The Do’s and Don’ts of Supporting a Friend Through Their Grief Journey
Supporting a friend through their grief journey looks different for each friendship and each person’s grief journey. Support might be picking up your friend’s children from school or dropping off a cookie from their favorite bakery, but the most important thing in supporting a friend is to be present and take cues from them on what they want or need.
Do be available for whenever your friend needs you.
Whether it’s late at night or in the middle of the day, you should be available whenever your friend needs you. Your friend should feel comfortable enough to reach out whenever they need assistance, or when a grief trigger hits.
Don’t avoid talking about the person who died.
After someone dies, it can be hard when people avoid mentioning the person in conversation. To help support your friend, you should share memories you have of their loved one and talk about the person if they come up in conversation.
Do use your strengths to help support your friend.
If your strength is organization, you could coordinate a meal schedule or arrange a carpool system, and if you enjoy cleaning, you could offer to help with laundry each week. No matter what your strength is, you should think about how you can use it to help your grieving friend.
Don’t be afraid to just sit with your friend.
Sometimes it can feel awkward to sit in silence, but you can show support to your friend by simply being present. Take cues from your friend, but you shouldn’t feel the need to have a mindless conversation if your friend isn’t up to it. Just being present is often enough.
Do watch your words and avoid clichés.
After someone dies, it might seem helpful to bring positivity to the death (e.g., “they’re no longer in pain or suffering”) but the positivity doesn’t make your friend’s grief go away. Instead of using clichés, express your sorrow to your friend and let them know you are there for them. And, avoid religious references if your friend doesn’t share similar beliefs.
Don’t say “if you need anything”; rather, just do it!
It can be easy to leave your offer to help at “if you need anything,” but chances are, your grieving friend won’t reach out and ask you for specific help. Instead of leaving it up to your friend, be proactive and drop off a casserole, do grocery shopping for a week, mow their lawn, etc.
Do keep supporting your friend for the months and years to come.
Grief doesn’t go away after a few weeks, and your support shouldn’t either. After a few months, your friend might not need you to grocery shop or run errands, but you can still reach out to them on harder days like their loved one’s birthday or holidays and let them know you’re thinking of them.
Don’t compare your grief journey to your friend’s.
Everyone’s grief journey is different, and you should avoid comparing your friend’s grief journey to your own.
It can be hard to know what to do when someone dies and how to show support to their family, but if you simply show up and offer genuine sentiments, you will be an able support to your friend through their grief journey.
–by Valerie Cox
Valerie Cox is a contributing writer for George Boom Funeral Home. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, playing with her dog, and volunteering in her local community.