Hey, friend. Is your friend or loved one hurting and you want to learn how to comfort someone grieving the loss of a loved one? Let’s talk.
How to comfort someone grieving the loss of a loved one
Dealing with losing a beloved, be it a family member, close friend, or even a pet, can be a tough and challenging journey. It is even more so when you feel no one around you understands.
When someone close to you is going through a difficult time, it’s natural to want to offer a shoulder for them to cry on. However, this isn’t always what the person needs or wants.
The last thing you want is to hurt them at a vulnerable time by not being supportive or comforting. That being said, it’s important to respect everyone’s unique way of grieving. Here are a few tips to consider when comforting a friend, loved one, or colleague who is grieving over loss.
Respect their boundaries and individual needs
Every person is unique in how they handle their grieving process. The 5 stages of grief may be universal for most people, but how this actually looks for each person is not universal (the same).
I can recall sitting with my dear friend Kathy while she shared with me how much it upset her that people wanted to ‘fix her,’ or ‘give her the answers to her problems.’ For my friend, what was most healing to her heart was when someone would just sit with her in total silence.
Kathy shared, “It let me know they were there, but I didn’t feel forced to speak or actually do anything. It just let me know I was loved and not alone.”
Another example is my husband. When he lost his dad, people would see him at different places and immediately say, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” I know, the intentions are good. Unfortunately, my husband shared that he dreaded going anywhere for a while because, for months, he kept hearing, “I heard about your dad, I’m so sorry.”
Put yourself in those shoes. You’re trying to heal and well-meaning people come up to say, “I’m sorry.” For some people, this may be comforting, but for others, it just reopens a wound they’re working to heal.
This was the case for my husband.
I share these examples to say, it’s important to respect people’s boundaries and individual needs as they grieve.
So what do you do? If you’re in a close relationship with this person, the best thing to do is ask, “How can I best comfort you during this time?”
Whatever their reply is, honor that. It may be helping them cook food or clean. It could be sitting in silence like my friend Kathy. Maybe they need a good laugh … or, maybe they just want to be alone right now. Whatever their reply, that’s where they are in their grief and that’s okay.
When does grieving become dangerous?
This is a very important topic. Grief is normal but there is an unhealthy prolonged grieving called, “complicated grieving disorder.”
Processing our loss over a period of weeks or months is natural and healthy. However, if weeks and months have passed but your loved one is still stuck in a pattern of darkness, unable to move past this devastating time in their life, expert help may be required.
Complicated grief symptoms can range from wishing they had died with the loved one, feeling that life has no purpose without them, to believing they did something to cause this loss.
While it is necessary to respect your loved one’s boundaries, it’s also important to love them enough to help them get help if grief has turned into a risk to their own life.
Respect their form of grief
The truth is, just as we talked about above, we all grieve differently, which means there is no correct way to grieve over losing a loved one. Although you should encourage your loved one to let out their emotions when ready, it is vital to understand that this may not be done as you expect it.
They may not cry out loud or scream, but may instead write about these emotions. Another way to respect their form of grief is to avoid likening their loss to your loss. You may have experienced the loss of a loved one too. However, statements such as “I know how you feel” may be unhelpful as the feelings you both experience may not be the same.
Just as we discussed above, asking the person how you can be a part of their healing process (or not) is important. Assuming what someone needs at a time like this is a bad idea. What would make you feel loved or comforted may be very different from what they themselves need.
Do something nice for them
When someone has lost a loved one, they barely have time to do anything nice for themselves. Additionally, they may be overwhelmed by all that’s going on and find it difficult to make time to take care of other things.
You can offer support and comfort by doing nice things for them. For example, you can offer to help clean their home or care for their garden or houseplants, if they enjoy those. If your friend is short on cash and you are able to be a blessing, consider donating or offering financial assistance.
A thoughtful way to help them memorialize their loved one is to gift them something like these beautiful custom-made grave marker bronze plaques for their loved one’s final resting place. Carrying out nice gestures for your grieving loved one brings them comfort and makes them feel loved and appreciated.
Just be sure to consider your loved one’s personality and needs before trying to jump in and gift them something or do something for them. Timing is everything.
Pray for or with them
When we pray and ask the Lord Jesus to touch our loved one’s heart, He does what we could never do. Our abilities to help are limited but His healing power is limitless. He created your loved one and He knows exactly what they need right now.
Even if your loved one is not open to prayer, that’s okay. You don’t have to force it, and doing so would be unwise and extremely damaging.
In your own time, ask Holy Spirit to pour out His healing and comfort upon your loved one. Ask Him to show you if there’s any way you can be a blessing to that person’s life. He will.
Remember them on difficult days
During the grieving process, some days may be more difficult than others. On such days, simply reaching out to them may be all it takes to make them feel better.
Be sure to take note of key days such as the one-year anniversary of the death of their loved one, their birthday, or their wedding anniversary (if they lost a spouse). Holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas can also be tough on them. Therefore, check up on them and, if possible, spend the day with them to give them the much-needed comfort.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep
When someone you care about is going through the difficulty of enduring the loss of a loved one, it takes a toll on you. You want nothing more than to let them know you love them and you are there to support them. Unfortunately, this may lead to making big promises you cannot keep. Be sure you mean what you say and offer to help in specific ways to avoid committing to something you cannot deliver.
When possible, be sure to get plenty of rest yourself. It’s true, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” It’s not selfish to get rest yourself so you can better support someone else. There will be times when this isn’t always possible, but when it is, don’t forget to look after yourself too.
I know, it can be confusing, trying to understand how to comfort someone grieving the loss of a loved one. There are so many things to consider such as how close you are to this person and what their individual personality is like. Grief is extremely personal and no two people react the same.
It is important to give your loved one the space they need to grieve, but also be aware of complicated grief which will require some mental health assistance to protect their life and well-being.
Don’t be afraid to ask, “How can I best comfort you during this time?” Because we are all individuals, what would make you feel cared for isn’t necessarily what your loved one needs.
Pray for their healing, peace, and comfort. Then respect their boundaries and grief process by letting them determine what they need and when.
It’s hard seeing someone you care for suffer, I know, friend. But we don’t want to add to their suffering by trying to ‘help’ in a way they simply don’t want or appreciate.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Are you going through this right now? How are you and your friend or family member dealing with it all?
As always, I love you, and thank you, for sharing this post so we can help others who are hurting. ❤️
Love & Blessings,