Start by Listening
Your grieving friend may share the same stories and memories with you again and again. They may talk about their loss repeatedly. This is part of the grieving process. You can help by listening to your friend. When your friend is done speaking, acknowledge and validate their pain.
If your friend is mourning the loss of a loved one, you could say, “I’m sad Pete died, too. He was a kind man.” If your friend was the victim of a violent crime, you might say. “You did everything right. Surviving is hard and I’m glad you’re here.”
Offer Practical Help
It’s tempting to say to a grieving friend, “Call me if you need anything.” But when someone is grieving, they’re usually overwhelmed and may not know what they need right now. That’s why it can be helpful to offer specific help.
Always phrase your help as a question. You want your friend to be able to decline your offer if she doesn’t need the help or if she just wants to be alone.
You could say, “I know you aren’t sleeping well these days. Would it be OK if I picked up the kids and took them to school every morning this week?” Or you might say, “You’ve got a lot on your plate right now. Is it OK if I clean the house and do laundry?”
It can take up to two years for a grieving friend to recover. In the meantime, look for recurring tasks that you can (with her permission) take over. Good examples include making sure the oil in her car gets changed regularly or taking care of her lawn as the seasons change. By showing up repeatedly, your friend will know that you love and care for her.
Reach Out for Anniversaries and Special Events
For grieving people, anniversaries and special events like birthdays can be difficult. Reach out to your friend on these special dates. You might say something like, “I know it’s Pete’s birthday today. How are you feeling?” Or to a friend with a serious illness, you might say, “I know you were diagnosed this time last year. How are you doing?”
The holidays can also make grief resurface. A friend that lost a loved one fifteen years ago may still grieve as deeply as if she’d lost her loved one fifteen minutes ago. Let your friend know you’re thinking of her during the holidays and offer to do an activity together. For example, you might say, “I know you and Pete loved Christmas. Would you like some help decorating your tree this year?” or “I’m baking Christmas cookies tomorrow and I’d love it if you could drop by so we could do it together.”
Don’t pressure your friend to accept your offers. She may want to grieve privately. If that’s her decision, respect it and let her know you still love and support her.
Grief affects everyone differently. The best gift you can give your friend during this time is to offer compassion and a listening ear.
Learn more about the grieving process when you download your free Overcoming Grief workbook.