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Ways to show support

It can be hard to know how to console a friend or relative who is grieving. If it seems that nothing you can do or say helps, don’t give up. You can’t take the pain away, but your presence is more important than it seems. Accept that you can’t fix the situation or make your friend or relative feel better. Instead just be present and offer hope and a positive outlook toward the future. Recognize that grief is a gradual process. 


Even small gestures—sending a card or flowers, delivering a meal, helping out with laundry or shopping, or making a regular date to listen and offer support—can be a huge source of comfort to a person who is grieving. One woman, a dog lover who had recently lost her husband, recalled her joy when a close friend went to the pound and brought her a basket of puppies that needed to be fostered for a few weeks. 


It’s important to be flexible and open to a person’s way of grieving. For example, if a bereaved friend or family member is coming to your house for the holidays, ask if you can do anything to help mark the loss during this occasion. Be willing to leave plans loose. Build in a loophole when you extend the invitation: “We would love to have you join us. You needn’t decide until the last minute, if you want some time to think about it.” Gently press a person to accept your invitation, but take “no” for an answer without ire. Call the next day to check in.