How To Help a Friend or Family Member Who is Grieving

A tragic loss is difficult in many different ways for many different people.  Of course the loss is most difficult for the people closest to the deceased person.  Here are ideas on how to help a friend or family member who is grieving.

Three key ways that you help a grieving person

Prayer – As someone who has suffered loss and experienced God’s healing, I’m confident that prayer is the most life-changing gift that you can offer.  Please invest time and energy to help people keep or build their faith during times of grief.

Finances – If the family has immediate needs like food, mortgage, childcare, diapers, etc. and you are able to help with that please do so.

Time – Time is also a treasured gift that can help ease the pain.  How can you give of your time to help your friend or family member?

Here are some specific personal examples:

I have been blessed to have the love, help and support of many people.  I often see in mind’s eye the faces of those who gave and invested so much in helping me heal.  I’d like to share some of the stories in hopes that you pick up an idea on how to help others.

A handful of people showed up to my house the morning right after the accident.  I’m confident it was very difficult for them to come, but they did.  They insisted on being there and helping.  Some friends cleaned the hard water stains out of my shower.  Later they sorted through pictures to display during the calling hours and went shopping to find clothes that would fit me for the calling hours and funeral.  There were several phone calls and decisions that having trustworthy friends right there to help take care of for me was a huge help.

Think about what you can do to make that person’s life a little easier.  People dropped off paper plates, cups, disposable silverware, diapers, formula, really good chocolate and some high quality food.  It was helpful to have immediate needs met.  These are some of the items that made life a little easier.

Wise people simply asked what I needed.  There were many times right away after our unexpected loss where I just didn’t know.  When people asked me a couple different times I knew they were serious and that I could call on them later as I figured out what I needed.

When my grandmother passed away a family friend sent a card full of stamps to use on thank you notes in lieu of flowers.  I thought that was very kind.  I’ve also appreciated people that have sent stones with a nice saying, or some sort of treasured keepsake as opposed to flowers.

The biggest immediate need was for prayer.  I know that people prayed for us:

-To have the strength that we needed to get through each day

-To feel God’s love

-To keep faith

-To be able to make wise decisions as needed

-To be able to take care of baby Henry

-To have hope and know that we have a future

-For God to put a hedge of protection around our lives

-For critical relationships that change with the loss of a life

-For financial needs to be met

-For us not to feel alone and much, much more

What do I say to a grieving person?  “I’m sorry for your loss and I’m praying for you.”

What to do for a grieving person? Take time to write a note to help them honor and remember their loved ones.

Please don’t avoid facing the grieving family because you don’t know what to say.  Presence is powerful, you don’t have to give a speech.  Think of something short and sweet ahead of time to say that you care.  Scripture never fails.  These are one example of why it’s important to know and memorize scripture.  There are times when there are no human words and scripture is so comforting.

A dear friend shared that my goal was to be “healthy and whole” again.  She came to my house, brought salads from Wendy’s, helped me clean, she prayed fervently with and for me.  She encouraged me to call with any questions and I did.

Life goes on and so can your encouragement.  Your life may return to normal quickly, but the grieving people’s live have been forever changed.  Think about ways that you can help show love, through a written note, a meal, a small gift, a surprise visit.  Make a note on your calendar 3 months and 13 months out to remind you to show that you care.

a healing family with text "how to help grieving people become healthy & whole"
A dear friend babysat Henry some while I transitioned back to work. She took and shared this pic one day when I picked him up. I’m glad I have a nice picture of us together at this stage.

This Thanksgiving week I’m so thankful for all of those people that have invested in me and helped be become healthy and whole.  Without love, prayer, help and healing I wouldn’t be able to experience the fullness and joy of life on earth that I am now.

Mom and infant with text "how to help grieving people"

More Articles on Working Through Grief

Give Yourself A Gift by letting go of some pain.

Don’t “Worry About the Mud Hole” make a Mississippi Mud Cake to enjoy instead.

Ask Why is Life So Hard, but try not to dwell on that thought.


  1. Holly McLean says:

    Thank you for continuing to write and share! Unless you have been through significant loss, it’s hard to know what to do. Some people don’t want to ‘get in the way or bother’ others during grief, but as I heard someone once say in the hospital, “people are better than no people”. It’s a simple statement, but something we need to remind ourselves when someone we know is hurting.

    A few years ago, one of my coworkers lost his daughter. We went to the funeral to show our support, but one thing I did was send him a letter the following year around the same time. I know how tough that ‘first’ year was. First Thanksgiving, first Christmas, first birthday without her. The healing process doesn’t end with the funeral and all it cost me was a few tears and a stamp.

    And to quote one of my favorite friends,”Time doesn’t heal, God does.” 🙂

  2. Pastor Pepper says:

    God- first
    Family- second
    Everything else-next
    I’m praying for you and yours pastor Pepper.

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