5 Ways You Can Help a Friend Who is Grieving

Some friends need practical help when a loved one dies; others need a shoulder to cry on. Knowing how to help a grieving friend cope with death, loss, or major life problems is an important part of friendship.

5 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend – From Practical to EmotionalA Water Bell Fountain is a creative alternative to a bouquet of flowers as a sympathy gift. It’s a beautiful copper bowl with water and bells that offer a musical and soothing sound. This is a lovely way to relax and celebrate the gift of life.

The following tips will help you offer someone the support he or she needs when grieving a death, divorce, or any type of loss. Remember that you can’t make things better, but you can walk beside your friend as they mourn.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand,” said Henri Nouwen. “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

Simply being silent with your friend can give him or her strength, and help her mourn in a healthy way. But not everyone can sit in silence, and would rather do more practical, active things. If that’s you,

And, here are five ways to help a friend who is mourning…

5 Ways You Can Help a Friend Who is Grieving

Coping with grief is an individual process, but there are stages of grief that most people go through. Part of supporting a sad friend is accepting that the stages of grief are a natural part of the mourning process. Let your friend mourn in her own way.

The stages of grief are disbelief, yearning, anger, depression and acceptance. These stages apply to a variety of losses, from coping with a pet’s death to divorce. Research shows that the stages of grief last approximately six months; the grieving process usually lightens after that. When you’re supporting a grieving friend, remember that your role is to be a friend (not a grief counselor or grief expert). You can’t solve every problem or make everything alright again.

If you’re looking for gift ideas, read 17 Bereavement Gifts for the Loss of a Mother.

1. Find practical ways to help your grieving friend

To me, this is the best tip for helping a friend in mourning: bring meals that freeze well and can be heated up in a few days or weeks. Offer to do laundry, grocery shopping, or errand running. If your friend has kids, volunteer to take them to sports practices or ballet lessons. Your friend may not have the energy or strength to deal with the trivialities of everyday life. Your help will go a long way.

If you haven’t given a gift or card, consider a “thinking of you” sympathy gift basket — it’s both practical and thoughtful.

2. Stay connected – don’t stop calling or visiting

helping a grieving friend

“How to Help a Grieving Friend” image via thenationalherald.com

You may feel awkward and helpless when your friend is mourning, but don’t let your own feelings of discomfort stop you from reaching out. When my friend was coping with breast cancer, some of her friends simply stopped calling because they didn’t know want to say.

Grief support – honoring your friend’s loss – involves sending cards or calling on anniversaries, holidays or birthdays, or sending thoughtful cards. Make a note of important dates, and honor them.

3. Locate helpful resources about grief, death, or support groups

When your friend is dealing with death, divorce, or loss, she may not think she needs grief support groups or grief counseling. Maybe her mourning is too fresh to seek help — but in the future, she may be grateful for information about grief support. You might want to tactfully mention the bereavement counseling services nearby, or suggest grief support networks on the internet.

If your grieving friend has lost his or her spouse, read When You Lose Your Husband – Help for Widows Forced to Say Goodbye. It’ll help you understand what your friend is going through.

4. Listen to your friend without judgement or interruptions

Help a grieving friend by taking her out for coffee and offering to listen. Ask her to tell you all about her loss. Coping with grief is more difficult when there’s nobody to talk to; a good friend just listens.

When my friend’s grandpa died, a mutual friend took her out for coffee and asked her to share everything she remembered about her grandpa. Listening and being a shoulder to cry on is a loving way to help a grieving friend. It may not seem like much, but sometimes friends just need to talk, talk, and talk some more about the loss of someone they love.

5. Watch for unhealthy reactions, such as depression

Keep an eye on your friend for unhealthy responses to death, such as physical signs of depression, extreme weight loss, or social isolation. If your friend really seems to be struggling through the mourning process, talk to a grief expert or contact a grief support group.

I welcome your thoughts on these ways to help a grieving friend below, but I can’t offer advice or counseling. My sympathies and prayers are with you – it’s not easy to help someone who is mourning.

I rewrote this article for my other blog, the Bounce Back Babe, and called it How to Help Someone Cope With Death. I used the Parable of the Cracked Pot for inspiration for helping a friend grieve.

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64 thoughts on “5 Ways You Can Help a Friend Who is Grieving”

  1. Dear Nicole,

    Is your ex still grieving the girl who died? Sometimes it just takes time for people to resolve their feelings about death. There is no set amount of time, especially since death makes us question the meaning of our own lives. I don’t think we can say anything in particular to help a grieving friend…I think just being a supportive person who listens and cares is the most meaningful thing we can do.

  2. Ok so I am trying to help my ex, which I still care about.
    story: On Friday, April 25, 2014, an 8th grade girl got strucked by a train. She attempted to take her life before, but this time she succeeded. I believe she had life issues, friends, family .. Etc. And now my ex is grieving over her. He spends his time writing a song for her . Which I don’t disagree with, I mean I heard it was a good thing that he was expressing his words. But still I want to help. I realize I cannot fix the situation whatsoever, but I would really want to know what I can say to him. I’ve been listening to him, and being silent. But I don’t enjoy it too much. I’d hope to talk to him , letting out stress, grief. Etc.. But I don’t know what to do. He is just showing some depression, and says cant get over the feeling of her haunting me. What can say?

  3. Dear Kayla,

    It may feel like you’re not doing enough, but being there and crying while your friend cries makes all the difference in the world! Just hold her hand and sit by her while she grieves. That’s one of the best ways to support a friend in grief, even though it feels like you’re not doing enough.

