July 19, 2017

12 Ways To Support A Grieving Friend

It was two days after Thanksgiving when I received the worst phone call of my life. My Mom was in ICU and not expected to live. That day is seared in my brain, and without a moments notice, I'm taken back to the day my journey with grief began, and life took on a whole new meaning. Losing someone you love is life changing. It alters not only you, but everything you have ever known and believed in.

Before my Mom passed away I thought I had a very good idea of what grief was, what it did to the body and the different stages. I studied human services in college, took bereavement classes and did a internship with a pastor at a nursing home and the director of a funeral home. I knew a great deal about grief, but when it happened to me, all of my education went right out the window. I learned there is so much more to grief than what can be read in a book.

Grief is individual. It affects everybody differently. Yet, one thing is true across the board, everybody needs support. It can be hard to know how to help a friend who is grieving. You may wonder what is the right thing to do. You don't want to say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, or make your friend upset. But the reality is, your friend needs you more than ever right now. They need you to say or do something, anything. They need your love and support during this time even if they seem to be doing okay. The love and kindness you showed them during the hardest days of their life, will never be forgotten.


1. Bring Them Food.
Bringing food is such a wonderful way to support your friend. While my Mom was in the hospital, I was there around the clock. Having food brought to J.D. and Kona was such a blessing and one thing we didn't have to worry about. If you are going to bring your friend food here a few things to consider.
Bring food several weeks after the funeral.
Sometimes there can be such a large amount of food, it can be overwhelming and much of it goes to waste.
Bring breakfast or snacks instead of dinner.
If your friend has little kids snacks are extremely helpful. One of my friends brought oranges, carrots, hummus and chips, along with a freezer meal. It was wonderful having something healthy to give Kona in the afternoons.
Put together a food schedule.
So many people want to bring food it can be overwhelming. Answering all of the text messages, phone calls and trying to schedule it all can often times be too much. Having one person schedule it all is amazing. It relieves so much stress and is truly a life savor.
Bring a freezer meal.
A freezer meal is such a great option. Your friend can pop it in the oven or crockpot whenever they are ready. It reduces the amount of waste and helps your friend on the days grief washes over them.

2. Let Them Talk.
Sometimes, the most obvious way to support your friend is the best. Talk to them even if you don't know what to say. Saying something is a million times better than saying nothing at all. Give your friend a safe space to talk about whatever is on their minds. If they want to cry, give them a shoulder to cry on. If they want to tell stories, share any you may have. Ask them how they are doing and ask them often. It is hard for me to just start talking about my feelings, but if a friend asks me, I will always talk.

3. Send Cards.
Flowers are beautiful and always lift spirits, but they don't last. Cards can be held onto forever and looked at when your friend needs uplifting messages the most. One idea, is to send a card every month during the first year. Your friend will cherish these cards and you never know, they might receive one on a day they needed it the most.

4. Put Together A Care Package.
A box or tea, coffee, bath salts, essential oils, slippers, book or a journal can go so far. Remind your friend to take some time for themselves and how caring for themselves is so important during this time.

5. Anticipate What They Need.
Whatever you do, please don't say, "Call me if you need anything." Your friend needs so much right now, but they won't call. It's not because they don't believe you or think you won't help. It's because identifying the need, remembering who said they would help and picking up the phone to call is beyond their capacity right now. So many people want to help and would do anything, but leave it up to the griever to make the decisions. Instead, tell your friend what you will do for them and when you will do it. One of my best friends would call and say "I'm going to pick up Kona tomorrow so you and J.D. can be at the hospital together." Another friend went grocery shopping for me. Another brought me food and coffee while in the hospital. If it wasn't for them telling me what they were going to do, I wouldn't have asked.

6. Be The Middle Man.
One of my best friends at work would send out emails, updating everyone on how my Mom was doing, how I was doing, and when funeral services would be. She arranged a gift card donation to help us cover the costs of being out of work for so long. She answered the questions I was too weak and drained to. Being the middle man helps your friend to focus on their loved one and the hard decisions they are having to make.

7. Talk About Their Loved One.
Don't be scared to talk about your friends loved one. If there is one thing I loved doing after my Mom passed away, it was talking about her. Talking about her smile, laugh, kindness and genuine love for life always brought a smile to my face. I didn't want my Mom's memory to start fading or for people to forget about her. I couldn't get enough of the stories and memories people had of her. Hearing her name and how she impacted peoples lives was therapeutic. If you have memories, pictures or videos of your friends loved one, share them. Talk about what you remember even if it seems so small. Because to your friend, that memory is anything but small.

