Bereavement Support
5 minute read

Supporting a Grieving Friend or Family Member: A Guide for Navigating the Pain

Written by
Jeremy Askew
Published on
June 17, 2024

The sight of a loved one grappling with grief can be a heart-wrenching experience. The urge to alleviate their pain is natural, yet the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing can be paralysing. Here's a compassionate guide to navigating the delicate path of supporting someone through their bereavement.

Be a Pillar of Presence and Understanding

  • Open Yourself To Them: Grief can be a turbulent sea of emotions. Offer a safe harbour where your loved one can express their feelings, fears, and memories without judgment or interruption. Listen actively, validating their emotions, and allowing them to process their grief at their own pace.
  • Patience is a Virtue: Remember, grief is not a race. There's no timeline for healing. Allow your loved one the time and space they need to grieve. Avoid rushing them or offering quick fixes, as this can inadvertently invalidate their pain.
  • Be a Practical Support: Grief can often sap energy and motivation. Offer practical assistance with everyday tasks, like cooking meals, running errands, or helping with childcare. These small acts of kindness can make a world of difference.
  • Maintain a Steady Presence: Grief can be isolating. Regularly check in with your loved one through texts, calls, or visits. Let them know you're thinking of them and that you're there for them, even when words fail.

Words to Avoid: Tread Carefully

  • Don't Equate Their Grief with Your Own: Each individual's grief journey is unique. Avoid comparing their loss to your own experiences, as this can diminish the significance of their pain.
  • Steer Clear of Clichés: While well-intentioned, clichés like "time heals all wounds" or "they're in a better place" can often feel dismissive and insensitive. Instead, offer genuine words of comfort and support.
  • Acknowledge the Depth of Their Loss: Don't try to minimise or downplay the impact of their loss. Validate their pain and acknowledge the profound significance of the person they've lost.
  • Don't Force Them to Talk: Respect their silence. Allow them to open up when they're ready. Sometimes, just being present and offering a comforting presence is enough.

Seeking Professional Help: When to Encourage Additional Support

While your support is invaluable, there may be times when your loved one needs professional help. If you're concerned about their well-being, gently encourage them to seek support from a therapist or counsellor. These professionals can offer a safe space for them to process their grief and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Remember, the most important thing you can offer is your unwavering presence, understanding, and compassion. Your willingness to walk alongside your loved one through their darkest hours can be a lifeline of hope and healing.