10 Practical Ways to Support Someone in Grief

10 Practical Ways to Support Someone in Grief

As a funeral director who has firsthand experience of funerals for more than two decades, I’ve seen how grief can affect people in profound and lasting ways. It’s why it’s so important to be there for those who are grieving and offer them support in any way we can.

But what do you say or do to help someone who is going through such an emotional time? How do you offer the right kind of comfort that will make them feel better?

In this article, I’ll give 10 practical tips on how to provide compassionate support for someone who has experienced loss. Some of these tips are from my own experiences working with families during their time of need. I’ve also gotten the unique perspectives of people who work closely in this industry.

With these tips, you’ll be able to provide meaningful assistance while allowing your friend or loved one the space they need to grieve.

Understanding Grief

Grief is a complex and deeply personal process that manifests differently in each individual. It encompasses a wide range of emotions, including sadness, anger, confusion, and even physical pain.

Grief is a natural response to loss that can vary in intensity, duration, and expression. It is the emotional suffering one feels when they are deeply saddened by the death of a loved one or pet, or through any other kind of significant loss. Grief reactions can be very different for each individual depending on their age, relationship to the deceased, and personal coping skills.

Did you know that a survey conducted by WebMD revealed a complex picture of grief? According to the findings, it’s likely that someone close to you is experiencing the challenges of grief.

More than 57% of the people surveyed reported experiencing a major loss over the last three years. In all, 32% experienced the loss of a family member or close friend, 20% experienced the death of a pet, 3% experienced the loss of a spouse or partner, and 2% experienced the loss of a child.

It also shows that grief affects people differently as well.

  • 63% of people said they felt guilty after their loved one passed away.
  • 77% of people said they felt like they couldn’t focus on anything else but their grief.
  • 54% of people said they felt angry after their loved one passed away.
  • 69% of people said they felt lonely after their loved one passed away.
  • 76% of people said they felt depressed after their loved one passed away.
  • 88% of people said they felt like they had no control over anything in their life after their loved one passed away.
  • 86% of people said they felt like life had no meaning after their loved one passed away.

Most people don’t know how to support someone in grief

From the same WebMD survey, the most common coping mechanisms people used were:

  • Talking to someone they trusted about their feelings (72%).
  • Finding ways to express their grief, such as through writing, art, or music (67%).
  • Taking care of themselves physically and emotionally (65%).
  • Connecting with others who had experienced similar losses (59%).
  • Finding meaning in the loss (57%).

Only 13% of people said they felt they had received the support they needed from others during their grief.

According to another study published in the Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore in 2022 , 69 qualitative studies were included in the review. The review concluded that loss and grief identification and management are critically important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Current operating guidelines have proven insufficient in managing loss and grief, and innovative strategies are essential to tackle the many dimensions of loss and grief.

It is crucial to acknowledge that grief is unique to each person, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

10 Practical Ways to Support someone in grief

1. Show Empathy and Active Listening

One of the most powerful ways to support someone in grief is by showing empathy and practicing active listening. Empathy involves putting yourself in their shoes, validating their emotions, and letting them know that their feelings are heard and understood.

Active listening means providing your undivided attention, without judgment or interruption. Simply being present and fully engaged in their story can provide immense comfort.

Listening is an advice shared by Susan Dice, Head of Customer Service at Thumbies Keepsakes. “In my personal experience, sometimes the best support a friend can provide is to listen. Everyone grieves in their own way and at their own pace – there is no “time limit” on when grief should end.

I once read that you never get over the loss, but you do learn to live with it, and I have found that to be very accurate in my life. My mom will be gone 20 years this November, and I still miss her every day. At some point, I learned to accept I will always miss her, and that is okay. People think you will eventually ‘get over it’ or ‘forget about it’, but you don’t.

I would not encourage anyone to go through grief alone – whether it’s a trusted friend or family member or a professional counsellor, it is crucial to have support and to know you are not alone.”

2. Be Present and Available

During times of grief, individuals often feel overwhelmed and alone. Being present and available is crucial in helping them feel supported. Let them know that you are there for them, both physically and emotionally.

Dave Blake, Owner of SpiritPieces shared: “It’s common sense but in many ways it’s just being available, be it for a heartfelt conversation or helping around the house and just being a presence in their lives. We all have a tendency to go to dark places if we’re all alone with our thoughts; by being around those who are grieving this tendency to self-spiral is much lessened.”

Make yourself available for conversations, visits, or even moments of silence. Your presence can provide a sense of security and solace during their difficult journey.

3. Offer Practical Assistance

Practical assistance can alleviate some of the burdens that grieving individuals may face.

Simple tasks such as preparing meals, running errands, or assisting with funeral arrangements can make a significant difference.

By lightening their load, you allow them to focus on their grief and healing process.

4. Encourage Self-Care

Grief can consume individuals, making it challenging to prioritise self-care. Encourage them to take care of themselves physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Suggest activities such as gentle exercise, engaging in hobbies, journaling, or seeking professional counselling if needed.

Self-care promotes healing and provides an outlet for their emotions.

5. Provide Emotional Support

Offering emotional support is vital when someone is grieving. Sometimes, all they need is a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on. Allow them to express their feelings without judgment or interruption. Reassure them that their emotions are valid and that it is okay to grieve in their own way and time.

6. Respect Their Process and Boundaries

Respecting the grieving individual’s process and boundaries is essential. Understand that everyone copes with grief differently, and there is no timeline for healing.

Respect their need for space and time alone, while also offering your support when they are ready to reach out.

Avoid pressuring them to “move on” or comparing their grief to others’.

7. Avoid Minimizing or Comparing Their Grief

One common mistake to avoid is minimizing or comparing their grief to others’ experiences. Each person’s journey through grief is unique, and their pain should never be diminished.

Instead of saying things like, “I know how you feel” or “It could be worse,” acknowledge the depth of their emotions and validate their individual experience.

Provide a compassionate and understanding space for them to express their grief openly.

8. Don’t Rush the Healing Process

Grief is not something that can be rushed or neatly resolved within a specific timeframe. It is a deeply personal and evolving process.

  • 53% of people who grieved said they felt an expectation from others to “move on,” 58% of them after about three months.
  • Nearly half grieved intensely for up to six months, and 18% were grieving one year after the life event.

Avoid placing expectations on the grieving individual to “get over it” or move on quickly.

Allow them to heal at their own pace, providing ongoing support as they navigate through the ups and downs of grief.

9. Encourage them to join a support group

Encourage them to join a grief support group. This can be a great way for the grieving person to connect with others who have been through similar experiences.

According to the studies, 59% of people said they had found meaning in the loss by connecting with others who had experienced similar losses.

This suggests that grief support groups can be a valuable resource for grieving people.

10. Don’t Dismiss Their Feelings

One of the worst things we can do when someone is grieving is to dismiss their feelings or invalidate their emotions.

Phrases like “You should be grateful for the time you had” or “It’s time to move on” can minimize their pain and make them feel unheard.

Instead, acknowledge their emotions, offer comfort, and let them know that it is normal and healthy to feel a wide range of emotions during the grieving process.


Supporting someone in grief requires compassion, patience, and understanding. As a funeral director, I have witnessed the profound impact that practical and empathetic assistance can have on individuals navigating the difficult path of grief.

By following these ten practical ways to support someone in grief, along with the dos and don’ts outlined, you can make a positive difference in their healing journey.

Remember, the power of your presence and genuine empathy can offer immeasurable comfort during their time of need.

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