Helping the Grief-Stricken – 7 Practical Ways

by Alli

Sometimes we have absolutely no clue as to what to do or say when a friend is grieving. That’s why I put together my top 7 tips on helping the grief-stricken

My husband and I have been in the ministry (pastoring) 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!

But there is one part of the ministry that has always been difficult and that is 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.

Comforting a friend

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. 

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.

Helping The Grief-Stricken

Be Present For Your Grieving Friend

Help them out with food and childcare. Clean their house. Be a shoulder to lean on. Simply knowing that you care helps more than you realize. Above all, cover the grief-stricken in prayer!

Delivering a Meal to someone in need

Don’t Ask Your Grieving Friend What Happened

If there has been a tragic death, let your friend decide when and how to talk about it. If they want to talk about it, listen. It’s always safe to always follow their lead.

Be especially gentle when dealing with suicide. Your friend may or may not want to talk about it. 

Don’t Blame God When Helping the Grief-Stricken

When people are faced with a heartbreaking situation beyond their understanding, it is easy to blame an unseen force.  

Helping A Friend Who Is Sad

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 and figure things out.

Don’t Make Them Comfort You (It’s Not About You)

I see it time and time again. A friend who is grief-stricken is having moments of handling it surprisingly well, reminiscing about their loved one. Someone walks in and becomes hysterical. Then, 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 a person and have a meltdown. This requires something of them that may be beyond their ability to give.

Please, Don’t say, “I Know How You Feel. You Don’t!

This sounds clich√©, but there is a grieving process a person 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.

Don’t Make Light of The Situation When Talking To A Grieving Friend

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.”  For real? 

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 loving God.

Don’t Forget About Your Grieving Friend 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 can be even more heart-wrenching if a death occurs around a holiday such as Christmas.

Comfort a Friend Dealing with Grief

When my mom graduated to heaven (I can’t stand the words passed away), it was heartbreaking. My extended family has rallied around us and my aunt Jean (mom’s sister) has really been there for me. She makes sure to keep in touch with my sister and me. She sends us birthday cards, etc. She and my mom were very close and I’m so glad she’s always there for me. 

Aunt Jane (dad’s sister) is the same way. She goes out of her way to check on us and we appreciate how much they care.

Once again, I believe showing a grief-stricken friend that you care and being there for them is the most important thing we can do. We may not be able to lighten a friend’s pain and sorrow, but we can be there for them. 


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peggy s munn January 2, 2013 - 1:45 pm

I cant explain everyones pain of loss love one. Buts very hard.I loss my husbands when he was 29 years old my daugther was only 10 years old at the time.I had to raise her the best way I knew how.Its not easy at all.then years later i got married and my last husband past. The memories are still there and I often think of him. I knew my last husband the longiest.The pain never goes away.Im still grieving of the loss of my nephew that past on jan 8th 2012 with cancer.God gave us 41 years of his life I thank so very much.My brothers are in heaven with my other family that has gone on to be with jesus.Pray for me plz.

Alli January 2, 2013 - 3:41 pm

I will certainly pray for you, Peggy! I am so sorry that you have had to face so much loss! And thanks for such a touching comment. Love and hugs to you!

Sheila Hinson January 2, 2013 - 2:00 pm

Alli…Loved your article on the ‘GRIEF STRICKEN’. It brought to mind when Charles died and you and Pastor Eddie was there for me and the way you handled everything. I will NEVER forget all you did for me and I cry as I write this…it’s STILL so close to my heart. Almost 11 years later and it still hurts so bad, although I’ve moved on. Please know that I will always love & pray for both of you. Your love, prayers, and support got me through the worst time in my life and I will NEVER forget what you did!

Alli January 2, 2013 - 3:38 pm

Thanks, Sheila! We love you, too, and we will never, ever forget Charles, either.

misssrobin January 5, 2013 - 12:40 am

Beautiful post. And those are great tips. It can be such a tough time.

A few years ago a lady in my neighborhood lost her husband in a plane crash. I wanted to go to her but didn’t know how. I didn’t know what to say or do. I found myself visiting with another lady from my church and asking her. She’s a bit older than me and is so kind and makes everyone she comes into contact with feel valued. I knew she would know. She gave me much of the same advice you included. I went to my friend and it was good. And a year later I knew how to comfort the wonderful kind friend (the second one) when her husband killed himself. I was so glad I’d asked her. When I needed to be with her I knew exactly what she wanted/needed.

I try to do those things now. And I pray a lot. Besides praying for peace and healing and God’s love for them, I pray that they won’t be hurt by the stupid things people will say when trying to comfort them.

Thanks for the work you do. It makes the world better. It matters.

Stopping by from SITS. Have a great weekend.

Alli January 5, 2013 - 8:41 am

Thank you so much for your kind words and for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment. Sounds like your friend from church is a very wise woman. Just a few days ago, my husband and I were at a visitation where a church member’s mom had died way too young. As soon as his children saw us, they burst out crying. I believe that sometimes just the sight of familiar faces can bring hope and healing, without us having to say anything except to embrace them and give them a shoulder to cry on. Thanks again for stopping by. I am truly humbled and grateful!


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