make sense.


  • Does try not to ‘fix’ the situation
  • Is a companion not a director
  • Understands normalcy of grieving and mourning
  • Knows there is no timeline
  • Is able to LISTEN
  • Comfortable with intense emotions
  • Does not take the changed relationship personally
  • Understands the process from the griever’s perspective
  • Does not rescue
  • Understands they are not an expert on their pain
  • Anticipates or suggests and then delivers
  • Does not expect the person to “get over it”
  • Understands the griever will be changed
  • Is patient
  • Knows it is not about them
  • Talks about the griever’s loved one and uses their name
  • Does not minimize the pain with platitudes
  • Offers practical help
  • Remembers significant days: birthday, first anniversary of the death
  • Understands that “a good day” may be followed by a sad day
  • Offers hope without minimizing the pain

If you know someone who is experiencing grief in their lives Families First offers a series of FREE presentation with Christine MacMillan, BSW, MSW, RSW.   Please click here for more information.

If you have additional questions or if you or someone you know are interested in private councelling sessions with Christine please call a member of our Team at 519-969-5841.