How to help a loved one who is grieving

Grieving is a complicated process that is different for everyone. For those who have recently suffered a loss, grieving doesn’t end when the funeral is over, and so the support the bereaved need should continue past the funeral too. Out of respect or uncertainty about what to say, you may feel that it is best to leave the bereaved to deal with grief alone, however, this may leave them feeling isolated. Although death and loss can be difficult to talk about, it’s still important to extend a hand of support to those who have suffered loss, for as long as necessary.

It can be difficult to know how to go about supporting a loved one whilst they are grieving, especially if you have never experienced a loss yourself. Knowing what to say or do, to lend comfort when they need it most doesn’t always come naturally, but a little effort goes a long way when it comes to situations such as this. If you’re looking for advice on how to give support to a grieving loved one, keep reading as we outline the best ways you can help and what to avoid at this difficult time.

What is a form of comfort for a grieving person?

Watching someone you love experience a deep loss can be difficult to witness. As a close friend or family member, knowing the right things to say and do to offer comfort can be overwhelming. The most important thing to do, no matter how hard the circumstance is, is to just say something. Let your loved one know that you are there for them. Whether they want to talk or not, simply knowing they can come to you when they need to is enough. Below we have outlined some of the best ways to comfort and offer support to a loved one who is grieving.

Consider the best way to contact them

Depending on the circumstances, how you can offer support to a loved one will vary. During the grieving process, some people may not want to see anyone face-to-face and instead would prefer a supportive text or phone call. You must respect these boundaries and check in with the person to ask what kind of support they would prefer. A simple way to show your support is to message them saying you are thinking of them and let them respond at their own pace. From here, you can ask what level of support they need and are comfortable with you giving them. No matter what they choose, the most important thing is that they know you are there whenever they need you. 

Give them space to talk

The most useful thing you can give to a grieving person is space to talk, however hard it may be. Each person responds differently to grief, some may not want to talk at all and some may feel better talking about what happened, how they feel, or sharing anecdotes about the deceased. If this is the case, it’s important as a loved one to make sure you give them room to talk about whatever they need to. Don’t try to change the subject or offer helpful advice, simply create a safe space for them to talk about whatever they need to.

Be consistent

Grief is with people forever and can take on many different forms, it may often not kick in until the initial feelings of shock or disbelief have worn off. By keeping regular contact with your loved one you can show them that you are thinking of them and are always there for them to lean on for support. As time goes on and once the funeral has passed, many people assume their support is no longer needed, however, this can often be the most lonely time for the bereaved. Therefore, by keeping consistent contact you can gauge how they are feeling and what support they may benefit from the most as time goes on. 

Talk about the person who died

All too often, we assume that people don’t like to talk about the person who has passed but, more often than not, the opposite is true. The person who has passed has not ceased to exist just because they are no longer here, so talking about them by name is a way to show that they haven’t been forgotten. Talking about the deceased is also a great way for your grieving loved one to find comfort in the fact they can talk about them without anyone feeling uncomfortable.

Remember things won’t go back to normal straight away

With a long list of things to do after a loss and arranging a funeral, it can all be overwhelming when trying to process the varying emotions happening at this time. Therefore, it’s important to remember that for the bereaved, things won’t go back to normal for a while, if ever, after a loss. There may be a ‘new normal’ that you and your loved one will experience. However, it is still helpful to support the bereaved by offering a welcome distraction from the loss. 

Without putting too much pressure on them, ask your loved one to take part in some low-effort, “normal” activities you would usually do to try and relieve some stress and also give them a place to talk. Simple things like going for a walk, grabbing a coffee or even watching a film at home together can help give them a welcome moment of distraction and also a safe space to talk about how they are feeling, without them feeling like they have to “get over it” for the sake of social interaction. It’s important to make sure you give them enough time to process their emotions before this and avoid high-energy activities in large groups as this can often be exhausting for those experiencing grief and may make them feel even more isolated.

What not to say to someone who is grieving?

Helping a loved one deal with grief can be difficult, especially when you’re unsure what to say for the best. However, there are some things that you should avoid saying as they may stir up some uncomfortable emotions in an already difficult time.

‘How are you?’

Although it’s usually the first question to ask, we would recommend avoiding asking this loaded question, as it is one that we likely already know the answer to. No one going through grief is going to be able to answer this with a simple, ‘I’m fine’. Instead, we would recommend asking, ‘How has your day been?’ or ‘What have you been up to?’ as a way to show that you care about them without putting them in the uncomfortable position of having to delve into how they truly feel.

‘Let me know if you need anything’

Those who are grieving will often have no idea what they need, or they may be reluctant to ask for support for fear of being a burden. Instead, we suggest offering specific, practical help that can be far more useful and appreciated. This can include things such as offering childcare support, bringing them home-cooked meals, helping sort through the belongings of the deceased or even offering a helping hand with household chores.

‘They’re in a better place now’

This is a common phrase that people use when speaking about grief, although it is not meant to cause harm, it can be upsetting to hear whilst suffering a loss. Those who are grieving may not be in the right mindset to receive this kind of comment positively, therefore we suggest avoiding this saying along with those similar such as, ‘at least they’re not suffering’ and ‘they lived a long time, at least they didn’t die young’, as the bereaved may not feel this way.

‘I know how you feel’

Although this may seem like a harmless thing to say and you may think it helps to show the bereaved you’ve experienced loss yourself, it is generally not helpful. Everyone experiences grief differently, so your experience will be vastly different to your loved ones’ loss. Instead, allow them to tell you how they feel instead of assuming based on your own experiences.

Support your loved ones with Heart of England Co-op Funerals

Supporting someone through grief is never easy, however, simply showing that “I am here for you” is all that’s needed. If you’re looking for more advice on how to support a loved one throughout the bereavement process, contact us today. Alternatively, if you would like to know more about the necessary processes once someone has passed, as a way to help support a loved one, head on over to our main website for advice on arranging a funeral and bereavement support.