7 Right Ways To Support A Griever


When the time comes to support a griever, people often don’t think much past the funeral. The few that do likely drop off somewhere after the one year mark. I get it. Death and emotions makes people uncomfortable. It wasn’t your personal life and so your life moves on. Unless you have suffered loss yourself, support will not come naturally. That’s OK. It is human nature to want to believe the smile they show you on the outside a year later is authentic. You just don’t know what you don’t know.

Grief never ends. It is not possible to get over a big loss. It stays with you and permeates every aspect of your life. That’s not to say the griever will never be happy again. They will find happiness in moments. However, they will forever suffer their loss. Often in silence as they will feel pressured to hide their grief. This adds to their pain because they want their loss to be acknowledged! Knowing the world has not forgotten makes it somehow easier to live through.

So what can you do to help someone that is grieving?  Here are 7 great ways to help show your support well after the funeral.

grief support

1. Remember Dates – Even If You Cheat

To all grievers there are 2 dates that forever hold value. The first is their loved one’s birthday. The second is the date of their death. It doesn’t matter how much time passes, these days are sacred. In the first year of loss, people remember. After that, it happens less and less. While no one expects you to memorize these dates, it makes a huge impact to the griever when someone acknowledges their significance. They remember! You do not need anything elaborate. Just a simple text message, email, or card that says, “I remember. You are in my thoughts.” There is an easy cheat that will ensure you never forget! Set a reminder on your phone, in a calendar app, or write it on your calendar. This simple activity can change their entire day!

2. Acknowledge Their Loss – Say Their Name

After the death of a loved one, it is common for a griever to have people close to them avoid the topic of their loss. It makes them uncomfortable. There is nothing worse than feeling as if people walk on egg shells. Believe me it is noticeable! It’s best to just acknowledge it. The griever wants you to! You do not have to ask details if it makes you uncomfortable. Even just saying, “I’ve been thinking about you a lot. I hope you are doing OK.” You will have made the griever’s day with just a simple acknowledgement. It also opens the door for them to share how they are really doing if they want to. Most importantly, never be afraid to say the name of the person they lost! They love to hear someone say their name or talk about a memory.

3. Set A No Expectations Rule & Mean It

Grief changes you in ways you never expected. It is common for the griever to feel as if they have lost a part of themselves. It is possible they have. Things that were once of interest may no longer be appealing. They may change their normal routine. People that were once outgoing may prefer to stay home. Invitations that used to be fun (i.e. birthdays, weddings, family gatherings) are now avoided. There are triggers everywhere and their actions are likely part of their coping mechanism.

Grievers often find their closest friends and family are the ones to drop off and disappear after loss. Please don’t ever stop inviting a griever! Even if they always seem to bail, let them know they are always welcome. Let them know that you plan to continue inviting them, texting them, calling them, or whatever your offer may be. You take the initiative. Set a no expectations rule. It is completely up to them whether they feel like answering your call, responding to your text, or showing up to the invite. No judgement either way. It takes the pressure off of everyone.

4. Don’t Try To Fix Anything – You Can’t

It is natural to try and offer advice to a griever. As they share difficult emotions, stories, and events, it is hard to listen. Your immediate reaction will be to try and help them fix it. Grief is not something you can fix. There is nothing you can do or say that will make this go away or feel better. Plus, the griever has no interest in the advice you have to offer. Their grief journey is unique to them. They must do whatever feels right to them in the moment. This is the only way they can survive and learn to live with their loss. So resist the urge to tell them what you think they should do or to offer suggestions. Simply validate what they say and let them know you heard them. That is all they really want.

5. If You’re Not Comfortable, Fake It!

Grief makes everyone uncomfortable, even the griever. We feel it when you rush to change the subject. It is noticeable when you try to dance around our loss. We spend a lot of time crafting exactly how we answer common questions and what we share because we anticipate our grief will cause awkward moments. When we are lucky enough to have someone make an effort, we notice! It makes our heart happy. So my best advice if you want to support a griever is to never let your fear or discomfort get in the way. We wholeheartedly appreciate it, even if you fake it.

6. Ask & Listen

Do not ever be afraid to ask questions. As long as you ask questions in a nonjudgmental tone and are genuinely interested it will come across in the right way. Seeking to understand grief is the best form of support out there. Comment on things they posted on social media related to their loss. Ask how they did with the latest milestone. Ask if there is anything you can do. Just be available to listen to their memories. Let them tell their story. It is so healing!

7. Silence Is OK

Get comfortable with silence. Most times silence is best! It sure beats feeling as if you put your foot in your mouth trying to say the right thing and having it come out all wrong. Just so you know, most things that are commonly said to grievers as a way to offer hope end up feeling like a stab to the heart. A silent hug, squeeze of the arm, or sympathetic smile is so much better.

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27 Comments on “7 Right Ways To Support A Griever”

  1. I lost my Mom 2 days ago. Thank you for putting this out here. It is so needed by so many.
    My amazing Mom started a volunteer Hospice friends group 30+ years ago with a friend and the first year they were able to help 12 families to have time away from their loved one and know they were safe etc…This last year the same Hospice friend volunteers were able to serve 800 people!

