Helping Others Through Grief: Things To Do When You're Not Sure What To Do

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Loss is inevitable, we all at some point in our life will experience firsthand the effects of loss. Your own experiences and heartbreak has predestined you to become a consoler and comforter to someone else who is suffering. Take what you’ve learned and begin to help mend broken hearts.

― Caressa J

I know sometimes we’re anxious to help and give advice to friends when they’re going through something, but it’s best to avoid doing so. Instead, practice being a good listener and offer a safe place for someone to share their heart.

Say, “I can’t imagine how heartbreaking that must have been for you.”

Even if someone has experienced what you have or vice versa no griever is the same.

If you want to share a bit about your own experience with loss try saying something like,

“I can’t imagine how you feel. I know when my dad died I felt…”

Be empathetic and listen with your heart.

It is very normal to be affected while listening to someone’s story regarding a loss. And it’s okay to show your emotions if you have any. You can laugh and cry together.

Stay in the moment.

Sometimes when people are sharing their feelings regarding a loss you can lose focus or be reminded of some of your own experiences. Remember you are there for them, and if they ask you about your personal experience, share it if you are comfortable

Never minimize another’s pain.

Pain and heartbreak feel different to every person. Because tragedy and trauma will feel different to everyone, we are not to judge, minimize or assume how something should feel to another person. One person may not seem to be affected at all, and another person may appear to be torn up. As a comforter, your role is to simply listen and be there to console.

Never use the phrase “at least.”

Imagine suffering through a loss of a loved one, and someone tells you, “At least they were (this)… or at least you were able to say goodbye, at least you have two children left…” This phrase subtly minimizes a person’s pain. It’s also a phrase that may trigger negative emotions. Because we don’t know the internal suffering, self-speak or thoughts going through a person’s mind when their heart is broken or they are mourning a loss, we can’t be sure if our “at least” is accurate or not. Remember that you will not be able to fix anyone’s heartbreak.

Never rush the grieving process.

Just as everyone handles grief and pain differently, the timeline for grieving will be different for every person. As helpers it can become frustrating if we feel someone isn’t dealing with the five stages of grief in a healthy or timely manner. Remember they’re not on your timeline. Grieving takes time. Be a shoulder to cry on, an ear that will listen and a friend who will console.

Learn the true meaning of “BEING PRESENT.”

In today’s society people may use text messaging and or FaceTime to show their sympathy or compassion towards another person, this is undeniably the wrong route to go if you have a meaningful relationship with that person. If your close relative, friend, or business partner is dealing with grief, stop by, spend time, send something and come to the funeral and or one of the services, however text messages, facetime and or a five minute visit just to say “you came” is not enough and can appear a bit disrespectful. A person going through grief will remember those who were present. Remember a person who is in grief does not have the time to tell you what their needs are, it is your responsibility to find one and meet them where they are, if appropriate.

Never say “I know how you feel” or “Trust me I know.”

Every person who is experiencing grief has their own experience and is entitled to that. Do not minimize someone’s feelings, experience or their individual circumstance by telling them that you know how they feel and or that you’ve been in their shoes before.

Never say the words “Be strong.”

It is important for every person experiencing grief due to any type of loss, to feel exactly what they are feeling. You may have experienced or observed someone in the past say “Don’t think like that” or “Don’t say that”, usually that is after the fact and those thoughts have already presented itself.

Remember everything has a time, including grief.

Learn more about Caressa J and the Grieve with Hope® campaign at and @IamCaressaj on all social media. Follow the #GrieveWithHope hashtag for daily tips and inspiration.

This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn’t make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let’s talk about living with loss. If you have a story you’d like to share, email us at

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