    You might also read up on suicide and how people feel when a loved one takes their own life. You don’t need to tell your friend what you’re learning, but it may help you understand what she’s going through.

    And giving her a book on coping with grief may also help — it really depends on her. When my grandma died, I read books on loss and grieving because I’ve always turned to books for help and information. But if your friend isn’t a reader, then a book may not be helpful. If she loves music, maybe you could give her a thoughtful DVD with music that is meaningful to her.

    Keep visiting her, and telling her that you’re there for her. Tell her that you’ll listen if she wants to talk about her dad, or if she wants to do something entirely different.

    And remember that grieving a loss is a lifelong process. She won’t bounce back in a few days or weeks or even months — it really depends on her personality and lifestyle. Some people seem to take death in stride, sort of, while others are permanently negatively affected by it. Suicide is a whole other domain, too, because loved ones are left feeling confused and guilty. That’s why it’s good to read about it, so you can understand the range of emotions she’s feeling.

    I hope this helps a bit, and am glad you’re there for your friend. It may not seem like much, but your presence makes all the difference in the world.


  4. My friends father just committed suicide. everyone LOVED him and it was very unexpected. he got fired from his job because he apparently did something very bad and was told he wouldnt recieve severence. I think this somehow set him off and he drove away and his family thought he was at work and he was found dead in a car after he had called his wife and said “im sorry, i love you, bye”. My friend is in horrible shape. i visited her the other day and she would just bawl on and off and i understand that, but today she didnt leave her room and was in bed all day. her older sister, mother, and younger brother are pushing alone, but are obviously upset as well. how do i try to cheer her up without trying to over-do it? i love her so much and i want her to know im here for her becuase i loved her father too. What are ways i can get her out of bed and try to cheer her up> please help.

  5. Hello All,

    I am so saddened to hear about the insensitivities of others with regard to death and the process of grief, which varies in level and severity for everyone. I am a practicing Psychologist. I live in Venezuela, but I also do online counseling and have a flexible price range for those with a tight budget. If you would like any advice or to schedule an appointment to try out web therapy. Feel free to contact me. My website is: PositiveHealth.com.ve

    Much happiness for the future and many blessings as these difficult times pass. Surely better times will come.

  6. My dad died 9 months ago at the age of 61 suddenly. i find it very hard as im only 30. they girl who works with me since the day my dad has died has never stopped talking about her dad. it upsets me. i went to a counsellor and i told her about it. she told me to tell her i did and she got thick with me. she has been so insenstive since my dad died talking about hers all the time. did i do the right thing. i just know if her dad died i would refrain from talking about my dad.

  7. Hi
    My best friend whom I really care about has seen four deaths in past six years. First her father, then her grand parents and now a brotherly cousin. I feel so helpless as I am far away from her. I so want to help her. She already was going through a lot of anxiety issues. Now this I am scared for her and I don’t want to loose her. What myt I do??

  8. I read in a magazine article that giving a gift card for a new restaurant is a good way to help a grieving friend. It helps them get out of the house, and helps them try new things. I thought it was a good tip.

  9. When your friend is grieving, you may feel helpless and powerless to do anything. Don’t forget how important your very presence is – you don’t need to DO anything except be there for your friend!

    And, don’t forget that grief lasts for months or even years. Sometimes it never goes away. Check in with your friend periodically, ask how she’s coping with her loss.

  10. Hi kedhuri, I’m so sorry to hear that your bf is going through this difficult time. I would suggest sending him care packages because he is probably dealing with the funeral and legal side of things with his family. Just reassure him that you will be able to talk to him at any time via phone, email, social network, etc.

  11. Hello Scott, Kedhuri, Bekah,

    I’m so sorry to hear that your friends and girlfriends are grieving the loss of someone they love! It’s such a difficult time, and so hard to know how to help.

    I wish I could answer all individually, but I can’t give personal advice. I did, however, write a follow-up article with more in-depth suggestions:

    When Your Spouse Withdraws Because of Grief – 5 Ways to Stay Close

    It’s for people who are helping their partners or spouses, like Scott mentioned.

    Again, I’m sorry I can’t respond to your individual comments. I wish you all the best as you help your friends cope with grief.


  12. My girl friend who lost her spouse 4 years ago just lost her son 2 weeks ago. She is staying with her family and I think its great that she is but she does not want to talk to me at this time and I want to help her. I am giving her space and only sending her a txt message every 4 days. it bothers me that she will not talk to me. I know its early and she still is in the disbelief or yearning stage. But i cant help her. Should I just keep to the side and give her more time or what. I have never been through this before with someone i care about. What should I do to understand more and be ready when or if she reaches out to me?
    Thank you

  13. hi
    my bf bro commited suicide i live in dubai wile he lives in sa……..i recently moved here for work, it has only been a month but he is really taking the death badly and its affecting him even at work, he also lives alone….im so far away i just want to know how i can help him, i feel terrible being far away

  14. I met my boyfriend through a Christian video chat room. He could see me and hear me, but I could only hear him. He did not have have a camera. His son was a part of the group and encouraged his father to come listen and eventually he gave his testimony. In January of 2011, him and his fiancé were in a car accident and she died. He broke his neck, but with surgery he healed and walks. She wasn’t wearing her seat belt correctly and had she been wearing it right, she would be alive. I could tell from his story he loved her deeply. After a month or so of talking we met. We live over 400 miles apart and we both have grown to care deeply for each other, but there are moments of overwhelming loss for him and guilt.