    Grief as I am finding out now with my friends that want to help, but don’t know what is appropriate is written so honestly and lovely.

    I will be sharing this with others and know for those first 12 people there will be hundreds more.

    1. It sounds like your mom did some amazing work! Love your sentiment of starting with 12 and reaching hundreds. Much love to you as you navigate life without your mom physically beside you. XO

  2. My son died when he was 21 years old in 2003 from leukemia (ALL). I obtained custody of his two children who are now teenagers, ages 16 & 15. The 16 year old is my granddaughter and she is at that age when nothing Grandma does is right, etc, etc, (I’m religious and very old-fashioned) so we got into an argument last night that resulted in her bolting out of the house. This made me very upset because one of the last things my son said to me on his deathbed was “Take care of my children, Mom…” I just felt like I had failed him somehow and I boo-hooed for an hour looking through his box of clothes and other items that I keep…..

    1. You have not failed him at all! She will come around. You haven’t given up on her, she’s in good hands. Sending hugs!

  3. Thank you so much for this. Every word is true. I lost my parents six weeks apart at the end of 2016. I have experienced every word. Thank you for validating my grief journey.

    1. Six weeks apart is a lot of loss all at once! While everyone grieves differently, there are common things we share (like things on this list). It’s nice though to know you’re not alone in the things you feel…get some sort of validation to not feel like you’re doing something wrong or are all alone. Hugs!

  4. It hurts a lot to be ignored or even told to get over it. All my friends have disappeared except one. It hurts so much.

    1. I tell myself those that left weren’t meant to be here. True friends try to understand, support us, and stay. Sometimes it seems those we meet on the internet (other bereaved parents) understand better than anyone and provide more support from afar than we could imagine. Sending you lots of love!

  5. I lost my husband with Alzheimer’s in September, 2017 with after taking care of him alone. Family, neighbors and friends(I thought were so) did not want to watch him deteriorate from a physician who spoke 8 languages into a person who became speechless. My brother died in October, best friend in November and cousin in Dec. Mither died 3 years prior to husband and our service dog, Marlena Dietrich, died the year after Mother. It has been a long, difficult journey of grieving the remaining family I had. Faith, meditation as well as the support of hospice has enabled me to focus on the blessings received when we think we are truly alone.

  6. Thank you. I lost my husband Chris going on two years. It wasn’t an expected death. Although he was in a hospital at the time. I miss him just as much today as the first. My heart is broken. I have friends that I can talk to,but like you said I hold a lot in. I cry often. It’s starting to cease a little. I miss him. I will always love him. Tina

    1. You will always miss him just as much as day one, I’m sure! I don’t believe that ever goes away. We just learn how to carry our grief as time goes on. Hugs!

  7. Thank you. I have lost many in my life and have never sought the need to find support but my father is dying of lung cancer and after being by his side for 6 mo nths with no interaction from my sisters I am finding it hard to cope. Have to return to California where I have lived over half my life. My dad is in the U.K. where I was born and raised. I won’t get to be by his side when he dies as I have over extended my stay by 6 months and have run out of funds .

    1. What a difficult situation. There should be exceptions they can make, it is so unfair. Sending you so much love.

  8. I am so sorry for the loss of your son. Losing a precious child is a pain like no other.

    We lost our beautiful 10 year old granddaughter Kenadie to DIPG Brain cancer on January 26 th 2018. She was diagnosed on December 29th 2017…. this was her second bout with brain cancer. When she was 2 she was diagnosed with Anaplastic Ependymoma. A rare aggressive form of brain cancer. Amazingly they were able to remove the whole tumor and they treated her with radiation to make sure there were no residual cancer cells floating around. They did everything right, they were active , they ate healthy and they were close loving family.

    Losing KENADIE felt like we had died the day she died. There are days I wonder how we will all go on. She leaves behind her loving mom and dad‘s and her six-year-old baby sister whom she loved more than anything. KENADIE was the kindest sweetest child, she never said anything bad about anybody , she Treated everyone around her with kindness and love . Whenever she would leave our house she would give grandma and Papa multiple hugs and kisses. ….

    As much pain as we feel, and we cry every day , I cannot imagine how her mom and dad are doing. Right now they’re in the middle of a busy work season, and that is probably good. They are self-employed, so they have to work. Hadley, between my husband being self-employed and then working all the time we don’t get to see them or talk . I’ve been sick a lot, so we haven’t had a lot of time with her other granddaughter. We just don’t know what to do. As their work season winds down they will have a lot of time on their hands. This worries me ….
    How do you go on, how do you honor you’re special loved one ? I worry so much that people will forget, I tend to talk about her a lot even with strangers. I usually end up crying, but I try to make them happy tears in her memory ….
    Life seems to go on… somehow I don’t get it …..

  9. Lost my husband, best friend and partner 5+ months ago. I miss him so much it hurts every minute of every day. My FB friends are my greatest support. I love your seven steps, I can certainly see myself in most of them,. Starting this month to work with hospice in our Community. Giving back has always been a good way for me to heal in other adversity’s I have had to go through.
    Thank you for sharing your journey with others.

