How to support someone who’s grieving

It can be hard to be around someone who is grieving. They’re likely sad, crying, moody, angry. They may be isolating themselves, drinking too much or engaging in other self-destructive behaviors. There is no “right” thing to say or do that will comfort every grieving person. However, here are a couple of ideas:

photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

  • Talk about their loved one. It’s important that they know you remember their loved one.
  • Really listen. Make time to sit with your friend or family member and just be present.
  • Be patient. Grieving last a long time. Encourage your friend or family member to re-engage in life, but don’t be pushy.
  • Offer to help with something specific (mowing the grass or grocery shopping). People are much more likely to accept help with a specific task than a generic offer of “call me if you need anything”.
  • Remember special days. If you are close to someone who is grieving, make a note to remember the deceased’s birthday, date of death, other important dates (anniversaries, holidays). It can mean a lot receive a call or card on these days that acknowledges that it’s likely a tough day and that the deceased is remembered.
  • Be open to new family traditions or ways to celebrating holidays. Often people need to temporarily or permanently change the way holidays were celebrated. It can be painful to celebrate Christmas the same way without Grandma there to make her traditional Christmas morning breakfast. You can also find new ways to incorporate the deceased into your traditions.Talk about their loved one. It’s important that they know you remember their loved one.
  • Gently offer to help your friend/family member find a therapist or support group if they have a history of depression, talk about not wanting to live, or don’t seem to be getting better after 6 months.
  • Help the bereaved find ways to memorialize your loved one. There are endless ideas. Your job is to be supportive.

Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in the San Jose area, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in Campbell, CA where she is available for in-person counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism.