7 Ways to Help A Grieving Friend

by Alli

My husband and I have been in ministry for over 30 years.  And I love just about everything about it.  I adore baby dedication services. I’m a total romantic and I cry tears of happiness every time I see a bride walk down the aisle.  I love planning baby showers and bridal soirees!

There is one part of being in the ministry that has always been difficult; trying to help someone come to terms with the death of a loved one or helping people cope with a senseless tragedy that rocks our very being to the core.

I’ve sat with grieving parents, suffering from the loss of their child.  They always say that it’s not supposed to be this way.  A parent should not outlive a child.  I’ve squeezed the hand of a brokenhearted young widow about to embark on a journey of being both mom and dad to her young children.  And I’ve also wrapped my arms around someone who has had to endure the death of a parent.  It is heart-wrenching to see someone who has died way too young.

7 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend

Death is not pretty, but it is certain.  What do you say to that devastated young widow?  How do you show your love and compassion?  I’ve listed a few things that I hope will help you when you are comforting someone who has been traumatized by death.

7 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend

Sometimes we don't know what to do or say when a friend has suffered the loss of a loved one. Here's 7 Ways to Help A Grieving Friend.

1.  Just be there for them.

Help them out with food, child care; just be a shoulder to lean on.  Simply knowing that you care helps more than you realize.  Cover them in prayer!

2.  Don’t ask what happened.

If there has been a tragedy, let them decide when and how to talk about it.  If they want to talk about it, listen.  I say it’s safe to always follow their lead.

3.  Don’t blame God.

When people are faced with a despairing situation that is beyond their understanding, it is easy to blame an unseen force.  People say things like “God needed him in heaven.  God needed an angel, God needed a flower . . . ”  And I know these people are trying to help but it doesn’t help to blame God.  (Read John 10:10)  As long as we are on this earth, there will be tragedies.  It’s best not to try to figure things out.

4.  Don’t make them comfort you.

I see it time and time again where the person going through grief is handling it surprisingly well, talking about the good memories and someone walks in and becomes hysterical and the person grieving becomes the person giving comfort to someone else’s grief.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t weep with those that weep.  We should.  But don’t fall onto the person grieving and have a meltdown. This requires something of them that may be beyond their ability to give.

5.  Don’t say “I know how you feel.”  We don’t.

This sounds cliché, but there is a grieving process that one goes through after the death of a loved one.  Don’t try to hurry them through it or try to slow them down.  It’s a process, but it’s not always the same pace for everyone.  For example, some people want to get rid of everything (clothes, etc.) immediately while others need a little while.  Either is perfectly acceptable.  Be supportive.

6.  Don’t make light of the situation.

When I miscarried years ago, a person came to see me and very flippantly said, “Oh, well, something must have been wrong with it and it was just God’s way of fixing things.”  Had I not been a strong Christian and knew that God did not cause me to miscarry, that statement would have made me very angry at a very loving God.

7.  Don’t forget about them after the funeral.

It’s after everyone has gone away and day-to-day life resumes that the person grieving needs their friends more than ever.  It’s even more heart-wrenching if a death occurs around a holiday such as Christmas.

Once again, I believe showing you care and being there for them is the most important thing we can do for a person that is going through the grieving process.  We may not be able to lighten their pain and sorrow, but we can brighten their today and their tomorrow.

Do you have any additional tips on helping friends who are dealing with grief?

 

 

37 comments

Heather October 16, 2014 - 8:32 am

Great tips! It is always hard to know what to say if you haven’t been in a similar situation, but the most important thing is to be there for them and be the sounding board that they may need

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Alli October 16, 2014 - 9:18 am

Exactly! Being there speaks volumes!

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Ashley October 16, 2014 - 8:55 am

Love these tips because they are so incredibly true. Experience definitely opens one’s eyes on how to treat others. My advice: Sometimes the grieving person just wants to feel normal, so don’t judge when they no longer let the grief rule their life. Let them live 🙂 It doesn’t mean they forgot, but their heart has been enlarged to love again. I love & miss you all & will say my church definitely played a huge part in helping us!

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Alli October 16, 2014 - 9:18 am

You know when I wrote that post, I had you in mind, Ashley! You have to let people grieve their way and get past it their way. It doesn’t mean you no longer care. It simply means that life goes on and you can’t stop living. We miss you and the boys so much, but I’m so happy that you followed your heart! Are you coming south for the Christmas holidays? 🙂

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Kita October 16, 2014 - 8:56 am

Love these tips. I am that friend that people call on when they need to laugh or forget the pain. I have a way of cheering people up. Just be there for me I lost my mother and a friend said I don’t know how you feel because I still have mine what can I do….just be there for me.

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Alli October 16, 2014 - 9:16 am

Just knowing someone is there for you day or night is a comforting feeling. It’s great that you’re a cheerful friend to have around!

