What to do (or not do)

Grief support is not once and done.

Be present

The most important thing you can do is to simply reach out. Just be there. In whatever way works for you and your person. You don’t need to have any answers or give any advice. Your goal is NOT to make things better. Just be willing to be with them in their grief.

Offer tangible support

Offer to make ordinary every-day things easier so that your grieving person can have the luxury of just being devastated.

—Megan Devine

Think of specific things you can offer, and ask if that would be helpful.

Visit our list of support ideas and learn how to offer support.

Maintain your support long after the death

We often offer to help in the immediate aftermath of the loss, when, in reality, support is needed long into the months and years ahead. Grief is a process that lasts a lifetime, and grievers will need ongoing support. (This is why we created Follow the Nudge!)

Chart that shows that grief support may always be needed. Chart shows the expectation that grief support might be needed for a year, when the reality is that the line of support needed goes on forever.

Remember others affected by the loss

Grief support tends to focus on one person - typically the one perceived to be nearest the loss. For example, when a family loses a child, support is usually focused on the parents. Siblings, grandparents, other family members, and friends will also need support.

Grief support is not one-size-fits-all

The support you give to one griever may not work for another. Grief is individual, and grief support should be tailored to each individual’s needs. Individual grief experiences are shaped by a multitude of factors:

  • The relationship with the person who died
  • The cause of death
  • Our society and cultural background
  • Our personality and coping style
  • Our past experiences with loss
  • Our support network
  • Our religious or spiritual beliefs and customs

Acknowledge the loss - don’t disappear

Grief is hard. Grief support is hard. Don’t give up on yourself or your grieving person.

Because we're so weird and so awkward about grief I think one of the things that can really happen is you say nothing. Saying nothing is a terrible, terrible thing to do to your grieving person. For the grieving person what that feels like is abandonment. It feels like their grief doesn’t matter.

This isn’t an easy situation, but you know, I know so many grieving people who've told me that they've actually seen friends and acquaintances of theirs cross the street rather than interact with them. It makes us so uncomfortable to be around somebody else's pain we will literally cross the street to avoid feeling awkward. What that means for your grieving person is they feel like no one cares, no one remembers; they feel invisible. So, not only have they lost their person but they've lost their people.