The following are things you can do and say to support a loved one during their time of need.

An inevitability of life is death. We all experience loss at some point, and will often see people we love grieving. It’s a difficult time when you want to help and alleviate their pain, but finding the words can sometimes feel almost impossible.

The pressure of wanting to say the perfectly correct thing, combined with the terror of saying something wrong often leads us to say nothing at all.

The important thing to remember is that, just by being there, even if you don’t say much, this in itself is an expression of support and love.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when comforting your friend at this difficult time:

Acknowledge their loss: Just asking how someone is doing and giving them a hug allows them to approach the subject if they want to.

Give them the opportunity to open up and let out their sorrow if need to.

Also, make it clear that it’s fine if they want to avoid the subject altogether.

By acknowledging the situation up front, you can remove any awkwardness you may feel.

Sympathise, don’t Empathise: Everyone experiences grief differently.

Saying, ‘I’m so sorry for your loss,’ or ‘I can’t imagine what you’re going through,’ might seem commonplace, and even natural, but it will feel much more supportive than turning the conversation on to how you’ve coped with grief in the past.

Saying ‘I know how you feel’ can be well-intentioned, but implies that the love they had for their person wasn’t unique. We all have strong connections to people we have lost, but remember that this time is about your friend.

They need to be allowed to grieve in their own unique way, regardless of what happened to you.

Offer to help: When losing someone close, there can be a lot of everyday things to sort out while coming to terms with processing the grief.

Keeping on top of daily routines can be difficult, so show up with the house essentials – milk, bread, dinner, tea, and biscuits. Offer to pick the kids up from school or walk the dog. These little tasks will make a difference.

Other practical things you can do is canceling a phone or gym contract, especially when they would have to say the words – ‘my loved one has died.’

They can be caught off-guard and get emotional talking to a stranger, so offer to help with whatever you can.

Bring some positivity into their lives. Whether it’s reminiscing over the person who’s no longer here, or distracting them with your own story of something embarrassing that happened at work.

Try to make plans to come back and have a catch-up in a few days’ time, a momentary relief from the sorrow can truly help a grieving friend.

Even if bringing up happy memories results in a few more tears for you both, it can be cathartic, and it’s so important not to lose those precious golden memories of the people you love.

If you or someone you know has lost someone and is struggling with grief, speaking with a professional can help.

Visit counselling-directory.org.uk to find a counselor near you.

Author: Nuno Leitao

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