I woke up May 15, 2018 not knowing my life as i knew it would change in 2 hours. I spoke with my husband. Went to work. Called him back not knowing that I wouldn’t ever hear his voice live again. Death had hit my family. It had hit our friends. It had hit our online friends and family. Everyone we knew wanted to be supportive and offer me all the things they thought they need to do for me. Supporting a friend who is grieving is a tough road to walk on. There’s no real guide book; however, there are some surefire things you can do to help support your grieving friend.
Before I share ways to support a grieving friend, let’s define grief. Per Wikipedia, grief is defined as: a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, spiritual and philosophical dimensions.
To truly be supportive to your friend, you must come to grips that grief is not a temporary thing, it is a forever thing. It can be intense and seen during the immediate aftermath of the death but as years pass, many think grief is gone. It never leaves the person. They just rearrange the grief as it shows up.
As you read through this list, please keep in mind this isn’t about you. The pain and grief your friend is experiencing is THEIRS! Please don’t interject how you would handle this and start talking about your pain.
Things to keep in mind when supporting a grieving friend:
1. This isn’t about you.
2. Their pain is THEIR PAIN.
3. Don’t start talking about YOUR pain and comparing the death of your loved ones to theirs.
4. Your friend is in pain and lost. Don’t get in your feelings because your friend can’t be fully invested in the friendship, right now.
5. The way things were before the death may not ever return back to what you consider normal.
6. Please don’t tell your friend you can’t wait to have your old friend back.
7. Your friend may seem to be distant from you, don’t take it personally and end the friendship.
8. Don’t avoid your friend.
9. Give your friend space to be ok and not ok all at the same time.
10. Your friend loves you. They just can’t focus on you right now.
The first few days:
1. Stay by your friend side if you can.
2. Filter their calls. Take their phone and you answer the questions coming from other friends and extended family.
3. Allow them to cry and just be.
4. Make sure they take a bath and brush their teeth.
5. Help them make arrangements.
6. Don’t make them talk about their feelings. Allow them to decide how much they want to share.
7. Let your friend sleep when they can and for however long.
8. Monitor the visits from others. Don’t allow people to stay too long.
9. Listen as your friend rambles on about the deceased.
10. Purchase Kleenex. Make sure it’s the good kind. You and your friend will need a lot of Kleenex the first couple of days. Hell, the first year or two.
What not to say to a grieving friend:
1. God needed them.
2. God knows best.
3. Stop visiting the grave site everyday.
4. Time will heal your wounds.
5. They are in a better place.
6. I can’t wait to have my old friend back again.
7. How did they die?
8. Folks gotta learn how to take better care of themselves.
9. You are handling this better than I could.
10. Everything happens for a reason.
Social Media etiquette:
1. Dont rush to post about the death before the family does.
2. Don’t tag the family in your farewell messages until the family have shared on their page.
3. Don’t ask the family “how did they die?”
4. Don’t share information about the deceased that they family haven’t shared.
5. Be mindful of the messages you post. Saying things such as, “They are in a better place” or “they lived a long life” could prove to be hurtful to the grieving friend/family.
6. Do not post a picture of the deceased, in their casket, on social media.
7. Don’t share the announcement in every group the person belongs.
8. Respect the family! Your opinion isn’t needed at this time.
9. Don’t go live at the funeral; unless, the family asked you to go live.
10. Don’t make embarrassing posts or share secrets about the deceased online.
1. Purchase postage stamps for them. They will need them to send thank you cards.
2. Volunteer to take the dog out for a walk. Help with taking care of their pet(s).
3. Go over weekly and clean the house/hire a maid service.
4. Send meals.
5. Be their +1 to outings and/important events. Volunteer to do this because the bereaved probably won’t ask.
6. Invite them to get out the house & maybe have a sleepover at your house. A change of environment will do them some good.
7. Take their car to be serviced/gassed up.
8. Volunteer to take the kids to school or help the kids with their homework.
9. Help maintain their yard: keep the lawn mowed or hire someone.
10. Ask them about bills: utilities, mortgage, water, etc. They are just not focused on those things but the bills must be paid.
11. Offer to drive them to appointments.
12. Offer to go to a grief support meeting with them.
13. Offer to get the kids ready for school and pick them up.
14. Get them out the house. Take them to a fun activity: ball game, dancing, painting, etc.
15. Take them to their favorite restaurant for lunch or dinner.
1. If able, physically show up to support your friend. Just seeing a familiar face is comforting to the bereaved.
2. Be consistent in your check ins with the grieving friend. Regular text messages and calls are necessary.
3. Send a hand written letter or card several times throughout the first year. This lets them know you are still with them on this journey.
4. Call and just listen without offering advice.
5. Be genuinely concerned and ask questions that requires more than an “alright” answer. Help pull your friend out of the depression/sadness by getting them to talk. If you are a friend, you know how to do this, gently.
6. Be present for the tears, outbursts, & silence without judgement.
7. Be present for cemetery visits, if your friend asks for your support in visiting the grave.
8. Be present 6 months or 3 years later when grief hits them again like it just happened.
9. Talk about the person who died. Say their name, share a fun memory that you all experienced.
10. Be present for all the firsts: birthday, anniversary, and holidays.
11. Continue to be present by calling, texting and sending a card.
1. Purchase some paper plates and eating utensils.
2. Purchase some toilet tissue to ensure there is tissue in the bathrooms available for all the visitors.
3. Create a small snack basket filled with grab & go snacks. Your friend may not have the energy to cook but with ready to eat snacks, they will, at least, have something to eat.
4. Setup a group care calendar amongst family and friends. People can sign up to bring food and this will help to make sure an overwhelming amount of food isn’t brought on one day or just one time.
5. Purchase laundry detergent and dish soap.
6. Give your friend some post it notes. They can use them to write down things they think about. Grief will have them forgetting stuff.
7. Give your friend a journal to write their thoughts in.
8. Help the kids with their homework.
9. Change your friends bed linens weekly.
10. Do the laundry for your friend.
11. Prepare your friend bath water. Trust me when I tell you, your friend might not want to get out of bed but coach them to at least take a warm bath.
12. Purchase cases of water. They may not eat but they need to stay hydrated.
Help with keeping Memories alive:
1. Talk about the deceased.
2. Give space for your friend to tell as many stories or share pictures of their loved one.
3. Give a photo album of pictures of the deceased.
Other things you could do to support your grieving friend:
1. Share an uplifting playlist
2. Volunteer to watch their favorite shows with them.
3. Call and just say good morning.
4. Create a regular date night for you and your friend to get together.
5. Send regular care packages.
6. Invite your friend and their kids (if applicable) to spend the holidays with you and your family.
7. Offer to help your friend run their business. Step in and help keep their business afloat.
8. Offer to write a blog post on their blog.
9. Offer to call the deceased employer to give the news.
10. Offer to take the car for maintenance.
11. Offer to take their son for a haircut.
12. Don’t offer to fix the situation. You can’t & the situation isn’t broken.
13. Anticipate their needs. Don’t wait on them to ask for help.
14. Invite your friend to do things they did when they were a couple.
15. Acknowledge their feelings.
16. Be patient with your friend.
17. Don’t take your friend saying No or changing plans to hangout, personally.
18. Allow your friend to express their grief and anger in their own way. Don’t micromanage them.
19. Ask them what’s the best way to support them.
20. Don’t give unsolicited advice on how to handle/manage THEIR grief. Be judgement free around them.
Life as you knew it with your friend will never be like it was before the loss but you can help your friend cope and rebuild. Please print and review this list as often as you need to help you understand how to support your friend.