    Although, I am so glad the Lord brought us together and my heart is so full and proud to have him in my life…there are many times I feel so inadequate in how to help him. All I can say is that I try to be honest with him. I have told him that it is OK for him to tell me he is having a bad day, I understand that he will have those days and I expect those days and sad moments at any time. And it is OK to share with me what he is willing to share with me. He has been very open and very honest with his feelings. But tonight we watched a movie (from our own homes). The movie closely fit who is fiancé was…a teacher. I didn’t even put the two together or even think about it. I got wrapped up in the movie. After the movie he told me he was crying because he never got to see her teach and she was considered the best teacher at her school.

    I felt horrible for not even thinking about her and what he might have been feeling during the movie. I broke down in tears. For the first time I truly felt helpless, even clueless of the totality of loss and this man I come to love deeply. I realized that I might have missed an opportunity to pay attention to his needs. I love him so much….am I OK? Am I on the right path of grieving with him? How do I be the best mate I can be to help during these times and the fact that simply, he is still mourning a great loss in his life? Is there anything else I can do or perhaps not do?

  15. Our daughter was killed during a youth group outing, January 23, 2000. We will gladly share things that helped us cope and survive this disaster. I am now a youth leader and Sunday school teacher. It helps me to be with the teen. I understand just how valuable they are. Here is a link to my website which has tips for helping a youth group cope with tragedy: https://sundayschoollessonconnection.com/practical_tips_to_help_grieving_teens.html

    My wife and I also have a website for adult Christian education. Here is a link to the page for helping parents and families cope with grief and loss: https://coconutmtn.com/helping_grieving_parents.html

  16. I hope i can get some good advice bcuz i really really need it, and it concerns my friendship.

    I have a best friend,F. She has been abandoned by her parents since she was young, and she now lives with her grandmother. F behaves really weird at times. Sometimes she can be all sunny and the next, she will be walking out of the room, ignoring and refusing to reply anyone, even though no one has done or said anything to agitate her. It happened a couple of times. Sometimes when i start the first conversation with her for the day, she will just push me away. Telling me things like “I hate you, its all your fault, go away”. It really hurts when she says that. And this happened many times.

    I kept quiet and kept a distance from her for the day. And the next day, she will be all happy and talking to me again. I really felt upset but i brushed the sadness away and forgave her. But it was not until this recent “I hate you, its all your fault, go away” thing started again. That i began to feel really angry, i have been tolerating this for close to two years and i think i had enough. On the night of our quarrel, i had this sudden urge to research about her problems that she was facing -family issues, thinking that this may have something to do with her behaviour. Upon my research, i was shocked at the results i found. She had exactly all the symptoms from abandoned child syndrome.

    After my discovery, i became very worried, and began looking up on articles about issues & problems that abandoned children face, hoping that i could do something for her. During this period, my friends have advised me to let her be, in short, to leave her alone /keep a distance. I know their concern – we will be sitting for our national exams this year, and they are afraid that my grades may get affected.

    Recently, i have been questioning myself if this is the right thing. My friend, N and I, have turned to a teacher who we trust the most, to seek help. After a series of events, we decided to let her undergo counselling. Because we couldn’t give her the type of help that she needs.

    However, she has indirectly indicated that she doesn’t want to receive help from anyone, she has serious trust issues. And recently, she cursed me, telling me to go and die, despite my attempts of trying to get her on the right track.

    What should i do? Leave her- give up on our friendship of 2 years? Or to concentrate on my studies (i have very poor grades). Help i’m in a serious dilemna

  17. i had a friend who lived in america for a few years but who’s hometown was london..she was like a sister too me and helped me through anything and everything she always smiled and never complained a few times she would occaisonaly not be able to cope any longer she had given me so many clues that she was ill but always told me i should live life as fully as i can and always smile because i am a beautiful and perfect girl she even said that i was the best and sweetest person to have ever entered her life i knew everything about her and vice versa i literally loved her so much i cant breathe i cry so much she never told me she was dying i only recently found out she had passed i finally realised why she never told me she was really ill it was because she had been diagnosed with lung cancer at 22 which my mum ages 45 at the time had died from 3 years earlier i feel so angry she didnt tell me but understand because she couldnt hurt me the one thing that pains me the most is she died 2 days before her 23rd birthday which is the 5th of march…i spend many days and nights thinking of her and crying i cannot cope much longer and people say im over-reacting because im young but she meant everything to me and is my other best friends who is also like a sisters half sister…i self harm not being able to handle this because all the memories of her come flooding back i feel so guilty cause i cry like this for beth but not for my mother i still write letters too beth and message her on facebook certain songs i hear make me cry so much but no one seems to understand..i need help…how do i get through this alone..i want to end my life so i can see her again

  18. Hi, just would like some advise, me and my boyfriend had just started dating recently, I hadnt date in about 3 yrs just due to busy schedule my kids, ministry and my work also due being in a bad relationship before, I had a daughter that was gna turn 3 June 6,2006 she passed in Aprils 16, 2006 after she died it got real hard I lost myself my beliefs and went into depression her father wasnt really there for a year n half before she passed, will me being under depression I had all gaurds down and came back in, I got pregnant at a year later again, he hadnt change his ways, so It was very hard for me to open up to any man as far as a relationship wise.
    Just this past year after being single for 3 yrs n 8months I finally was giving.this one guy a chance I seen.alot of good in him and gave him a chance, we stayed as friends for 2 months before, well right when we started dating, his mom got real sick were he literlly had to move in with her and would get off work and straight there to take care of her, he and his family thought she was dealing with depression, he had to literlly take care of as baby! Well lil did anyone know she had cancer, they had rushher to er, and found out lungs were full.of water and cancer had spread, she stayd In hospital for a week in a half they did kimo and ddnt take it well and passed. I tried being there for him during this time, but I had started relocateing I own a daycare and so move moving and ppw plus my 2 kids but I did my best out of my schedule to there for him, I took half a week off, to be with him, well his ex had started sending me msgs trying to make me and him fight, she later said it was all made up, but it was too late cuz we had broken up, I understand how painful it is too grieve and everybody griefs different, I also feel bad cause I let that get in middle of us. Please help me Idk how to approach him, his ex is evil as we can.see and he has also have had problems with his brothers after their moms death due to money, its all sad and me and him wereso good friends, Im afraid he feels btrayed by everyone. Please help me.

