Helping Others with Grief
A GUIDE ON WHAT TO SAY AND DO
by Brook Noel with Pamela D. Blair, Ph.D.
Don’t try to find the magic words or formula to
eliminate the pain.
Nothing can erase or minimize the painful tragedy your friend
or loved one is facing. Your primary role at this time is simply
“to be there”. Don’t worry about what to say
or do, just be a presence that the person can lean on when needed.
Don’t try to minimize or make the person feel better.
When we care about someone, we hate to see them in pain. Often
we’ll say things like, “I know how you feel,”
or “perhaps, it was for the best,” in order to minimize
their hurt. While this can work in some instances, it never works
Help with responsibilities.
Even though a life has stopped, life doesn’t. One of the
best ways to help is to run errands, prepare food, take care of
the kids, do laundry and help with the simplest of maintenance.
Don’t expect the person to reach out to you.
Many people say, “call me if there is anything I can do.”
At this stage, the person who is grieving will be overwhelmed
at the simple thought of picking up a phone. If you are close
to this person, simply stop over and begin to help. People need
this but don’t have the energy to ask.
Talk through decisions.
While working through the grief process many bereaved people report
difficulty with decision making. Be a sounding board for your
friend or loved one and help them think through decisions.
Don’t be afraid to say the name of the deceased.
Those who have lost someone usually speak of them often, and believe
it or not, need to hear the deceased’s name and stories.
In fact, many grievers welcome this.
Remember that time does not heal all wounds.
Your friend or loved one will change because of what has happened.
Everyone grieves differently. Some will be “fine”
and then experience their true grief a year later, others grieve
immediately. There are no timetables, no rules—be patient.
Remind the bereaved to take care of themselves.
Eating, resting and self-care are all difficult tasks when beseiged
by the taxing emotions of grief. You can help by keeping the house
stocked with healthy foods that are already prepared or easy-to-prepare.
Help with the laundry. Take over some errands so the bereaved
can rest. However, do not push the bereaved to do things they
may not be ready for. Many grievers say, “I wish they would
just follow my lead.” While it may be upsetting to see the
bereaved withdrawing from people and activities—it is normal.
They will rejoin as they are ready.
Don’t tell the person how to react or handle their emotions
or situation. Simply let him/her know that you support their decisions
and will help in any way possible.
Share a Meal.
Invite the bereaved over regularly to share a meal or take a meal
to their home since meal times can be especially lonely. Consider
inviting the bereaved out on important dates like the one-month
anniversay of the death, the deceased’s birthday, etc.
Make a list of everything that needs to be done with
This could include everything from bill paying to plant watering.
Prioritize these by importance. Help the bereaved complete as
many tasks as possible. If there are many responsibilities, find
one or more additional friends to support you.
Make a personal commitment to help the one grieving get
After a death, many friendships change or disintegrate. People
don’t know how to relate to the one who is grieving or they
get tired of being around someone who is sad. Vow to see your
frriend or loved one through this, to be their anchor in their
Excerpted from I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye:
a guide for surviving, coping & healing after the sudden death
of a loved one by Brook Noel with Pamela D. Blair, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2003 by Brook Noel. Excerpted by arrangement
with Champion Press. All rights reserved. $18.95. Available in
local bookstores or click