  10. Thank you! My best friend died on my birthday a year ago. She was not just my best friend of 25 yrs. We met when i was 23 yrs old. We did everything together. Always there for the other one. Helped each other as single mothers, shared a car when the other didnt have one,held and supported through heart breaks and helped pick each other up and put back the pieces as we aged and life would knock us down! Kiki was the smart, beautiful and logical one! We balanced out the other!!where one of us stopped the other began, day and night to be honest.
    She had cancer, they gave her 6 months when diagnosed. But in true Kiki fashion she fought forv2 1/2 yrs. She was tired and in more pain than they could control. Lost and scared most of the time.i would get these phone calls at odd hours of the night. And usually she was crying. I grew to expect these monumental phone calls. Id get up and we would talk until she was calm again and comfortable enough for her to go to sleep.
    I got a call on monday evening Dec.11- “if you are coming to see mom aunt Trae, you better hurry!” I threw a bag in the car and hit the highway….7 hrs later i walked into a hospital room and my heart broke!! ( as i type this out i cant stop the tears still) there lied a shell of my vibrant bestie! I knew the end of her battle was here!
    She held my hand and laughed and talked and cried for the next 3 days… the early hours of my fourth day with her, i watched as she passed on and left us behind. That Dec. 15 was my 48th birthday and my heart just shattered.
    Since that day my entire life has changed! I can’t let go….i feel so lost most of the time! I knew death and grief. But never in a million years have i experienced something so shattering.sorry to go on and on … i still have never talked about it to anyone. I would talk about her or share my memories out loud. I dont know why i feel like they are mine and i don’t want to share them! They are all I have! And i know this is wrong.. but i can’t. She would be so upset, she smiled right up to her passing and we always had more than than two girls should of had, and laugh until our faces and sides would ache! And I used to be so out going. But since the day she died i am someone i don’t even know anymore. Anyway Thank you saying its ok. I know I’m getting better just not very fast.

  11. Thank you! I lost my husband to Acute Myleoid Leukemia in June. We have a little girl (who we shouldn’t even have – I was told I couldn’t have kids – and surprise – found myself pregnant at 41 – she is my greatest blessing) who just turned 4. So I am working through the loss of my soulmate and holder of my heart as well as trying to be a good mom and helping my sweet girl grieve for her daddy. Thank you so much for sharing this. I needed to see it today. Much love and many prayers to you on your grief journey!

  12. My step-son of 10 years died a month ago. He was 29. It was and is a terrible shock. I am grieving but not like my husband. He is understandably having a really hard time. The activity of it all has ended and he now feels the incredible sadness and hole in his heart. I grieve differently then him. And his son was not my natural child. I want desperately to support him and love him through this knowing it will be the rest of our lives. I’m fine with that. What I am struggling with is my husband’s need to have me “walk his path” in other words, give up my work and responsibilities to be side by side with him throughout his day. He drives a truck and wants me there for support, etc. Am I being selfish in my need to continue my life as best as I can all the while being his “rock”?

  13. My brother hanged himself in 1989 and five years later my twin died of AIDS alone. He didn’t let me know he was dying because my mom was an alcoholic and he feared she would blame me of not telling her. She did anyway. My father had Alzheimer’s and his doctor wanted me to get guardianship to place him safely due to mom’s alcoholism. It started a major court case and my remaining siblings disappeared and left me holding the bag. We don’t speak asa result but sadly whatever their story is has turned my nieces and nephews away. I am a mental health counselor for over 15 years and when I sit with people that share their grief and loss they know I am present to them in an authentic way.

  14. I lost my soulmate on March 19,2019,after an illness.My Husband died & a part of me died with him.I miss him every second;We were married 30 years last November 11,2018.Hardly anyone understands how I feel unless they’ve lost there husband.There are times when its hard to put one foot in front of the other & get my day going.Im getting by but it hurts soo much.Praying for some comfort.Thanks for listening, Blessings to all who have lost a loved one.❤

  15. This means so much to me. My 32 year old daughter passed away unexpectedly 5 days after she got married. It’s been a year since her death and the pain is still so real. She was on top of the world. My heart is so broken and I have changed so much since her passing. Just reading that I am normal to be feeing what I feel give me a little comfort. Thank you.

  16. One of my really good friends just lost his daughter in a terrible car accident. I was friends with her and I know their whole family, so this is so helpful in trying to help to support them. Thank you.

  17. Emily, Thank you for being a safe place for people to go to when they need to share their grief. You feel and respond with your heart to others because you have been there…my sympathies in your loss. You are special because you can share back instead of hiding. I go for walks and sit on a log in the bush and have a little cry to cleanse my soul for another while. I volunteered with hospice/palliative care for 17 1/2 years and listening is the greatest gift that I could give. I work now mainly with seniors and listening is never a bad avenue to take. Reminiscing is a great healer and comforter. God Bless You!

  18. My son was victim of gun violence I miss him so much he was a loving hard working courteous person but his downfall was his addiction to meth and alcohol it has been so hard to come to terms with his death I failed him as a mother I couldn’t help him I’m at a loss

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