  19. My 10 year old daughter who was born severely disabled and my husband and I were told would probably be still born died last december 2010. I’m having trouble getting past my intense feelings of grief. I also work as a Hospice nurse and work with the terminally ill and their families every day. I’m taking a disability leave from my job and am doing counseling and finally going to a support group for bereaved parents. I think I’m doing everything I can but I still feel like I will always grieve her as deeply as I am now. Is there anything else I can do?

  20. My bffs parents are getting a divorce. She is balling her eyes out. Will this help? I am not even sure what to do because her parents acted so kind to one another. Should I give her a gift or will that make her even more sad? Should I take her out on a chick night on the day her dad is moving out? Please Help!!!

  21. My boyfriend, just recently got told his dog had cancer. I realize this isn’t as serious as losing a family member, but that dog was like family to him.
    Any way, he has to put him to sleep and he dosen’t want to. He loves that dog more than anything, so his mom is going to take him instead. What’s something comforting I could tell him to give him peace at mind?

  22. My oldboyfriend just died today and I miss him so much already. He died of asbestos cancer and it was a very sad death but he is out of pain now and the doctors gave him one year and he died within exactly 25 days of the time he was given. Not once in the entire year did I ever hear my friend complain of having a bad day. He might of said that he was uncomfortable, but he never would say that he was having a shitty day or that he was depressed, he was the most unbelievable person I have ever met in my entire life. He was so ready to meet God and was so at peace with his creator. I use to go and sit with him at night and we never talked about his illness because he knew that I knew that he was sick and dying, so he knew that there was no need for words and so I just was there for comfort and he knew he could close his eyes and I was there just for comfort for him to have company for him. I loved him truly and in the end he knew just how much. I broke his heart once but I made my amend to him and he died knowing that I was a good friend and sober and clean when he died. I want to make him happy and I know that he is going to keep his eye on me and I feel it so strongly as I sit and write this to you. I whispered in his ear the last time that I was with him to say hello to God for me.

  23. Y’know there is no right and wrong way to deal with grief. Although I find always find comfort in talking to a friend. There is a facebook group and site dedicated to help grieving called HelpMeGrieve. It’s quite sweet.

  24. I have a friend who’s wife passed away last Dec. his father in March and his Mother two days ago. We were best friends but he seems to shut me out and wants to be alone. I feel so bad but dont know how to help. What can I do?
    Thank you

  25. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    I’m not superstitious, but I really like the idea of our souls going somewhere after we die. I believe in God – I’m a spiritual person – and it does help to know that the people I’ve loved and lost are in Heaven.

    Maybe some grieving friends (including boyfriends!) may feel better knowing that their loved ones are in a place far better, where there’s no pain or evil. We don’t know what happens after we die…but it helps me to think it’s good, hopeful, and beautiful.

  26. Paris,
    The only thing I could do to help my boyfriend grieve was to tap into spirituality/superstition. I am a superstitious person, so I got him a black onyx stone, which helps a person grieve with the passing of a loved one, maybe you could try something along those lines? Even if the both of you don’t believe, it’ll still make him feel better so he knows you are thinking of him.


  27. He seems to be sleeping better, but I still don’t believe that he is genuinely okay. I know he is creating walls and is trying to fill his life with a lot of activities to hide behind, so I’m still unsure how to help him open up; if it can’t be to me, at least someone else who he can trust. My family and I have brought over a few meals and such, so the article was helpful, but I still don’t think it’s enough. If you or any readers have suggestions let me know.


  28. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Paris,

    I’m sorry to hear how your boyfriend’s friend died — that’s so sad. Suicide is a terribly difficult thing to mourn and recover from. My heart goes out to you and your boyfriend — and his friend’s family.

    I wrote this article for you:

    How to Help Your Boyfriend Cope With the Death of a Loved One

    I hope it helps, and welcome your thoughts here or there.


  29. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear SM,

    I’m sorry I missed your comment. I hope your boyfriend is doing better, and that you have found ways to support him in his grief.

    Here’s an article that may help:

    When Your Boyfriend’s Parent Dies – Thoughtful Ways to Help

    If you’re still concerned about him and need tips for helping him grieve, please let me know!


  30. me and my boyfriend have been together for a few months now, but have been friends for a while. he recently lost his friend to suicide, to which he carried out CPR. He doesnt want to talk about it or even talk to me at all really, he said he just wants some time alone, but i just feel helpless i want to help him through this situation, but dont know how. or how long i should leave him have time alone? what could i do?


  31. My boyfriend’s dad just died yesterday. He is the eldest of three. I’m guessing he is holding back his grief or trying to be strong because he says how is he doing good, or he’ll rapidly change subjects and keep conversations moving between us. Sometimes I catch him staring deeply into space. What can I do to help him open up without prying? Because I think that someone needs to openly grieve to start the process. How do I show him that I’m here for him? I miss his dad too, I’ve been very close to his family, and I try not to cry in front of him. Suggestions?

