How to support someone struggling with grief

It can be hard to have a conversation with someone close to you, who’s lost a loved one. Our guide is here to help you get started.

When someone close to you loses a loved one and is grieving, you may find it hard to know what to say. You might worry about making them feel worse by saying the wrong thing or feel like you are intruding at their difficult time. You may think that they should give the bereaved person some space, because there’s nothing you can do to help.

How to offer support to a bereaved friend or family member

By showing the person you care about that you are there for them, you will be supporting them. This can be very comforting and can help to ease them through the grieving process. Although you can’t take away their pain, there are a number of things you can do or say, which might help.

Don’t be afraid to just ‘be there’

Losing someone close to you can be one of the most difficult times of your life. Grief can make people feel a whole host of emotions, including anger, guilt and extreme sadness. It can be an isolating time, too, so having someone around to talk to can really help.

You may feel uncomfortable about approaching the bereaved person or worry that you’ll make things worse. But you don’t have to offer advice or do anything special. The most important thing is to be there for them.

What should I say?

Here are a few ideas of simple phrases that can help start a conversation:

  • I’m sorry that this has happened to you. Expressing your concern can be a real comfort.

  • I don’t know what to say, but I’m here for you. Be honest with them, you don’t have to offer solutions.

  • How are you feeling? When it’s the right time, you can ask sensitive questions, which may make the grieving person feel better about opening up.

  • I’m here to listen – you don’t have to say anything, but being a listening ear can be a great support.

What else can I do to help?

  • Don’t avoid the subject – if the name of the deceased crops up, talk about them openly

  • Let them tell you how their loved one died – it can make it easier for them to tell the story over and over again, and help them to come to terms with what’s happened, so just be patient

  • Let them know that it’s ok for them to show their emotions, whether this is anger or sadness

  • If they want to sit in silence, just be there for them

  • Offer your help – they need support with a practical task, like the funeral arrangements, but be afraid to ask

  • You could also offer to run an errand, drop off a meal, take them out for lunch, go for a walk with them, take care of housework or many other tasks that may seem small but make a big difference

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Benenden Health members can call the Mental Health Helpline if they find themselves affected by bereavement and are struggling with grief. The helpline can offer 24-hour support from a qualified therapist during this difficult time.