How to Help a Grieving Friend

October 14, 2019 Hannah O'Grady

It was not until I experienced a loss that I felt like I truly knew how to support a grieving friend through the grief process. Grief is inevitable and life is riddled with loss, whether it be in the form of death or a devastating breakup. Therefore, there is going to be a point in your life where you are going to be the shoulder to lean on. There are appropriate ways to help someone who is going through a hard time and there are inappropriate ways (such as not being there for someone at all). Here are some helpful hints for supporting a grieving friend.

Hints on How to Help a Grieving Friend

Understand the Process of Grief

A little over a year ago, I experienced a loss that shook me to the core. I did not eat for days on end and refused to leave my apartment. As the weeks dragged on, I began to smile again. After this first smile, I was expecting that things were finally turning around for the better. Unfortunately, grief is not always linear. Rather, when we are mourning the loss of something, we may not necessarily get better every day that passes.

For example, this first smile was not followed by enduring happiness. Instead, I fell again, back into the grasp of grief, weeks later. Although I am exponentially better now, I still have days where I feel that loss like a sting, as if it had just happened yesterday. When helping a grieving friend, remember a good day may not mark the end of all negative emotions. Be patient and remind your friend to take the time they need. 

Know that Helping a Grieving Friend Is Not Just Helping Them Through Sadness

Grief manifests itself in unique ways; sadness is not the only emotion your friend will likely be experiencing after a loss. There is an acronym that is commonly used to describe the different emotional stages of grief. This acronym, DABDA, stands for denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Following a loss, we may fluctuate between any of these five stages. We may be accepting one day, only to be in denial the next. Recognizing that grief has many faces and encouraging your friend to experience these emotions can help with the healing process. 

State the Truth 

After a friend's loss, it can be very tempting to try and fix the situation by saying things like his or her loved one is "in a better place now." Although this statement has the best of intentions, it may not be what your friend wants to hear. Furthermore, the griever may or may not even believe that statement. Instead, focus on the truth and the facts at hand. Acknowledge the pain and hurt your friend is experiencing and allow your friend to feel these emotions, as opposed to trying to eliminate them. 

Do you have any other hints on helping a grieving friend? Share them in the comments.

APA Reference
O'Grady, H. (2019, October 14). How to Help a Grieving Friend, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 24 from

Author: Hannah O'Grady

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October, 23 2019 at 12:23 pm

I've done this wrong sometimes, by feeling I have to fill silences. Mostly what I've learned about being with someone in grief is, for these moments, put your own concerns aside. A grieving person can't be expected to listen to you. Be totally in their space with them. If they fall silent, let it be. If they rant, let them know they have the right. If they cry, get them tissues and maybe put a soft hand on their arm. Don't rush to hold them. There isn't any way to make them feel better, so don't try. You'll just be an annoyance. Just BE THERE.

Lizanne Corbit
October, 15 2019 at 2:18 pm

I think this is a wonderful read. I love that you make a point to state that grief is not just sadness. I think this is one that many people can forget, overlook, or just not expect. Grief has many different faces and stages, sadness is just one of them. Having a supportive, understanding friend to help hold space throughout the grieving process can make such a difference. Thank you for sharing.

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