  32. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Felicia and brownsugga,

    I am so sorry to hear about your boyfriends’ grief! Losing a parent is so difficult and sad, especially when we’re young :-(

    I wrote this article for both of you, because your situations are so similar:

    4 Thoughtful Ways to Help When Your Boyfriend’s Parent Dies

    The most important thing to remember when helping him – or any friend – who is grieving is to let him grieve in his own way, at his own pace. I think it’s healthy and good to cry when we’re mourning – especially for me who are often raised to be strong, tough, and stoic!

    I hope the article helps, and welcome your thoughts here or there.


  33. my boyfriend just lost his mother , we are in a longdistance relationship, im in ny and he is in mississippi, the care packacge seems like a great idea i would have to look for stores online in mississippi and send it to him from there. i call him try to avalaible as much as possible my schedule is crazee we skype. my finances are in a bind but ima be as resourceful as possible. his other siblings arent doing well at all, his sister is the hospital sick with cancer im not sure if she know her mother passed away. The online tribute is great but i dont have picks of his family, we seperated yrs ago and reconnected again through facebook , i dont know his sisters well we meet yrs ago so i dont want to be forward and try to reach out to them.

  34. hey,
    Im Felicia,
    my Boyfriend lost his dad couple of days ago and he is not able to cope with the situation yet, as he is the eldest in his family so he is finding it quite quite hard to over come the whole situation..
    im very worried about him. i dont live anywhere near him he live far from me at the distance of 4 hour drive and it is very difficult for me to visit him, i offer him every king of help i could but still no progress..
    i really need your help as i cant bare his pain, he cry all the time now as he is finding it difficult to make a living and to study same time he is only 21. Reply me soon love you and take care
    stay blessed,

  35. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    One of the best ways to help grieving friends is to ask them how you can help. They might come up with ways to help that you’d never have thought of on your own.

  36. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi Janet,

    It sounds like you’re a good friend who wants to help, but not be bothersome! The best type of friend to have :-)

    You’ve asked a great question, but it’s difficult to answer without knowing this man’s personality. Introverts, for instance, don’t need as much contact and interpersonal communication as extroverts. Also, people in different stages of mourning may need different types of support.

    I encourage you to keep up the monthly talks, for sure. In between those talks, perhaps you could send him a card, interesting newspaper clipping, or some little thing that shows him you’re thinking of him. Invite him to call you anytime.

    You might also ask him if he wants to talk about how he’s doing, or if he’d prefer not to talk about it. He’s the best person to tell you how he’d like to be approached….and I think it’s smart to ask him what he prefers. He may not be comfortable asking for support, but if you offer it, then he might be able to accept or decline.

    I hope this helps a little…it’s so sad that he lost his daughter, isn’t it? I can’t even imagine — it’s the worst thing a parent can face.


  37. I have a grieving friend who lost his young daughter a few months ago. His family and extended family provide alot of support and live in town, so I’m not sure how often I should be contacting him, if he is getting calls everyday from relatives, I don’t want to be a burden bothering him and asking how he is doing over again. I do not live in town so it is hard to tell what I can do, and how much support is wanted from me. We used to talk almost monthly. I want to be supportive and listen to how he is doing every week, but how much is too much?

  38. Hi Laurie,
    My situation is worse! Could you please read and advise me…and there’s another comment there too. We’re both under your difficult parents for adult children section. Any help would be so greatly appreciated!

    Thanks, Lynn

  39. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Theresa,

    I’m sorry to hear about your friend….and it’s understandable that you’re uncertain about how to help her.

    It sounds like you’re doing all a friend can do. We could all use a friend like you! You’re there for her, providing practical and emotional support. You’re helping her grieve the end of her marriage — and the end of any possible hopes she had for it.

    One suggestion I have is to get her up and moving. Staying in bed creates feelings of inertia — it’s a downward spiral. Inactivity breeds inactivity, and she needs to get moving, get her heart pumping, get the oxygen flowing through her veins. Invite her for a walk somewhere, or take her to an exercise class. Do something physical with her — and I think being out in nature is best. Hiking trails, walking in parks, doing yoga outside.

    Another thing is to be careful not to foster dependence, or enable her depression and inertia. When you divorced, you said you had to get out of bed because you had a toddler. If your friend has no reason to get out of bed, maybe she needs one! And if you’re bringing food and helping around the house, then her reason for getting up is gone.

    I hope this helps, and wish you and your friend all the best…she WILL recover, but you’re right that it takes time!

    Oh yes; I just wrote an ebook on saying goodbye, letting go, and moving on with your life. Perhaps it’ll help your friend. Here’s the link:

    Letting Go of Someone You Love: 75 Ways to Heal a Broken Heart and Let Go of the Past


  40. I have a friend who has been separated for a year, divorce was final in June, but her ex was begging her back for about 6 months now. Last weekend, he told her he has someone new and is in love and told her she was fat and he wanted her out of his life and to leave him alone. It was an ugly hurtful situation, but he closed the door for good. Problem is she had always known she would never take him back, but felt the need to know he still wanted her. And the worst of it is he lives literally down the street in the house they lived in during their marriage, so she sees him come and go, and the visual she has of this girl being in the house she was in has become overwhelming. She has been in bed for the past 2 1/2 days and cannot eat and only wants to sleep. She is not suicidal and has depression meds to take, but without eating they make her unbearably nauseous. She has teenage children, but nothing that forces her to get out of bed and function, as I had when I divorced wtih a 2 1/2 year old. So my question is, other than checking on her, sitting with her to let her talk, taking dinners for her kids, and just basically holding her hand, what can I do to help her get through this? I have told her I understand, it’s like mourning a death, a death of the marriage, a death of the relationship. But other than what I have said I’m doing, I don’t know what next steps to take.

