Helping a Friend with Grief (when you don't know what to say)

Helpful advice for what to say and do for a friend or loved one dealing with grief and loss.

As my regular readers know, my dad inspired me to start Sunny Day Family. He passed away in March 2014 and I feel his absence every day. My friend Evelyne of Nemcsok Farms has written a lovely piece on how to help a grieving friend that she has given me to share with you.

Even if you have never lost someone very close to you, such as an immediate family member, chances are you might know someone who has.
I have heard it said, and actually have felt the same way – that when your friend loses someone, you just don’t know what to say.  You just don’t know the right thing to say.
Let me tell you, there is no right thing to say.  And yep – there are a ton of wrong things to say.  So what do you do?

Offer Condolences?
Yes, most definitely. Via message, text, email, phone call, whatever you use as your regular method of communication, stick with it.  However, a phone call to offer condolences is always ok. Nobody is going to be offended by a phone call, offering kind thoughts and simple messages.

Keep it Simple?
Yes please.  Say “I’m sorry for your loss”, and leave it up to your friend to expand if they want to talk further.  Be prepared for nonsensical ramblings, and bursts of information.  Grief comes in waves.  Big, hard, raw waves that crash at your bones and your spirit.  Thoughts and ideas that come as a result may feel exactly the same way.  This is not transferable. If you’ve never been there, you may not have any idea at all what it is like.  

Send Flowers?
Undoubtedly.  It need not be expensive.  A bouquet of wild flowers picked from the side of the road packs a big punch.  A $1.00 single cut flower is as sweet as a $50 arrangement.  It will still brighten someone’s day, and really, it is all about showing your friend that you care.  

Offer to Help?
NO.  Just help.  Actions speak way louder than words.  It is very easy for us to say “if you need anything, just ask”.  Obviously your friend needs help. To illustrate this further, I like to use this analogy – if you come across a person entering a building and they are carrying bags and boxes in their arms, and they can’t possibly open the door, do you open the door for them, or do you actually wait for them to ask you to get the door?  The answer is pretty simple.  Be it a phone call, a prepared meal, a short visit, a warm coffee delivered to them at work, or at home – just do it.  Just do something nice and thoughtful in whatever capacity you have to do so.    

Err on the side of caution?
No. As long as what you have to say isn’t completely and totally ignorant, say it.  Trust me, your friend understands.  Your friend would rather you make a social blunder in an effort to show you care, instead of coming to the painful realization that nobody cares.  Your friend knows it is an awkward situation. Remember, it is awkward for them too, and painful. 
Do whatever you can – your friend will appreciate it, and you’ll feel pretty good for it too.

Another friend of mine, Katrina, has written about her journey with infant loss. If you're coping with a similar loss (or helping a friend who is), please take a moment to read her story.

Evelyne is the owner and author of Nemcsok Farms. Read her blog and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.
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