"They're in a better place now."

Saying this to your grieving friend will not likely ease their pain. Grief is a dark place, and looking for the bright side is not going to relieve your friend from feeling devastated or traumatized from their loss. Frankly, there is no silver lining.

Even though you cannot heal your friend's pain, you can acknowledge how bad it is and support them through it.

How can you put your caring heart and thoughts into action to help console your grieving friend — while also keeping your foot out of your mouth?

Fleabag is awkwardly complemented on how good she looks at her mother's funeral.

Reaching Out

DO: Connect right away.

Reach out and express condolences in your own way. Let your friend know that you are there for them.

It does not have to be a grand gesture: send a text message, hug them, or share a memory of the loved one who has died.

DON'T: Wait to act.

Don't hesitate to reach out because you guess that they need space, you are scared off by their grief, or worried about saying the wrong thing.

You don’t need to have answers, give advice, or say and do all the right things.

A person opening their eyes to an email notification on their phone.

Gifting

DO: Be thoughtful and considerate.

Think about your friend's needs and what they would appreciate or find meaningful.

  • Handwritten note or card

  • Dedication or donations

  • Personal care package

  • Basket of non-perishable snacks

  • Gift card to a local restaurant or their favourite take-out

  • Practical household goods

  • Something for the kids, like a stuffed animal, activity book or journal

  • If your friend is a co-worker, see if you can donate a day of leave

DON'T: Focus on traditional gifts.

Flowers, edible arrangements, and casseroles are often overdone immediately after experiencing the death of a loved one.

While these are comforting and perfectly fine gifts — which is why they are frequent go-tos — it's a good idea to read your friend's situation.

If they are running out of freezer space and vases, consider alternatives before choosing traditional gifts that expire quickly.

June from A Handmaid's Tale saying

Quiz

After their dad's death, Taylor had a ton of visitors at their home who all brought food and flowers. What would be a good gift to bring?

Paper plates, tissues, and toilet paper

Frozen lasagna

A potted perennial plant

Offering Help And Service

DO: Offer specific help.

Ask your friend if there is anything in particular that you can do to help. If they don't know — or say that there is nothing — then offer something specific that is on their to-do list or will help them gain some time:

  • Ask to borrow their keys to wash their car and fill it with gas.

  • Suggest that you organize the food and gift deliveries at their house.

  • Let them know that you’re going to mow their lawn this weekend.

  • Offer to taxi them to the airport and back.

A drag queen asking,

DON'T: Say, "Let me know if you need anything."

While this offer is well-intentioned, it puts the burden on your grieving friend to reach out to you.

Even when the offer of help is on the table, it can be tough to ask for it.

Spending Time Together

DO: Listen. 

Lend them your ears when they need it. 

Grief takes you through a whirlwind of emotions, so let them talk about their pain, despair, and anger. Sit quietly and let them know that they can vent, cry, or break down in front of you. 

Phoebe lets loose a flurry of curses on the show

DON'T: Force them to talk.

Don’t force them to talk about their grief to fill the silence.

They may merely want a friend around with no pressure or expectation to converse. They may want to take their mind off of their loss. Sit with them, watch a movie, and pretend it is all okay.

Sharing Experiences

DO: Tactfully share experiences of grief.

Grief can feel immensely lonely, and when you're living in it, you can forget that it's a universal feeling. 

Offer to connect your friend with others who are going through something similar. They can share coping strategies and help each other feel like they are not alone.

DON'T: Compare grief.

It is not a time for comparisons or saying that it could be worse. Your friend's grief is excruciatingly painful, and there is no way to make them feel the loss any less. 

Avoid saying things like:

"At least you can get another dog!"

"You can always remarry."

"At least they lived a long life; many people die young."

An offended Ron Burgundy asking,

Support Their Pace

DO: Let them lead the way.

There will be some days when your friend will:

  • Decline your offers or invitations.

  • Not return your calls.

  • Want to be left alone.

Be attentive to their needs, and leave them alone. If you're not sure, ask!

DON'T: Put pressure on them to get back to normal.

Honestly, they may never be the same person as they were before. Don’t rush them through the grieving process. Grieving — in some form — will last forever.

David from Schitt's Creek saying,

Planning Ahead

DO: Check in on important dates.

Holidays, the deceased’s birthday, and their death anniversary can all be exceptionally challenging times throughout the year for your friend.

Make a conscious effort to remember important dates and check in with your friend on those occasions to let them know that you’re thinking of them. 

DON'T: Assume that grief is short-lived.

Think beyond helping immediately after their loved one's death. Look to what you can do the week, the months, and the years ahead.

Keep offering invitations and help often.

Harry Potter cries at his parents' gravesite, then says

Take Action

What can you do at this moment to help your grieving friend?

Baymax hugs Hiro and and pats his head in the movie

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This Byte has been authored by

CS

Carol Starratt

Learning Experience Designer