How to support a loved one in grief
I recently suffered a great loss. After a two-year-long battle with his health, my father passed away on Father’s Day.
I am blessed with a great community of people who have been supportive as I process my grief. That being said, I think it’s important that we talk about how to be supportive to someone going through a great loss, as many struggle to find a way to respond.
A wise person once said, “Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.” Your loved one does not need their loss to be “fixed” or minimized. They simply need your presence and support…a safe place to talk about how they are feeling or just to simply be with someone they care about without having to talk.
Supporting a loved one in grief: 5 helpful tips
With this in mind, here are a few helpful hints for supporting someone who is grieving.
Practice being a good listener
Often, a person just needs someone to listen and offer support, rather than giving advice.
Refrain from giving advice
Your grieving loved one does not necessarily need to hear, “He is in a better place” or “At least she isn’t suffering anymore.” While these things may be true and are always well-intentioned, it is best to just offer support.
Offer words that touch the heart
Use open-ended questions like, “This must be so hard for you. I am so sorry for your loss…how can I help?” Even if your loved one cannot think of a specific task that they need, he or she will appreciate the support.
Stay connected and available
There really is no timetable for grief. It is hard to even really process a traumatic loss right away. For example, my father’s service was last week, and this week, we are working to clean out his apartment. Until these tasks are complete, it is difficult to even fully process the trauma of the last few weeks. Long after the last sympathy card is mailed, the grief and feelings of sadness will persist. Check in often and be available when your loved one is ready to talk.
Avoid asking, “How are you?”
This is also well-intentioned, but as someone who has been asked, “How are you?” a million times the last few weeks, it is difficult to try to formulate an appropriate answer. Try, “How are you feeling today?” instead. This acknowledges that the person has suffered a loss, and acknowledges that feelings can vary from day to day and even hour to hour.
Further resources on grief and loss
If you found this article helpful, check out these additional resources on coping with grief and loss.
- The Lily-Jo Project’s resource on Grief & Loss
- The Lily-Jo Project’s article 5 Tips for Helping Children Manage Their Grief
- Article Helping Yourself as You Cope with the Loss of a Parent from Cancer Care.
- Article Ways to support someone who is grieving from Harvard Health.
- Article 21 Ways to Help Someone You Love Through Grief from Time Magazine.
Finally, here at The Lily-Jo Project, we recognize that grief is so complicated and difficult to process. We offer a public group on Facebook called Recharge, and it is a place where you can discuss mental health concerns, as well as access information on a wealth of mental health and family topics.
Brandy is currently in the final leg of obtaining her counseling license as a marriage and family therapist. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of seventeen years, and together they share three children, aged twelve, nine, and seven. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, walking in nature, and biking.