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Seeing someone you care about face loss can be difficult. It’s normal to feel a little helpless when you know there’s nothing you can do to change what they’re going through. But there are lots of ways to support them, practically and emotionally. Here’s our advice on how to help someone who is grieving, including useful things to say and do. 

What to say to someone who is grieving 

Keep in touch 

Knowing what to say when someone dies can be daunting. But if someone you care about is grieving, it’s important for you to reach out and let them know you’re there for them. Don’t let fear of not knowing what to say or saying the wrong thing get in the way. Loss can be isolating, so sending a message can help the person you care about feel supported and less alone. 

Acknowledge the loss 

It’s usually best to acknowledge the death. At first, talking about someone who’s died can feel uncomfortable. This can be because we’re worried about how the person we’re supporting will react. But once the subject has been broached, you’ll usually be able to gauge whether the person you’re supporting wants to talk about them or not. You might want to write a condolence message. Or you can simply send a message or start a phone call by saying something like “I’m so sorry for your loss. Would you like to talk about it?” 


The most important part of helping someone grieve is to actually listen to them. Often, when people are upset, we’ll look for ways to help fix their problems. But this is a situation that you won’t be able to “fix”. Instead, you can help by giving the person a space to share how they’re feeling out loud. These tips can help you to be a good listener: 

  • Give them your undivided attention. Put your phone down and sit somewhere away from other distractions. If you’re face to face, make sure to maintain eye contact. You can show you’re engaged by nodding your head, or if the conversation isn’t face to face, by saying things like “mhmm”.
  • Concentrate on what they’re saying and let them finish before speaking yourself. You should be listening to them, rather than thinking about what you want to say when there’s a break in conversation.
  • Ask open questions. These are questions that need more than a “yes” or “no” answer. For example, instead of saying “are you okay?”, saying “how are you feeling today?” leaves room for further conversation.
  • Be patient. Sometimes people take time to open up. It might be a few conversations before they start talking about how they feel and what’s on their mind. Consistency is key to helping a grieving friend or family member. So make sure to check in often.

Things to avoid saying 

Knowing what to say to someone who is grieving can be helpful. But knowing what to avoid saying can be just as important. 

  • Comparisons – it’s normal to use your own life experiences as a reference point when you’re trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. But you should avoid talking about your personal experiences when you’re trying to comfort someone. It can feel like you’re making the conversation about yourself, or it can feel like you’re making a competition of who suffered the most.
  • Non-shared beliefs – you might find that religious or spiritual beliefs help you cope with loss. But this won’t be the same for everyone. Quoting beliefs like “it’s all part of God’s plan”, “they’re in a better place now” or “everything happens for a reason” can be hurtful to someone who doesn’t share the same belief system as you.
  • Sensationalism – it’s natural to be intrigued by shocking stories, especially when they involve people you know. In a world where bad news creates best-selling headlines and true crime is one of the fastest growing genres, it can be easy to see tragedies as talking points or opinion pieces. It’s important to avoid this and show sensitivity instead.
  • Forced positivity – if you’re looking for ideas on how to help someone grieve, it’s usually because you want to help them to get back to their usual self. But the truth is that nobody ever “goes back” to who they were before loss. Instead, most people will process their grief or grow around their grief, finding ways to cope over time. Comments like “look on the bright side” or “try to cheer up” are rarely helpful and can feel dismissive or pushy.
  • Comments on appearance – loss can impact people’s day-to-day routines. Some people may experience changes in their eating habits resulting in weight gain or weight loss. They might struggle with sleep, which could leave them looking tired. They may not have the energy or focus to stick to their usual beauty or grooming regimen. Avoid any comments on someone’s appearance when they’re grieving.

Helpful things to do for someone grieving 

Actions can be just as important as words. Some people will find keeping up with day-to-day tasks difficult and might fall behind on their chores and tasks. Even if your loved one seems to be adjusting to day-to-day life after loss, it’s always considerate to think about nice things to do for someone grieving. 

Ask what support they need 

If you’re worried about overstepping boundaries or you’re not sure how to help, the easiest thing to do is simply ask how you can help. It’s usually best to be direct with this. Rather than vague statements like “I’m here if you need” or “let me know if you need anything”, try saying something like: 

  • “I’m on my way to the supermarket; can I pick anything up for you?”
  • “I know you’re going to the funeral directors today, would you like me to come with you?”
  • “Would you like me to do the school run tomorrow so you can rest longer?”

Send a card or flowers 

One of the easiest things you can do for someone who’s experienced loss is to send a card or flowers. This lets them know that you’re thinking about them while still giving them space to process their loss and mourn. You can find useful condolence poems here. 

Help with day-to-day tasks 

Daily chores and tasks can feel difficult when you’re grieving. Your loved one might have a lot on their plate – informing people of the person’s death, planning the funeral and more. They might feel like they have no energy or want to sleep more than usual. One of the best ways to help someone who is grieving is to offer your help with their usual chores. Some examples could be: 

  • Grocery shopping
  • Cooking and dropping off meals
  • Doing some cleaning around the house
  • Laundry and ironing
  • Childcare
  • Doing the school run
  • Walking their dog
  • Changing cat litter / smaller pets’ cages and tanks
  • Gardening

Support with sharing the news 

Another way to support someone who’s grieving could be offering to help them share news of the death. Some people want to do this themselves. But some people can feel daunted or overwhelmed by sharing the news and explaining what’s happened. If the person you’re supporting falls into this second category, you could share the news to help them avoid going over and over the loss. 

Help with admin and funeral planning 

There are lots of things you need to do when someone dies. From registering the death to getting a medical certificate, informing banks and other authorities, dealing with the estate and planning the funeral. This can feel overwhelming when you’re mourning. You can help to find the information the person you’re supporting needs and guide them. You might also be able to help complete some of the steps. If you’re going to help with this process, you can find more information on what to do when someone dies here. 

Sorting belongings 

At some point, the person you’re trying to help might need to sort through the belongings of the person who’s died. This can take time and a lot of energy. If you’re close to the person, ask if you can help with this process. If you do help, it’s important that you follow their instructions closely. Never touch, move or throw anything away unless you’ve been asked to. You can find more support with what to do with belongings here. 

Help them find additional support 

If you think your loved one needs support that you’re not able to provide yourself, you can always help them find the help they need. This could be anything from financial support to bereavement counselling. Make sure to be sensitive when approaching these topics. It’s important that the person you’re supporting doesn’t feel judged or shamed. 

Cultural considerations 

Different cultures have different customs around death and grief. If the person you’re supporting belongs to a religion or culture that’s different to your own, take some time to learn about it. This can help you to know how you can help. For example, if the person you want to support is Jewish, they might sit shivah following a death. This is a time where mourners join together at the home of the person who’s died. The focus is on the mourners and family and friends come to comfort them. Being aware of this means you can attend and offer your love and support when it’s suitable. 

Learn more about the grieving process 

Many of us grow to expect certain reactions to death based on what we see in TV, film and other media. Or you might base your expectations of grief on how you’ve personally grieved, or how you’ve seen others grieve in the past. But the truth is we all grieve in our own way and there’s no right or wrong way to experience bereavement. Reactions to loss aren’t neat or predictable, so it’s important to familiarise yourself with different ways of grieving. One of the best ways to help someone cope with loss is to understand what this person is facing. You can find more information on different types of grief here.

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