How to Help a Grieving Friend or Loved One

Grief is the hardest experience any one of us will ever have to go through. It’s excruciatingly painful and absolutely gut wrenching, especially when the loss is raw, deep and caused because the love was so very profound.

How do you help? How do you console someone who is hurting so much? What can you do?

Start by caring, deeply, and being a set of ears and arms while not saying much. No words can ever take away their pain, and often what we say meaning well can be received so badly. Instead, hug, hold, bring, listen, allow the other person to be.

In addition, here are things you can do:

1. Bring over a home cooked meal. Cooking and eating will be the last thing a grieving person will want to do. If you know their dietary preferences and restrictions, make something or purchase something that will be easy to cook and serve. You can call upon a local restaurant to pack up take-out or you can make one of their favourite meals.

2. Bring over, or mail, a “Thinking of You” card with a gift card for food, gas, a massage, house cleaning, in-home care or organizing services. The card will be enough to let them know that they are in your thoughts and that you are thinking of them. If you know you’d like to do something more but you are not sure what that is, add a gift card that they can use to help them through this challenging time.

3. Offer to take their children to the park, to the movies, or to your place for an afternoon of board games and movies. If they have children, offering to do activities with them and/or with the children will not only help your friend or loved one, it will help the children too. Children grieve differently and they need to separate themselves from the grief. Bringing them to do something fun for a few hours will help your friend or loved one do things they might not have been able to do because their focus is on being strong and being there for the kids. Gift them with time to focus on something other than their sadness.

4. Offer to pick up groceries, or run errands for them. Not wanting to be in public or around others will be a normal part of grieving. To help them, let them know you are heading to their area of town and you can easily swing by the grocery store or pharmacy to pick up what is on their list. They may not have a list therefore fresh fruit, veggies and some healthy snacks will probably be appreciated.

5. Offer to weed the garden, plant flowers, or mow the lawn, shovel the driveway. Whatever the season, look at how you can help them maintain their property while they focus on moving through their grief.

6. Invite them to join you for a 15-20 minute walk in their neighbourhood. Physical activity, being outdoors, being with a friend to talk are all excellent grief relief activities. Although they may not want to go for a walk, encourage them to join you, even if it’s just for a few minutes until they can be outside for longer periods of time. This will allow them to stay close to home, provide them with some socialization and support, all while honouring their grief and loss.

7. Let them know you can help with the laundry or clean their home. Laundry will be another daily task that will become a burden. Help out by picking up their bed sheets, linens and towels. Wash, dry and fold them. Upon your return, make the beds, refresh the towels and put the rest of the laundry away. While you are there, clean the bathroom, the kitchen and if you can, dust and vacuum too.

8. Offer to come sit with them for an hour.  Isolation is the natural tendency for the grieving. They want to be left alone because the pain is so great. You can honour that pain by letting them know that you will come by, for an hour or so, to sit with them, have a bite to eat, and just “be”. No agenda. No pressure. Just sit and be.

9. Offer to take the dog for a walk or care for their pet for an afternoon, night or a few days. If they have pets, their grief may be too great to care for their pets, especially during the initial time after loss. If you can help care for their pets, this will be greatly appreciated.

10. Call or text to simply say that you are checking in on them and to let them know that you are thinking about them. The simple act of calling, texting or messaging to say that you are thinking of them, that you are so very sorry they are going through this loss, that you want them to know that you love them will go so very far in their grief healing journey. Refrain from saying things like, “I know what you are going through” because you do not. Or “He/she is in a better place.” You do not know that to be true for certain. Or “At least you have another child, another pet, you had them for XX amount of years” because the pain and loss they feel is because they have loved deeply and there will be nothing to replace the loved one that they lost. Instead, tell them that you are very sorry they are going through this painful time and that you love them and support them.

There are many things we can do to help a friend or loved one who is grieving. If you have additional things you have done, or someone has done for you, post in the comments below. Let’s wrap our arms around those who are grieving so that they know that they are not alone and that we care.

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