Supporting Your Friend As They Navigate Grief

Updated on May 12, 2022
Supporting Your Friend As They Navigate Grief

Watching a close friend go through the complex emotions of grief is a harrowing experience. Even more challenging is wanting to help them heal and not knowing where to start. Fortunately, we’ve put together a short list of helpful tips to ensure you’re giving your friend the kind of support they need during such a difficult time.

Understand the Grieving Process

One of the key elements of supporting your friend as they navigate grief is trying to grasp what they’re going through. You don’t have to be a licensed grief counselor to understand the grieving process. But learning about what to expect can be incredibly helpful when the time comes to offer your support.

In general, you’ll want to keep the following things in mind:

  • There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
  • Grief often involves an array of extreme emotions and behaviors.
  • There is no set time limit for how long a person should grieve their loss.

Your friend may exhibit emotional responses that seem foreign to you. Even though you may be tempted, do not take it upon yourself to try and make sense of these behaviors. Doing so might exacerbate these emotions or make your loved one feel more isolated. Instead, openly listen to them and offer a shoulder to cry on.

Know What To Say (and Not Say)

Wanting to give our friends comfort and even answers for what they’re going through is natural, especially when they’re suffering. But sometimes, the things we want to say to them can be much less helpful than we think. Clichés like “everything happens for a reason” can often come off as patronizing, despite our best efforts to show kindness.

Rather than trying to fix the problem with your words (which you can’t do anyways), acknowledge your friend’s situation and listen to them. Moreover, accept their emotions and be willing to sit in silence if that’s what they need. Further, be genuine in your sentiments and ask how your loved one is feeling.

Most importantly, be there. Sometimes all your friend needs is the company of someone they love. Don’t worry about having all the answers. Just ask what your friend prefers and do your best to offer it. Rest assured, this is one of the most helpful ways of supporting your friend as they navigate grief.

Offer Practical Assistance

Offering unsolicited advice and surface-level solutions to a person’s loss is rarely the best way to support a grieving loved one. On the other hand, offering them practical assistance can be an excellent way to provide support. When a loved one passes, the emotional process is highly taxing. As a result, those grieving must expend their energy coping with their loss.

Everyday tasks like cooking and cleaning become unimportant to someone experiencing loss, and chores often fall by the wayside. This is where you can take some action to help your friend heal. Offering to do the following things is an excellent place to start:

  • Run errands for them
  • Clean their house
  • Cook a meal

However you choose to do it, supporting your loved ones most often means asking them what they need and doing what you can to help without judgment or unsolicited advice. And remember, being there for them, even if it means sitting in silence, is far more helpful than having all the answers.