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Lysha @ Magnolia Mom October 16, 2014 - 8:57 am

I lost my father last Christmas and I’ve never really experienced a deeper pain. These are great tips.

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Alli October 16, 2014 - 9:14 am

I cannot pretend to know how you feel! My parents are still alive and in relatively good health, yet every time I visit I notice little signs of aging. They are both in their 80’s and I can’t stand the thought of them passing. I’m so sorry for your loss!

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Ricci October 16, 2014 - 9:16 am

These are grew tips!! I haven’t lost a child but I have lost both of my parents and people say the weirdest things…I agree with not saying “I know how you feel” because if you haven’t been there then you really don’t know. Again, great post!

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Paris at My BIg Fat Happy Life October 16, 2014 - 9:39 am

Great tips, I always struggle with what to say and do when someone is grieving.

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Alli October 16, 2014 - 12:38 pm

I finally learned that it’s OK not to say anything, just be there and be present. Actually I think not saying anything is better than saying the wrong thing.

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FabEllis October 16, 2014 - 10:24 am

You have no idea how helpful this post is! I’ve never known quite what to say or what to do for someone when they experience death of a loved one. A friend of my husband’s died over the weekend. He was less than 30 years old and it was the day before his birthday. I was shocked and wasn’t sure how to comfort him. I basically sat there, listened, hugged him and brought him something to eat. That’s all I knew how to do. I’m glad to see your post and to see I was on the right track. Also, I am SO glad you mentioned not asking what happened. I see ignorant people do this on social media all the time. It’s so rude.

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Alli October 16, 2014 - 12:37 pm

So glad this post helped! It’s so hard when someone, like your husband’s friend, dies at such a young age. So, so sad!

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zan October 16, 2014 - 11:40 am

I remember my first miscarriage, and I have had two. The second was a twin of my now almost 2 years old (made it about 6 weeks into pregnancy). The first one, was right at the end of the first trimester. I was so broken and my relatives were telling me…”oh you must have been doing way too much work”, and “Oh, you should have taken it easy”….Basically, blaming me for miscarrying a child that only God knows the reason why! I always remember those hurting words. Great post, Alli!

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Alli October 16, 2014 - 12:35 pm

Sometimes things, like miscarriages, just happen. I remember beating myself up and questioning myself as if I did something wrong to cause the miscarriage. Later I realized that it was nothing I did. I may not understand it, but I do know that I grieved while some people acted like it was nothing! I’m so, so sorry for your loss – both of them!

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Skye @ Planet Jinxatron October 16, 2014 - 12:28 pm

Thanks for writing this post Alli! Will be sharing so more people can benefit from your experience!

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Alli October 16, 2014 - 12:33 pm

I can remember times when I didn’t know what to say or do, but over the years I’ve learned a few things about grief.

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andrea October 16, 2014 - 2:28 pm

My grandfather passed away in June and one of the things that bothered me so much was the phrase I heard constantly: “I know how you feel.” I’m glad to see that you included this in your list. I know that it was just because people were trying to offer comfort and that there was no malice behind it, but it made me so angry.

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Alli October 16, 2014 - 4:46 pm

It seems people make that statement more than any other. And, no, we don’t know how you feel! We sympathize, but we don’t know. So sorry about your grandfather.

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Mikki October 16, 2014 - 3:03 pm

What a great post!!
I had my first major experience with this a few years back when a dear friend lost her little boy. I stumbled my way through how to minister to them. This will help alot of people out!!
Blessings.
Stopping by via the Southern Girl Blog

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Alli October 16, 2014 - 4:45 pm

It’s even worse when someone loses a child. No one is ever prepared for that. A few years ago a high school Sr. and family friend that attended our church was killed in a car accident. We were standing on the side of the highway with the parents when he died of internal injuries before the EMT workers could get him out of the car. I’ll never forget the look on that mom’s face when they told her he was gone. So, so sad!

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Lorelai @ Life With Lorelai October 16, 2014 - 7:24 pm

Wonderful tips. It is always a difficult situation. Sometimes the grieving feel more love and comfort just knowing that you care, whether you are able to say anything or not… because really what can be said. The most poignant moment of this very thing was when I lost my 17-year-old niece in a car accident 12-days after her high school graduation. One friend came over and just answered the phone for us–a true blessing and such a quiet loving gift.

~Lorelai
Life With Lorelai

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Alli October 17, 2014 - 6:57 am

What a great friend and what a wonderful way to show how much she cared. In the south, people always show up with plenty of food and drink.

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Lorelai @ Life With Lorelai October 17, 2014 - 6:54 pm

We had plenty of food and drink brought over too. It was amazing. The accident happen just after midnight, and we had people on our doorstep by 7am.

