If we were to call this How to Support a Grieving Friend 101, our first lesson would be, “Say something.”
Acknowledging your friend’s loss is the first step in being supportive and offering comfort. You can do this in various ways, from a card to a phone call to kind condolences on social media. It can even be a hug followed by a big “I care about you.”
Be sincere and be yourself, and your friend will see that. And if you’re afraid you’ll say the wrong thing, try not to worry: It’s better to reach out with warm words than to not say anything at all.
What to say
What we say and don’t say does make a difference. So, if you find yourself feeling anxious or uncomfortable, keep it simple:
- I’m so sorry.
- You’ve been on my mind.
- I’m keeping you and your family close in my heart.
- Your mama was a truly incredible person.
- John will be missed.
- I thought the world of your dad. He was a great guy.
- I love you, Friend.
What to avoid
Watch out for platitudes—You know, the things that may sound wise but don’t actually help:
- She’s in a better place. This sentiment seems comforting to say, but selfishly we all just want our loved ones with us.
- God needed more angels in heaven. Maybe your friend is spiritual, but it’s always good to be sensitive about sharing your thoughts on God’s plan.
- Your pain will heal over time. There probably will be better days. But when someone we love dies, the grief of our loss always lives within us, even when we feel happy—sometimes especially when we feel happy.
- Everything happens for a reason. No one knows the reason bad things happen, and it’s usually hard to recognize meaning directly after an excruciating loss.
- At least you had many years together. Or anything that starts with “At least…”
- If I were you, I’d go to therapy. Your grieving friend needs love right now. Not advice.
- I know exactly how you feel. Remember, your stories are different—and it’s not helpful to share them with someone freshly experiencing loss.
Helpful Tip: If you won’t see your friend right away, here are some tips on what to write in a sympathy card. Even if you are able to attend a funeral or celebration of life, a card is a tangible way to offer comfort.