How to offer support to a grieving friend

Font Size:

It’s hard to know the right thing to say to someone who has recently experienced a loss, but just being there for them can make a world of difference. Counsellor Fiona Caine offers guidance to a woman who is not sure what to say to her grieving friend.

The problem
“My friend has been through the most terrible time lately and I just don’t know what to say to her. Her dad died last August and then, three weeks later, her mum died too. Both of her two sons have emigrated – one some time ago but the other, just before her dad died, so neither were there for their grandparent’s funeral.

“As if that weren’t enough, her husband – who was several years older than her – has just died of the coronavirus, and she couldn’t even be with him at the end.

“She has one sister who she gets on well with, but who has serious health problems, so cannot do very much. Other than that, she has no family to help her. I can’t believe one person can go through so much.

“I just don’t know what to say that will be enough, and I don’t know what to do to help her. She has strong religious beliefs – which I don’t share – but she was saying she’s losing faith at the moment.”

Fiona Caine says:
“Your friend certainly is going through it, and it’s not really surprising her faith is being tested.

“Don’t succumb to the temptation of trying to do something that’s not you, though. People often say their ‘thoughts and prayers’ are with the bereaved person but, if your friend will know praying isn’t your thing, it will sound hollow.

“Do talk about the pain she’s experiencing – so many people say things like ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ or ‘I’m thinking of you’ without acknowledging how painful it is. Sometimes we need to have validation that the pain we feel isn’t abnormal, and that we’re not weird or peculiar for feeling so terrible.

“Tell her it’s awful; tell her you can’t imagine how hard it must be for her. Don’t tell her she’s ‘brave’ or that she’s doing so well, because she may be putting on a front when what she really needs to do is talk. Encourage her to do so by sharing stories and anecdotes, particularly about her husband, but perhaps about her parents, too – if you knew them.

“A lot of people will say, ‘If there’s anything I can do to help, just ask;’ – but a bereaved person often won’t know what to ask for. Offer something positive instead, like some home-made soup or a cake.

“The other important thing is to keep in touch – don’t say, ‘Ring me if you need me’ – ring her.

“Quite often, people who are bereaved think they’re becoming a burden to their friends and don’t like to make a call for help when they need it – so call her.

“If she doesn’t want to talk, she’ll almost certainly say so. There are points when it’s all too much and you don’t want to see, hear or talk to anyone. But if you’re thinking about her, call her and encourage her to share stories and positive anecdotes about her husband.

“As we’re coming out of lockdown and beginning to be able to see one another again, it may become easier to be closer to her. If you’re in a position to, perhaps you could invite her to come and stay for a while – if the rules in your area and family state this is safe, although you still have to keep distant.

“If you’re not, then at least you can meet up – as soon as she is out of strict quarantine, make a point of going to see her. Whilst you may not share her religious beliefs, this doesn’t matter; the most important thing is that she knows you care and are there for her if she needs you.”

What would you say to a grieving friend? Has someone said something to you while dealing with a loss that really helped?

– With PA

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

Join YourLifeChoices today
and get this free eBook!

By joining YourLifeChoices you consent that you have read and agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy


Mum is so clingy after losing dad

Counsellor offers advice on how to cope with a clingy parent after bereavement.

The five stages of grief are different for everyone

Understanding the normal trajectory of grief can help us work through the stages knowin

Brett seeks help to fight grief and get back out there

What psychologist Dr Emmanuella told twice-widowed Brett.


Total Comments: 1
  1. 0

    The “if there is anything I can do” speech…..
    Some years back I was grieving and poorly but as a business owner I had to keep going to work. One day a good friend showed up in work gear and took my delivery list from me and told me to go home. She didn’t just say it, she did it!
    Even longer ago another friend’s mum has recently died and they were at the mum’s house looking after things. I took them round a bag of groceries that required no work, a cooked chook, a nice loaf of bread, some lovely biscuits, good cheese, etc. Later she told me that everyone brought flowers but my gift was the most useful and it meant that actually ate something!



continue reading


Small bedroom tips to maximise space and style

For many of us, house space is a fiercely contested commodity, and you need to squeeze the most out of...


Aussies much more willing to be vaccinated than Americans

The United States has had nearly as many COVID-19 cases as Australia has people. More than 400,000 have died of...


Goldie Hawn at 75: The Hollywood star's fashion and beauty evolution

Goldie Hawn, one of Hollywood's most beloved stars, is famous as much for her acting talents as she is for...


US still reels from the deadly consequences of 'alternative facts'

Jennifer S. Hunt, Australian National University Every four years on January 20, the US exercises a key tenet of democratic...


Tennis stars call Australian Open quarantine 'insane' and like prison

Entitled, pampered, whingers. Elite sports professionals victims of the greatest overreaction to COVID-19 in the world. Those are the poles...

Finance News

RBA reveals why retirees have to bear the brunt of low interest rates

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) knows that the negative consequences of low interest rates disproportionately affect retirees, but believes...


Blood pressure medication helps even the frailest seniors live longer

Taking blood pressure medication as prescribed helps seniors aged 65 and over people live longer. And the healthiest older people...

Estate planning & wills

Common mistakes when writing your will

It can be daunting and even overwhelming at times, but writing your will is an essential part of planning for...