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Jessica October 16, 2014 - 9:01 pm

My mother told me when I was a kid that you never tell someone “I know how you feel” because everyone is different. Her mother died when she was seven and she said people were constantly saying it to her, friends and relatives alike. She always says it better to say something more like, “I understand why you feel this way” or something similar that doesn’t involve your OWN feelings.
When I had my miscarriage, my grandma had told me something along the lines of God did it because there must’ve been something wrong with it, blah blah blah. After the callous nurse on the phone who interrupted my one-year-old’s birthday party to just bluntly say I’d miscarried and that it happens all the time, having my grandma try to soothe me that way was just too much.
Fantastic post. Definitely sharing (and hoping my grandma doesn’t happen to read it and the comments; don’t want to hurt her feelings when she was just trying to help!)

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Alli October 17, 2014 - 6:54 am

Well said, Jessica! Most people are just trying to help, but blaming God, etc. does not make one feel any better, does it? And that nurse was very rude!

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Emerald October 17, 2014 - 11:20 am

I love the part about not saying I understand or blaming God. As the Bible says “time and unforeseen occurrences befall us all”. It would be better to sit with your friends and remember the good times with the person that has died. Try reminding them of God’s love for them using the Bible to aid you.

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Alli October 17, 2014 - 4:09 pm

People are so quick to blame God when bad things happen. I think it makes it easier for them to deal with grief. But God is good, all the time! Have a great weekend!

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Jen @ West Street Story October 19, 2014 - 9:58 am

I lost my baby in May (on Mother’s Day no less) and you took the words right out of my mouth as far as what someone grieving does (and does not) need. Thank you.

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Jen @ West Street Story October 19, 2014 - 10:07 am

PS, I think this blog post is so helpful, I did also share it on my Facebook page. Thanks again, Jen

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Alli October 19, 2014 - 8:09 pm

Thanks so much for sharing, Jen!

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Alli October 19, 2014 - 8:08 pm

So, so sorry, Jen! I don’t think most people mean to say the wrong thing. But sometimes it’s over the top wrong!

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Shirley Woodoo October 23, 2014 - 10:02 am

I think my family has endured more than the ‘average’ amount of grief. Both of my brothers lost children ( 2yr old in 1980 and 4 yr old in 1984) in tragic accidents. Those deaths literally changed the dynamics of our family completely. One of my brothers died at the age of 42 from complications related to diabetes.
My father died after receiving 3rd degree burns over 48% of his body in a fire in his workshop at home. My Mom died in 2012 after a long battle with breast cancer.
My parents raised me in church. I have seen the love and comfort of the church family throughout all of those deaths through the years.
Losing my Mom is by far the most difficult. Over the last 18 months since she went to live with Jesus, I put on 15 lbs. and spent way too much time just plain crying. Although it isn’t the worst part, our church family literally abandoned us. The first time I went back to church after the funeral, I just cried because Momma wasn’t there too. She was supposed to be sitting right next to us on that pew. Going to church was more than I could handle. No one called, sent a card, texted, emailed or other wise contacted us.(eventfully, about a year later, we got a call from a committee member who didn’t even know us) We no longer attend that church and are in fact going through that awful process of finding a new church home.
People are entirely too busy these days. Grief support from friends and family is not what it used to be at all. Some folks need more support than others. We won’t know, if we don’t check on them.
Your advise is excellent, I Pinned it.

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Alli October 23, 2014 - 11:48 am

Shirley, I am so sorry for all of your losses! My husband’s sister lost a son when he was 4 and she had such an understandably hard time. I don’t know how anyone goes through grief without the Lord!

And when you talk about your mom, it brings tears to my eyes. My parents are both living. They are in their 80’s and I can hardly stand not living near them, especially as they get older. We do talk on the phone a lot, but it’s not the same as being there.

I cannot believe that the church did not reach out to you after the death of your mom! We try to be sensitive in that area and especially if they are members of our church. We send flowers (or donate if they have specified no flowers), cook a meal for the family and supply coffee, drinks, plates, cups, etc.

I agree that people are entirely too busy these days. And thanks for the reminder to be there. Period. Hugs to you!

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Shirley Wood October 29, 2014 - 10:59 am

We did have the funeral and dinner at the church. That was the end of it though. I never heard from anyone again, like your #7. The one thing that really hurt the most was not hearing from the Pastor.

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Alli October 29, 2014 - 2:53 pm

I hate that happened to you, Shirley! Someone dropped the ball somewhere.

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Lucy Gibson January 24, 2018 - 8:26 pm

Alli, I like your suggestion about helping out a grieving person with things like food, child care, and providing a shoulder to cry on. I also appreciate your tip about not asking them what happened. Letting them decide when and how to talk about it should be up to them. My husband’s cousin just lost her husband in a car accident. These are some great tips to help someone in grief. I would also think getting professional help or finding additional resources could be helpful.

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