How to help others with grief

04 September 2015

It can be a tough task knowing how to act or what to say to a friend who has recently lost someone close to them.

Helping others with grief

Grieving is a difficult time in anyone’s life and everyone deals with it in different ways. It can take years to fully overcome grief and for some the process is delayed, shorter, or even longer. Here, we take a look at ways to help others cope with grief. 

When people understand the basics of the grieving process, they can find it easier to know what a grieving friend or family member is experiencing and the right things to say and do.

Remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It won’t be helpful to try to tell someone how they should or shouldn’t be feeling or acting. Let them deal with highs and lows and only step in if their behaviour becomes destructive.

Grief can sometimes create extreme behaviours such as screaming, crying for long lengths of time and anger, so you will need to understand that none of these actions are personal attacks on you.

Be prepared for a range of emotions and provide reassurance and support. The most important thing is to acknowledge all of the emotions being experienced and allow the person grieving to express their feelings. Be comfortable to just sit and listen to them and how they are feeling.

Sometimes when you’re grieving it can be therapeutic to talk about the loss and how your loved one died, almost as if you are talking the pain away. Listening to these stories will be a great help to your friend or family member and should help to alleviate the pain.

Offer practical advice or help to your friend; many people who are grieving often find it hard to ask for help and may forget to complete basic tasks such as eating meals or going shopping. Make suggestions to them rather than asking them a question outright as they may turn down help. Say that you are going for walk and that you’d like it if they came with you.

Other things you can support them with are simple household tasks that they may have neglected. For example, assisting with household chores or going food shopping on their behalf can be a huge help. It can be a good idea to make an entire meal, like a casserole, so that they don’t have to prep anything.

Help walk the dog or feed other pets, help with forms and bills or help them take calls and guests to the house. Also suggest some simple but fun activities which may help to take their mind of the grief for a while, such as going out for a meal or a film, playing a game or completing a small project together.

Finally, make sure that you stay available for your friend or family member as they continue on their journey through the grieving process. Check in every now and then to see how they are, either in person or over the phone. Offer extra support on any special days such as birthdays, Christmas and anniversaries, as these tend to be the toughest times for those grieving.