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people providing emotional support

Helping someone who lost a loved one

You can be a very important part of your friend's journey. Let them know how sorry you are for their loss and what they are going through. Just letting them know how you feel and that you care can be incredibly comforting.

 However, avoid well-meaning but potentially hurtful statements such as “I know how you feel” (even if you have suffered a similar loss, your relationship with your loved one was different from your friend’s relationship with their loved one), “everything will be okay,” “they’re in a better place,” “you shouldn’t feel that way,” “you can have another child,” or “time will heal all wounds,” 


Let them know that you are available to listen whenever they need you. Your friend may need to talk through the event or their feelings in order to try to make sense of it but not everyone finds that helpful. Their need to talk may change over time. They may busy themselves with everything that needs to be handled in the initial aftermath of the death. However, when the dust settles, that is when they may become overwhelmed with emotion and need to talk. Their need to talk could last months or years. 


Keep in touch with them but do not send texts, emails, or calls too frequently. They are likely being overwhelmed by the tasks they are dealing with and messages from others. Let them know you want to check in with them and ask how often it would be helpful for them to receive a text/email/call or if it would be more helpful to let them contact you.


Offer to help with practical tasks such as funeral arrangements, child care, preparing meals, or helping with chores. If you ask “What can I do to help?” they may not know what they need so offer concrete suggestions “Can I bring over some food?” “Do you need help with cooking or cleaning?” etc. However, do not force your help on your friend. They may be using the practical tasks as a way of coping. Also, they are likely feeling a loss of control so pushing the issue can feel controlling. Let them decide what they need in their own time. 


Understand that it is not just the loss of their loved one that they are trying to process, they may also have to deal with estate issues which can take years to get settled adding to their pain. 


Remember, even when someone is in extreme emotional pain, the intensity of that pain will wax and wane. They may feel fine one moment or stretch of time then feel the weight of their loss the next moment. They may also feel like they need to put on a false front of doing well or feel that they need to take care of others rather than themselves. Let your friend know that you are there for them. 


Your friend may be trying to cope with disappointment with other friends/family members who have not been, or did not know how to be, as supportive as your friend expected and needed.


Be aware that your own grief/loss issues may be triggered even if you felt they had been resolved. It might be helpful for you to seek out help for your emotional reactions. Talk to other friends/family or seek the help of a mental health professional.


Keep in mind, grieving in general has no time limit. Everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time.​

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