How to help a friend dealing with grief

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Grieving takes time. Grief changes people, especially when it comes to the death of loved ones. That doesn’t mean that you will lose your friend. Be patient while they try to figure out how to deal with their loss.

It’s common for people who are grieving to feel that they are all alone and that no one understands what they’re going through. Their feelings may change from day to day and they may feel confused or have a hard time describing their emotions.

Your friend may show their grief by:

  • crying
  • worrying about dying
  • having difficulty focusing
  • not paying attention to you or anything else
  • yelling or acting angry

What you can do to help

  • Just be there: you don’t have to do much to show that you care. Try sitting with your friend while they cry or listening to what they have to say. Don’t worry about saying the “right” thing or making them feel better.
  • Check in with them: ask how they’re doing or ask if they need anything. Tell them that you’re there for them if they want to talk. Don’t tell them to get over it.
  • Get your friend out of the house: help your friend to think about something else for a while. Don’t be afraid to suggest having some fun.
  • Don’t avoid the subject: ask how your friend is doing on important days like birthdays, holidays and the anniversary of the loss.
  • Help your friend: if they feel overwhelmed, offer to do harder tasks together like studying or chores around the house.
  • Mark the memory: offer to help your friend mark their memories in some way, such as planting a tree or making a memory box or collage together.

What to say to a grieving friend

Speak from the heart. There may not be much to say except, “I’m so sorry.” Here are some other comforting words:

  • “I’m here if you want to talk.”
  • “It’s OK to cry in front of me.”
  • “Is there anything I can do?”    
  • “Do you want to take a walk and talk about it?”
  • “I’m so sorry you’re hurting.”
  • “How are you feeling?”

If you go to the funeral, it’s OK to simply hug your friend if you don’t know what to say. Actions speak louder than words and just being there will mean a lot to your friend.

What to avoid when helping a grieving friend

Here are some things that you should be mindful of avoiding while your friend is grieving:

  • saying things like, “You have to get over it eventually.”
  • telling your friend to cheer up
  • ignoring or avoiding your friend
  • smothering your friend by calling, texting or emailing all of the time
  • taking it personally