  41. I have a friend who just lost his wife of 29 years to cancer. We all went to school together and have remained good friends over the years. They were high school sweethearts then married after high school. They have been together for so long he is just lost without her in his life. He will post his feelings on facebook and it hurts me so much to know he is hurting this much. Its only been a week since her death and 3 days since her funeral. I know with time the hurt will cease abit. We all go to the same church and he relys on God for the strength to get through this but I just don’t know what to do to help him through this rough time.
    So very sorry for everyone on this post site that have lost a loved one. May the Lord bless you, comfort you and give you that strength from within to carry on.

    God Bless

  42. What a great article! I’m a hospice social worker, as well as a freelance writer, and I wish more friends got the advice to listen without judgment or without trying to say things to make the grief go away. Friends also need to know that even if the bereaved asks hard questions, they don’t have to come up with answers–it’s perfectly okay to say, “I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem fair, does it?”

    Keep up the great work.


  43. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear ooshiegirl,

    I think you should trust your gut instincts on how to help your grieving ex-boyfriend! Yes, I think you should respect his wishes and let him grieve alone. Men mourn differently than women, and I think you’re absolutely right that the breakup may affect your ability to give him friendly comfort.

    Have you considered sending him a card in a week or so? Just a friendly “in sympathy” card that tells him that you’re there if he needs to talk. If he wants to call and talk, he will. I believe that one of the best ways to help a grieving friend is to follow his lead. If a card via snail mail isn’t an option, then I suggest an email or other message.

    I hope this helps, and wish you all the best. It must be very difficult to be getting over your relationship breakup while you know he’s in such pain!


  44. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Francinah,

    I’m so sorry I missed your comment — I just now saw it. If you’re still around, please let me know how you are doing.


  45. Ok, I’m in a complicated situation. My long time and very serious boyfriend (who’s 21- I’m 20) broke up with me about 3 weeks ago. I still love him, and I still want to get him back, but I was giving him space and time alone. But last week he called me to tell me that his father had died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. He was an only child, and his father was his best friend. And now I don’t know what I can do to help. I offered to go up there to keep him company (he’s in new york and i’m in Texas for the summer), but he said all he wanted was to be alone and to have some space. I totally respect this, but I’m not sure what to do to help. I think part of the reason is that he still associates seeing me with the negativity surrounding our break up, and so I understand why he wouldn’t want to. But I’m worried, because he’s the kind of person who will try to be strong for his mom and won’t ask for help for himself. Should I wait a week or two and then call him to tell him that I’m available to talk when and if he’s ready? Or should I just not do or say anything and stay completely away like he asked? I don’t want him to feel alone or abandoned. What can I do to help him? I’ve never lost anyone close to me before, and I’m just afraid of doing something wrong and making his pain worse.

  46. my boyfriend lost his 10 year old daughter last year on the 4th of november 2009 in a car accident,and again in the same month on the 28th he lost his dad due to a stroke.the whole of this past december he was sometimes okay and sometimes down.and now he tells me that he is bitter towards life, he is actually kept busy during the week days by his work.but now he really seems to have lost interest completely in life. i really want to help him, but he doesnt talk about the two deaths. please help me!

  47. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen


    I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter’s experience…that’s so sad. And, their loss — her fiance’s lost brother, your lost son, your lost brother…it’s very tragic.

    I think spending time with people who have experienced similar loss might be helpful. I know it helps me — my husband and I are coping with infertility, and I’m comforted when I spend time with other infertile couples. It just makes me feel like we’re not in this alone, that others are going through the same thing — and surviving.

    So, I suggest your daughter join a bereavement support group. She may even want to talk to the counselor who was at the school; she might be able to make an appointment to see him or her independent of the school.

    Also, make sure she stays healthy by eating the right foods and getting enough sleep. Dealing with anything in life — whether it’s a tragedy like this or something simple, like a lost set of keys — is much more difficult when we’re unhealthy, tired, or suffering from lack of sleep.

    Finally, I suggest she do creative things to express her grief, such as writing, drawing, painting, scrapbooking, or playing an instrument. What she does to express her feelings depends on what she likes to do — for example, not everyone is comfortable writing. But if your daughter does like to write, you could buy her a special journal to record her memories of her friend, her letters to various people (including the person who died), and her feelings about mourning and loss. This may help her process the emotions, which will help her feel better in the long run.

    As you know, time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it can lessen the pain. Your daughter’s pain will fade…and she will laugh and be happy again!

    I wish you well.


  48. By the way, the fiance lost his brother two years ago, we lost a son 9 years ago, I lost a brother 35 years ago (and still miss him-he was 3) and both my in-laws, so Ashley is familiar with loss. but this has hit her hard.

  49. My daughter’s friend was in a serious car accident, she is critical. My daughter, Ashley, is very upset. There were counselors at the school today, but Ashley is having heart problems and a throat infection, so she wasn’t there. I want to help both my daughter and her finance deal with this but am not sure how. He lives with us too. My other daughter knows the injured person as well. I have suggested Ashley write her friend a letter to give to her later, but she doesn’t feel like it. Any more suggestions? One person in the car has died already.

