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7 ways to support someone through grief

Last reviewed 14th May 2024
3 min read

Many of us know how difficult life can be when we lose a loved one. At such times, the support of friends and family is more important than ever.

Despite this, it can be hard to know how to help someone who is grieving. Death is a difficult topic to talk about, even with those closest to you. And lots of people worry about saying the wrong thing.

To help you understand how grieving helps people cope and what you can do, here are seven ways to support your loved one through this difficult time...

1. Listen

It can be hard to know what to say when someone is grieving. But sometimes, all a grieving person may need is for you to listen.

Don’t pretend their loss never happened. Instead, acknowledge it by assuring your loved one it’s OK for them to talk.

They might need to talk about their feelings, the person they’ve lost, or the funeral planning. Perhaps all they need is to sit in silence with you.

Whatever they need, listen with patience and without interrupting.

2. Be respectful

There’s no wrong way to be bereaved. Supporting a grieving friend or relative means respecting their grieving process.

They’ll go through various stages of grief and emotion. Be understanding if they seem OK one moment but become emotional the next – it’s all part of the grieving process.

And remember that grieving takes time, so patience is key.

3. Don't give advice

Try not to tell your loved one what they should or shouldn’t do while they’re grieving.

This can be hard sometimes, as we just want to help. But it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed when bereaved.

Try acknowledging what they’re going through instead. For example, saying “this must be a painful time for you” is more helpful than suggesting ways to move on.

4. Give practical help

It can be hard for someone to know what to do when grieving. It’s easy for everyday tasks like cooking dinner or doing the washing to fall by the wayside.

Offering your loved one practical help can make a big difference. You could do their food shop, walk their dog, do the school run – anything that makes their day a little easier.

If you’re not sure what they need, don’t be afraid to ask. But remember, asking an open-ended question like “is there anything I can help with?” is more likely to get a “no, thank you” in response.

Try more specific questions like “Can I bring round a lasagna for you to put in the freezer?” or “Can I keep you company today?”.

5. Stay in touch

Let your loved one know you’re there for them when they need you, even if they don’t want to talk straight away.

If you don’t live near them, call, message, or write to them to check in. And if you make plans with them, make sure to show up.

Why not suggest having a coffee or going on a walk together? Sometimes a little company can be very reassuring for someone who’s grieving.

Put dates that could be difficult for them in your diary, as a reminder to make contact when they may need you most.

6. Give them space

Grieving can take time and involves processing lots of difficult emotions, so the bereaved may need space.

Let them know it’s OK for them to be alone. If you message them, tell them they’re in your thoughts and that there’s no pressure for them to respond.

Sometimes, a grieving person just needs to know you’ll be there when they need you.

7. Help them find extra support

Helping a loved one through grief can be tough. There’s no shame in seeking out extra support.

See our list of the bereavement organisations and charities that can help with every aspect of grieving – from the emotions your loved may go through, to the practical side of things.

The thoughts and opinions expressed in the page are those of the authors, intended to be informative, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SunLife. See our Terms of Use for more info.