How to Help a Loved One Who is Grieving

Oct 29, 2010

I receive several emails each month asking me for gift ideas for friends and family who have lost a loved one. They want to know what they can do to help. I have compiled some lists of ideas for you, these are things that helped me. I hope you will find it useful:


Some people dive into books and want to read all they can about death, healing, grief, etc. Others find it too difficult to read anything. But eventually, the books will be cracked open and there is nothing like the power of words to help uplift and inspire. I highly reccommend the following:

-Tear Soup (This is my #1 Recommendation for any and all loss)

-The Knitting Circle (by Ann  Hood)

-Beyond the Veil (by Lee Nelson. There are several volumes)

-The Birth that We Call Death (Paul H. Dunn)

-Man's Search for Meaning (Vicktor Frankl)

-Comfort (by Ann Hood)

Please leave a comment letting me know other great books to add to this list. 


OTHER SUGGESTIONS: (taken from Tear Soup and SO VERY TRUE)

- Be there for your friend, even when you don't understand.

 -Be a source of comfort by listening, laughing, and crying.

 -Stick close to your friend and defend their right to grieve.

- Allow your friend to make mistakes... or at least to grieve differently from 
     the way you would grieve.

 -Send flowers. Send money if you know this would help.

 -Send cards. The message doesn't need to be long. Just let them know you
     haven't forgotten them. Send one every few weeks for a while.

 -Call your friend. Don't worry about being a bother. Let your friend tell you if they
     don't want to talk about their loss right now.

 -Answering machines and e-mail are great ways to keep in touch, allowing the
     bereaved person to respond only when they feel up to it.

 -Try to anticipate what your friend may need. Bereaved persons sometimes don't
     know what to ask for.

 -Avoid offering easy answers and platitudes. This only invalidates the grief. Be
     patient. Don't try to rush your friend through their grief.

 -Give your friend permission to grieve in front of you. Don't change the subject or
     tell them not to cry or act uncomfortable when they do cry.

 -Ask them questions. But don't tell them how they should feel.

 -Invite your friend to attend events together, as you normally would. Let them
    decide if they don't want to attend.

 -Don't assume because your friend is having a good day that it means they are
     over their loss.

 -Be mindful of holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.


angee on 11/01/2010
Another I would add is to ask about the person who has passed, being sensitive to their needs. Have them tell you a favorite memory, something they love about the person, something funny they would do. Keeping the memory alive and speaking that name brings so much peace. I always find I end up laughing and crying right along with them!

b on 11/12/2010
I also love the illustrations in "The Next Place" by Warren Hanson. It is a non-denominational book about heaven. My friend's son angelversary is next week and I was able to create a photo collage card at For Christmas, I will be giving her family a photo mosaic that I was able to order from These gifts aren't nearly as important as continuing to be a friend and spending time with her and allowing her to grieve even 4 years after Chandler's death.

Ruby Taylor on 11/17/2010
Awesome! I’ve just stumbled across your blog and came to this entry because my site is about grief. I love that you are exploring brokenness and faith in this site. We all need this authenticity. Truly, life is an adventure. We either hide from them or engage them. There is no promise that afflictions will always be cured, but I do believe that healing can take place, which sets in motion the new experiences waiting for us.

GriefOut on 11/22/2010
Perfectly said! Death is an unavoidable part of the cycle of life, yet one is never truly prepared for losing a love one. It's important to keep yourself as busy as possible when overcoming your grief. As you deal with loss, there may be some days when you feel like you have made progress with healing. You will be able to enjoy life again. Hang on to hope, as it is the most important thing you can do. ((

Beth Fain on 01/18/2011
Your blog is a very beautiful blog on many levels. I commend you for sharing to help others. As a parent that lost two children I too discovered that this sharing is part of healing. I have written a book that is released this month that would be great if you would post on your website. It is Good grief: A Care map for the Grief Journey. The publishing company webiste is: This book shares personal insights for different stages of grief with suggestions on how to love and encourage the bereaved in their love language. If this book had been around when I was grieving I would have had some of the pages highlighted to show people when they said "I don't know what to say or do."

Marcie Ogilvie on 02/07/2011
One thing that I have learned in dealing with my grief is that when grief is fresh, there needs to be a processing time and time to just cry. This is when I needed to know that people were there and cared, yet, I needed this time alone to absorb what had happened to me, my husbnd and my family. I had to find a way to move again. People were very kind to let me have my space until I was ready to be with people again. Friends and neighbors would still drop by with food, money, flowers and gifts, but they would respect my need to just cry. I will always be grateful for that. It has been 8 years for me, but there are still many many moments when the pain is so bad I can hardly move! It is just because I miss my son.

Pattie Moss on 03/01/2011
My 2 favorite books people bought me when our son Danny died were 1. The Message. That and a book with pictures of the Savior helped me the most. I would bring the book to church and when I felt like I was losing it I would get it out and look at the pictures and that helped a lot. My favorite gifts were small things like cross stitched in a small picture frame, "I am a Child of God" and small Christmas ornaments with mother and baby. I also appreciated small bouquets of flowers. I kept several by my bed for days and they comforted me more than I even knew. I remember people apologizing that it wasn't many flowers, but they never knew they were my favorites. Just a few roses in a small vase. So sweet. My very good friend brought over a bag of groceries. I remember feeling that it was so thoughtful because nobody was in a mind to go get milk and fruit you know? So many things were done for us. Sending a card with donation money helped pay for half our funeral. I would have never thought it was an appropriate thing. But it was so so so helpful. Funeral costs for us were over $8,000 so every little $20.00 helped pay the fees. More than anything though, and my husband will agree. Those that came over just to sit and listen to us, those were the most comforting gifts of all. Who knew? You need people to just listen and love you when you are so hurting. People can be so kind.

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