  50. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi CLS,

    Thanks for sharing this piece of your life…I’m so sorry you lost your daughter. Nothing compares to the pain of losing a child.

    In sympathy,

  51. I lost my daughter 21 years ago…I only had her for three weeks and I can tell you this. You never get over it. She is always in my heart, but for three weeks in the fall, my life is hell. I relive every moment. Every song makes me cry, every baby too. I’m touchy as hell, and a certifiable whacko for those three weeks. Nobody can tell you how to deal with the pain of losing a child. Everyone is different. You deal with it however it works for you.

  52. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi Penny,

    I’m sorry to hear about your sister’s loss; that must be incredibly painful for her — and for you, living so far away from her.

    I’m not sure there’s anything specific you can say to help her as she grieves. She needs to mourn, and most of us have to mourn in our own private, individual way. It’s great that she’s in counseling, because it shows that she’s probably facing and moving through her grief.

    One thing you can do is talk about her partner. Many people are afraid to bring up lost relatives, spouses, children, or even pets for fear of upsetting the person who is grieving. But, I’ve heard many grieving people say they want to talk about their dear departed loved ones. They don’t want to forget.

    So, I suggest you ask if she wants to talk about her partner. Tell her you’d love to sit and listen to everything and anything she wants to say about him.

    Be honest with her. You don’t know how she feels, and you can’t fully understand what she’s going through because you haven’t experienced the same loss. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be there for her! Tell her you’re thinking of her, and you’re available whenever she needs to talk.

    Finally, I suggest giving her space to withdraw and be take down time for herself. She needs to grieve — and grief is healthy. It’s sad and tragic and painful, but it’s healthy to mourn and cry and wail. I don’t know how long she “should” withdraw and watch movies for; it depends on her personality, her life, the people around her, her work. I don’t think there’s a set time or pattern for grieving (even the stages of grief aren’t fixed in stone, and they’re not tied to time periods).

    One last thing — ask her what you can do for her. Ask her what she needs from you. She may not know right now, and that’s okay. Maybe she doesn’t need anything from you right now, and that’s okay too. But, keep in contact with her regularly, even if you feel like you’re not really connecting with her.

    I hope this helps a bit, and I wish you all the best.


  53. Hi there,

    I really need some help, I live many miles away from a sister who lost her partner in a car accident she was also in the car at the time. I have tried to talk to her via phone make small talk but it doesn’t seem to work,

    She has gone back to work as the accident was in April, she wants to leave NZ but at present cant afford it, She lives with my mother at the present as they where living with each other at the time of the accident they had talked about the future together, marriage, travel and buying a house together. She seems to be pushing mum away at present, wont talk or cuddle or anything like this, I have heard she is talking to a counselor.

    What can I say over the phone or help understand what she is going through?

    My sister was one of the most friendly outgoing bubbly people I know, now she has become withdrawn, very down all she wants to do is watch movies in her spare time.

    How can I help her from my side of the world?


  54. The problem, Julz, is that it’s almost impossible to help someone who believes that he can help himself and who won’t accept outside support! He’s drowning in negativity, alcohol, and the past — and you can’t haul him out of ocean without his help. You know what it’s like trying to physically pick people up when they make themselves “dead weight”? Really hard.

    The way I see it, there’s little you can do to help him from the grief perspective. I think you might need to go beyond the general options for helping grieving friends to something more serious.

    Is he an alcoholic?

    I suggest trying to help him from that perspective. I think he’s gone beyond “just” grieving to a more serious problem — and that requires different possible solutions.

    If you’d like, I can write an article about helping alcoholic friends. I have written an article about helping an alcoholic sibling, but helping friends is different. Here’s the link to the article, in case you’re interested:


    Let me know if you’d like me to round up some info on helping alcoholic friends, and I can post it within a day or two.

    By the way, you’re being a great friend! Just don’t let yourself get caught up in being somebody or doing something that goes beyond friendship. That is, sometimes we have to let people go — even if they’re destroying themselves. We can’t save anybody; all we can do is offer a helping hand. If they don’t take it, I’m not sure if there’s anything else we can do.

    Best wishes,

  55. I have a close friend that lost his girlfriend suddenly a year ago. They have 2 young children together. When I am around him, he talks about her…but he talks mostly of the happy times, and I am very happy to be there for him and listen to him. He seems happy to have me there when I’m around. We text often so I can keep in touch and find out how he’s doing. When we text he is very negative about being happy again, his job, and his life in general. And sometimes he is so down that he pushes me away completely! He drinks a lot when he’s at home and I think he thinks too much about his past and his future and it really stresses him out. I worry about how his negativity and drinking may effect the children. I want so much to help him, but I just don’t know how to go about it without being pushy. I have talked to him about talking to a professional or his pastor or even mine, but he is very against that, and he believes he can help himself. I would love to get him and the children out of the house, so one…he won’t drink so much, and two…he doesn’t have so much time to think about all the negatives. Do you have any suggestions about what I can do to help? I really care about him, and I really want to help him!

  56. P.S. for “beauty”

    I just wanted to add that a good first post on Heather’s blog for you to read is the one she wrote on June 30th titled “Solitary.” I think you may find that she puts words to some of your feelings and grief. Perhaps you will feel a bit less alone, and will know that there are people out there who really do understand your grief and loss.

    Again, I am so very sorry for your loss.

  57. Beauty, if you would like to connect with Jean, please do let me know! I’d be happy to give her your email address or vice versa, and you can talk in private if you’d like.

