How to help a friend or loved one dealing with loss

It can be hard to know what to say or do to support a friend or loved one who is dealing with a loss.

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They probably feel alone and that no one understands, so it is important to let them know that you are there for them, even if you are working through your own feelings of grief.

What Grief can look like

Your friend or loved one may find it difficult to describe their feelings and may show their grief by:

  • acting out or being angry
  • crying
  • staying away from family, friends, society, etc.
  • loss of appetite
  • having problems focusing
  • acting like nothing is wrong; trying hard to look ‘normal’
  • hiding their feelings or avoiding them by keeping very busy
  • worrying about dying or losing others close to them
  • turning to alcohol, other drugs or risky behaviours  (numbing the pain or ‘testing’ death)

Any of these behaviours may seem out of character and upsetting. And their behaviour may also change quickly. It is important to make your friend or loved one feel safe, secure and cared for. If you are worried or scared for your friend or loved one at any time, please reach out to a trusted adult for support. You do not need to support them on your own.

What you can do for a friend or loved one

With a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear. Ask what they need and remind them that you are there for them.

  • Don’t avoid talking about the loss. It can be helpful to share stories and memories along with feelings.
  • Check in. Ask them what they need and how they are doing. Even if they don’t respond, remind them that you are there for them and understand they need to follow their own path through the grieving process.
  • Get them out of the house. Even if they are likely to say “no”, invite them out to social events or spend some time together. Get them thinking about something else. It is important for them to know they are still important to you and to others. That It’s okay to have some fun and doesn’t take away from the importance of the loss.
  • Connect them with help. If your friend or loved is really struggling, help them connect with some support services.Be there.
  • Take care of yourself too. It can be challenging to support someone who is grieving. Make sure to take care of your own well-being and get extra support if you need it.

What to say to a grieving friend or loved

It can be hard to know what to say, and nothing you say will bring back what has been lost, but simple words can bring comfort.

Some comforting words to say:

  • I’m so sorry to hear of your loss.
  • I’m sorry you are hurting.
  • I am here for you if you want to talk.
  • It is okay to cry.
  • Is there anything that I can do?
  • Do you want to take a walk and talk about it?

Actions often talk louder than words. Hug your friend or loved one if you are having problems with knowing what to say.

What ‘not’ to say or do when a friend or loved is grieving

Think about what you would like to say or do before you speak. That can make the situation more comfortable and thoughtful for both of you.

Some things to avoid:

  • Don’t tell them to cheer up or that they will get over it.
  • Don’t ignore or avoid them.
  • Don’t check in too often. People who are grieving often need some space and time, so check-in, but be mindful not to smother them (this includes in-person, texts and emails).
  • Don’t take it personally if your friend/loved one avoids you or declines your invites.

What Next?

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