It’s one we’re just honestly beginning to understand in our modern society.
And the more we learn about and understand grief, the better we are able to support those who are going through it.
I think we could all use a Grief 101 course, even if we’re not funeral directors or death care professionals.
When we can better support each other, we move closer to liberating ourselves from collective trauma, disease, and everything else that comes with unprocessed grief.
Below, we delve into what not to say, and what to say to a grieving friend. Then, we offer 21 conversation starters you can use today to offer support to those grieving in your life.
Guidelines of what not to say to a grieving friend
#1: Don’t make it about you.
In our very “Self” or “I” oriented culture, we might find ourselves wanting to talk about our own grief to show people that we understand theirs. Someone who just lost their loved one does not have the capacity to hear about your grief. They just want to be heard and understood.
#2: Avoid cliches like “I’m sorry for your loss”.
If you’ve ever lost anyone, you know that if there’s anything that feels more empty to a grieving person, it’s hearing the same thing over and over from a swarm of people. Although it’s a nice gesture and sometimes all we have capacity to offer, know that the best thing you can do for them is dig deep in your heart and find your own unique words to say to them. This will carry the most meaning for them, and offer them the most support.
#3: Nothing, or avoidance.
Sometimes it can be easy to avoid someone because their grief is uncomfortable for you. This is a tendency our culture has taken on in our fast paced, productivity based society. However, we all owe it to our friends, family, community and self to face any resistance we experience to showing up for those in your life in their time of need. We know that if we were grieving, we’d want people to be there for us too. So let’s offer what we know we’d need.
#4: Anything that tries to fix or change their grief.
What’s even worse than using cliches is invalidating someone’s grief by trying to fix or change it. Telling someone to “get over it” or using terms like “at least they’re in a better place” is not helpful for someone’s grief journey. Again, a lot of times we can come from a great place in wanting our loved one’s to not be sad anymore. However, it’s important to allow them to grieve at their own pace.
#5: Creating any expectations around their grief.
Telling someone they’re crying too much, grieving too long, or that they should be over it by now is also not helpful. This creates shame, which sends grieving hearts into a downward spiral.
Tips on what to say to a grieving friend
#1: Hold space for them.
Someone who is grieving doesn’t need you to change anything for them. They need you to just be there. It’s that simple. So whatever capacity of listening you can offer helps them to feel heard and seen in their experience, is gold.
#2: Validate their grief with reflection.
When your grieving friend speaks to you, reflect what they’re saying to you. Especially when you can sense they are sharing in their vulnerability. For example, if they say they feel lost, tell them “I hear you’re feeling lost right now”. That alone can do so much. Try it and see for yourself.
#3: Instead of offering support, just show up.
Saying you’re there for someone and being there for them are two different things. Show up with lasagna. Rub their neck. Pick up their groceries. Make their bed. The initial stages of grief are a great time to act more, listen more and speak less.
#4: Embrace moments when you don’t know what to say or do.
Be vulnerable about it. Say “I’m not sure what to say right now, but I just want to be here for you. Is that ok?” That is SO refreshing to hear from someone! We don’t need to be a professional grief therapist or coach to help our grieving friends. All we can do, is do our best. And in that, is a vulnerability to learn and grow, together.
#5: Be consistent.
Grief is a very isolating journey. Whether you show up each day, week, or month, consistency helps establish safety for the grieving friend. It can be as simple as a quick text saying you’re thinking of them, or a quick drop in at their home to say hello. It doesn’t need to be complicated or grandiose! Simple is great.
#6: Be proactive.
Don’t assume your friend will reach out when they need you. Instead, take the initiative. Send them a link to a grief retreat, or essential oils for grief. Be the first one to call them. It’s hard to put any effort into relationships when you’re grieving, so do that heavy lifting for them.
21 conversation starters to support a grieving friend
#1: Would it be ok if I just sat here with you? We don’t need to say anything. I just want you to know I’m here.
#2: However you’re feeling right now is completely ok. I’m here for it.
#3: I recognize what you’re going through right now is not easy. Please know that I’m here to listen if you ever want to share anything.
#4: I’m so sorry. Truly.
#5: Can I just hug you right now?
#6: Is there anything I can take off your plate right now?
#7: Want a shoulder/back/foot rub?
#8: Ask if you can share a memory of the lost loved one if you knew them.
#9: If you didn’t know the loved one, ask them if they’d be open to telling you something about the lost loved one.
#10: Is there anything you’d like to get off your chest or share with me at this moment?
#11: What’s alive for you right now? I’m here to listen, without judgment.
#12: I just wanted to drop in and say I’m thinking of you today. My heart is with you <3
#13: Can I get you out of the house right now?
#14: Are you available for dinner or lunch today? I’d like to treat you/make you dinner.
#15: I found this ______ (enter grief workshop/therapy) event happening next week. Want to go together?
#16: I can’t imagine how you’re feeling right now, but I do wonder if you could be open to share with me even a snippet of where you’re at, so I know how to best show up for you.
#17: Can I help you with ______ (insert whatever it is they’re doing)?
#18: How are you feeling in your body right now?
#19: Is there anything you’re struggling with right now that I could assist you with?
#20: What would feel good for you to receive from me right now?
#21: If I had the words right now, I would say them. But I don’t. Can I just be here with you?
Offering grief support as a funeral professional
Thankfully, there are tools out there that can help you to offer next-level grief support to your client families. With f1Connect’s eAftercare plug-in, you can offer them a free interactive online grief counselor, 365 days of grief email affirmations, and more. To learn more about funeralOne’s eAftercare platform, click here or call us at (800) 798-2575.
What other grief conversation starters would you add to the list above? Tell us in the comments below!