    Thanks for your comments, Jean. I’m sorry for your loss, but happy to hear that the pain and grief subsides a little.

    A friend of mine just lost her 19 year old son to a car accident….heartbreaking.

  58. To “beauty”,

    There is another mother who’s blog I read who very recently lost her beautiful little girl. She writes openly and honestly about her loss and her grief. Some of the people who have commented on her blog have also lost children and loved ones. Perhaps if you look at some of her posts, you might not feel quite so alone. She certainly understands and shares your pain.

    Her name is Heather Spohr, and the following is the link to her blog:


    I am very sorry for your loss. I do think Laurie had some good suggestions, and I hope you will be able to summon the strength to try to utilize them. You need support and understandig at this time.

  59. Beauty…

    I totally understand. We lost our daughter to cancer when she was 5 after a year of chemo and a bone marrow transplant. And while I miss her every day, it does get better. The hole in your heart never goes away but there comes a time when it doesn’t hurt near as much.

    All the advice above is great and I encourage you to follow some or all. Especially the finding a support group part.

    And while it’s 100% natural to miss your son, you have a daughter who needs her mommy.

    If you need someone to email for support, I’d be glad to help. I’m sure there’s some way to connect.

  60. I am so sorry for your loss. There has to be no worse pain than losing your own child — it must feel like your heart has been ripped out of your body.

    I wish I had the magic words to make your loss easier, but I don’t. I can’t imagine how much pain you’re in…..but I do know you’re not alone. I’ve met many sad, despairing parents who are grieving their children’s death over the years. It’s not something you ever get over.

    To help through the worst of your pain (and the first year or two will be the worst!), I suggest:

    – joining a parent grief support group, so you can talk to others in the same situation. You’ll find comfort and hope there.

    – talking to a grief counselor on your own (apart from the grief support group). Learn how to deal with your pain, how to mourn without falling into a black pit of despair.

    – remembering your daughter, who needs you to be her mother. Be sad with her and mourn with her — but play together, too! You need to let both the bitter and the sweet be in your life right now. Don’t let this tragic death have a long-term negative impact on her life.

    – making sure you eat nutritious foods, get enough sleep, and walk for half an hour each day. When people mourn, they often let their health habits slide — and that’s a surefire way to feel even worse about your loss! (if that’s possible). Take care of your body, because a healthy strong body will help you through this terrible time.

    – keep reaching out, like you did here. The more you express and write about your pain, the better you’ll feel.

    – remember that your grief will come and go. There will be times that you’ll feel better, even happy….and those happy times will eventually outweigh the painful feelings you have now. Your grief is like a roller coaster, and you need to ride it out.

    And, please read my article called “Mourning a Lost Child” on Suite101 — the comments at the end of the article are more important than the article itself! In the comments section, so many parents shared their stories of losing their children to accidents and illnesses. They may help you as you grieve by showing you that you’re not alone. Feel free to share there, as well.

    Also, read Tips for Grieving Widows or Widowers here on Quips & Tip….it may not be much different than what I’ve said here, but it could help.

    Please do come back and let me know how you’re doing.

    Warm wishes and many sad sympathies,


  62. You definitely have a more unusual situation than “just” helping a grieving friend cope with illness or death! A rock star does have more people around him, and perhaps more opportunities to help him….but he’s still just a man dealing with his pain.

    And, we all have different chemistry with different people. Your friend may be surrounded by people, sure, but does he connect with them? Can he be honest with them, and still rely on them to take care of his business? Sometimes we like to keep our work and personal lives separate — which could explain why your friend is opening up to you.

    Though I can’t tell you what to say or how often to check in with him — you have to trust your instincts on that — I do think you should be as real as possible. If something he writes makes you think of your own mother’s illness and death, then speak up. If you want his help writing a book, go for it!

    I just think you should be as “yourself” as possible, without getting hung up on what you should do, and what you think he needs. It’s so difficult to determine what another human being needs — half the time, we ourselves don’t even know what WE need!

    So, tune in to your heart and listen to your gut. Check in with him naturally: when you think of him, if you hear news of his concerts, if you read something in the paper about strokes, etc.

    I hope this helps — sorry I don’t have all the answers! Do let me know how things are going…..

    Warm wishes,

  63. I’m a former reporter who just reunited with an old rock star friend from years back who, in his first email to me last week, explained that his devoted wife had had a stroke. He said that while he was building a good support network, she depended upon him for almost everything right now–they never had children, and her whole life had been his career and traveling with him on tour for most of that career.

    I was moved by the first emails. He seemed on the one hand to be inviting me to hear his pain, and intimated that he had lots of time on his hands right now for “catching up,” too. But after the first few emails, I felt awkward. I lost my mother after a two year battle with several illnesses, so I know a little about what he’s going through, but I don’t want to patronize him. And I can’t tell from that emotional first email whether he needs me to write every few days just to see how he’s doing or whether it’d be better to carry on conversations that don’t touch upon the situation…men are just so hard to read!

    Given how busy his life is aside from all that–he’ll be touring soon, and has to get ready for that, too– I’m not sure how much I should keep in touch, either. We’ve been apart for a long time, first of all. And he’s also…well, a rock star with all kinds of folks around him who could help him far more than I can. And yet…that first email was so personal and revealing about his state of mind that I feel he may have been asking, in his own stoic Nordic way, for me to hang in there with him. He has even offered to help me write a book, which I’ve begun to feel might be his way of making a connection that wouldn’t center on his caretaking issues. WHAT do you think of all this–what do I say when i write…and how often should I “check in?”