8. Remember Special Dates.
Birthdates, death dates, anniversaries, Mother's Day and Father's Day can be extremely hard days. These days are filled with so much anxiety, heart break and reminders. Let your friend know that you are there for them and that you haven't forgotten these important dates. My Mom's birthdate, death date and Mother's day are the hardest days of the year for me. I have so much anxiety the day before, I want to crawl out of my skin. The memories come flooding back and the pain becomes intense and raw again. My friends have showered me with love on those days and have carried me through. Some different ways they have supported me on these days are with coffee, donuts, my favorite treats, flowers, plants and cards.

9. Stick With Them Past The Funeral.
In the days following my Mom's death and funeral I was in total shock. I was completely numb and my brain hadn't processed what had happened. It wasn't until a few weeks after the funeral, that grief really started setting in. By this time, when I needed support the most, many people had gone back to their lives. If your friend has lost a loved one they still need you weeks, months and years after the funeral. Keep showing up for them time and time again even if they seem to be "okay". I will never forget those who stood by me, cried with me, and ask about how I was doing long after the funeral.

10. Offer To Attend Support Groups With Them.
Going to support groups was the best thing I did for myself after my Mom passed away. My Dad, Grandma and I would go every Tuesday and then out to dinner. I'm so grateful I had my family to go with, because at first, I was so intimidated. I was scared to talk about my feelings, about crying too much, not crying enough, and not grieving the way I thought I should be. I had already been through so much I didn't want to relive what happened. A little over two years later, and I'm so thankful I went to these support groups. I leaned so much, cried my eyes out, felt heard, supported and loved. I will never forget the people in our support group. They will forever hold a special place in my heart and I think about them often. If your friend doesn't want to attend support groups or doesn't have anyone to go with, I urge you to offer to go with them. Let your friend know that they are not in this journey alone and that you will be there for them no matter what.

11. Pray For Them.
Praying for your friend and their family is one of the smallest, but most powerful things you can do. Praying for love, encouragement, guidance and peace can greatly impact your friends life.

12. Love Them Fearlessly.
Above everything else, give your friend all the love you can. Be there. Show up for them. Say something. Stand beside them when their world is dark. When they have so much pain, they feel like they are going to break. When the whole in their heart is so big, it fells like it's going to swallow them whole. Be willing to stand with them, without flinching or turning away, while they endure some of the darkest days of their life. Recognize the stages of grief and know that they will never "get over" the loss in their life. It will be with them forever, as will the love you gave to them.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:7 


You can read more about my journey with grief here.



  1. This is such a helpful list. I called my friend every day after the funeral. It took about 14 months before she didn't need as many calls. I'm so glad I made the commitment.

    1. You are an amazing friend. She will never forget your kindness and commitment. You are one of a kind!

  2. What a great list! Everyone needs to pin or bookmark for the day when they need it.

    1. Thank you so much! I'm so happy you found it helpful.

  3. This list is perfect! My Mom died almost 8 years ago and besides a couple cards I had zero support. It was two years of hard core grieving while being lost among life and people. If somebody doesn't understand or reach out it's so hard to express how you are feeling. Also, I wasn't around anyone who knew her so there wasn't that comfort either. I've never been back to her house where my step-dad lives because I just can't bear it! I know your list is going to help people help others.

    1. I'm so sorry for your loss. I completely agree with you, if people don't understand what you are going threw it's hard to just start talking about it. I have had many people say, "Call at anytime, I'm always here you for." And you know what? I never call. Not because I don't want to talk, but because I feel awkward just bringing it up. I have to be asked first. Going to my parents house can be so hard, but therapeutic at the same time. Thank you for your kind words and taking the time to read and comment. It means so much to me!

  4. I can't agree more with these. Thanks for sharing from your heart. ❤

  5. Such a thoughtful and helpful list. It's so difficult to know what to say. Yet often just being there is enough.

  6. So thoughtful and helpful. I will be sharing!

  7. Super helpful and practical list, thank you!

  8. This is such good advice -- I especially like the tip about bringing breakfast and snacks!