Supporting a grieving friend

Getting in touch

You may find yourself avoiding a friend or family member when someone close to them dies. You might be worried about saying the wrong thing and making things worse, or be unsure what to say at all. But your support could really help – people who are grieving tell us that the worse thing someone can say is nothing.

Everyone experiences grief differently – it might help to read about some of the feelings the person may have.

Here are some tips about getting in touch with someone who is grieving:

  • If you can’t get to see your grieving friend or family member, you could call them, write them a letter or email, or send them a text to let them know you’re thinking about them.
  • Bear in mind that you don’t know how they’re feeling. Try to avoid saying things like ‘I know just how you feel’.
  • When you talk to them, take your lead from them. They may want to talk to you in detail about what happened and how they feel, or they may not.
  • If you make promises, stick to them. Your friend or family member may be feeling vulnerable and need to know other people can support them.
  • If you knew the person who died, you might say kind things about them and what they meant to you. This could mean a lot to your grieving friend or family member.
  • Thoughtful gestures such as inviting your friend or family member over for coffee or sending a text to say you’re thinking of them can be very supportive.

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Listen rather than talk

Allowing your bereaved friend or family member to talk about the person who died can really help them cope with their grief. If they talk about the person, don’t try to change the subject. Listen to what they have to say without interrupting.

Some people may not want to talk at all. Sometimes just having you in the same room and sitting together quietly can be reassuring.

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Let them express their emotions

Try to create an environment where your friend or family member feels safe and can express what they’re feeling. Their emotions may range from sadness to more unexpected emotions like anger. Respect how they feel. If they say they’re relieved that the person died, don’t insist that they must really be sad.

Some bereaved people frequently swing between grieving and getting on with their lives. You may find that your friend or family member does this. They may be upset and wanting to talk about their loved one, and then change the subject and want to talk about something ordinary, like what’s going on at work or a new recipe.

Remember to keep anything that they share with you confidential unless you have their permission to share it more widely.

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Be specific

Practical offers of help are often more useful than general ones. For example, you could offer to cook dinner, answer the phone or do their shopping. Someone who doesn’t drive will appreciate being given lifts for important appointments. Be honest about the fact you want to help but are unsure how. Ask them what they need. If there’s a gathering after the funeral at their home, they may appreciate your help in getting everything ready.

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Be patient

In the first few days and weeks after the death, the person will probably have lots of practical things to do. This is also when most family and friends make themselves available for support. However, there’s no time limit on grieving and your friend or family member might need to cry or talk about their loss for many months or years afterwards. You might want to make a note of any dates or anniversaries that are likely to be particularly difficult and get in touch.

It may be difficult for a grieving person to ask for help when they’re already feeling vulnerable. Let them know you’re there for them and be sensitive to any changes in their mood. The reality is that bereaved people experience lots of difficult emotions which can sometimes make it hard to be around them. Try not to take any anger personally and give them space.

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Suggest an activity

There may be particular times that are difficult for your bereaved friend or family member. They may be busy at work during the week but find the weekends lonely. Perhaps you could offer to watch a film together or go for a walk. If they want to, you could do things which remind them of the person who died. That could be visiting a special place or looking through old pictures together. Just having some company will be supportive and reassuring.


This article is shared directly from Marie Curie who we are proud to continue working alongside for the last 5 years. #ScullionLAW #MarieCurie


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