It’s difficult to support a friend or family member who has lost a loved one. What practical things can you do to help them? This is a practical guide that will help you navigate those awkward moments when you don’t know what to say, as well as some advice on what you can do to provide comfort.
Don’t Just Offer to Help After They Have Lost a Loved One
“Is there anything I can do?” is a great question. However, it is too open ended. Often, people often don’t know what you can do or how you can help. Sometimes, trying to think of a way can make them more stressed. So, if you offer to help, be specific.
For example, “Can I come over tomorrow morning and do your laundry?” or “I can pick up a friend or relative at the airport?”
Do Get to Work
While a specific offer of help is good, it is sometimes better to just show up and do some basic work around the house.
- Bring dinner
- Take the dog for a walk
- Mow the lawn
- Go grocery shopping
Anything is better than nothing.
Don’t Avoid Talking About the Situation
Many people think that talking about the tragedy is too painful or awkward, but talking about what has happened gives the grieving a chance to remember the person they have lost. It also gives them a chance to release any feelings they might be struggling with. Your presence shows support. However, acknowledging that they have lost a loved one gives them a chance to start processing their emotions.
Again, anything is better than nothing.
Do Listen To Someone Has Lost a Loved One
When you are with them, let them talk. Don’t feel like you need to fill the silences. Ask them how they are doing, and listen to what they have to say.
Don’t Chase Away Laughter
People are hesitant to laugh when someone is in mourning. They feel it would be disrespectful or rude. But laughter has healing properties, and being able to smile and laugh really helps.
Don’t Minimize Their Loss
It is natural to want to look on the bright side, to say that it could have been worse. But, for the person who has lost a loved one, it couldn’t have been worse. So don’t try to downplay it.
Don’t Say “I’m So Sorry” When They Have Lost a Loved One
Often, this is the first thing we say to someone who has lost a loved one, but try to avoid it. When you say, “I’m so sorry,” how are they supposed to respond? “I’m sorry too”? “Yeah, this is really hard?”
More often than not, when you say “I’m so sorry,” the person ends up consoling you: “It’s okay, don’t worry about it.”
What to Say
Here are some appropriate responses when someone has lost a loved one.
- Please know you are in our thoughts.
- I am so sad to hear about your loss. If you feel like talking, please don’t hesitate to call me.
- John brought so much joy to everyone around him. He will be missed by many.
- My favorite memory of your grandfather was that time we made ice cream in his back yard. He was truly a wonderful man.
- I will always remember Mary and how much she loved you and the rest of your family.
- I wish I could take away your pain. Just know that I am thinking about you and praying for you and your family.
- Can I bring you a meal or help out around the house?
- Susan was such a shining light in so many people’s lives. We will all miss her terribly. Please know that I will be here for you when you need to talk.
- I can’t even begin to express how my heart aches for you. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.
- George was such a generous person. We will all miss him, but his legacy will live on through all the great work he did.
- I’ll miss Tom’s kind words and sweet smile. Please know that we are here for you and your family.
Don’t Forget the Loss of a Loved One
Loss is not something ever goes away. There will always be times in which the loss is more prominent: holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations.
Those are times to reach out and let your friend know that you are thinking about them, that you love them and that you remember them and their loved one.