The right thing to say to someone who is grieving


7 tips for being a good friend

Published: 12/18/2014

7 tips for being a good friend

When it comes to grieving, we all have been confronted with the question of “What do I say?” I’ve struggled to find the right words to console a friend, and I’ve sensed the awkwardness others felt in not knowing what to say to me when I’ve lost loved ones.

Knowing what to say doesn’t come easily to even the most well-intentioned people. Having empathy for a person’s pain and loss is the first step, and these tips may help with finding the best way of expressing it:

  1. Forget about trying to make the person feel better. Nothing you say will do that. Acknowledge their feelings and what they’re going through. Tell them you’re sorry for their loss. Try not to say you know what they are going through. Even if you’ve lost someone too, grief affects everyone differently.
  2. Talk about the person who has died, celebrate the things he/she accomplished, the way he/she treated people, the work he/she did, etc. If the person passed from a long illness, avoid talking about how he/she fought hard.
  3. Give the grieving person permission to feel the way they feel by telling them it’s OK to cry, to talk about their feelings, to talk about the person they lost. Tell them you’re here to listen.
  4. Ask the person to tell you about a fond memory or what they loved most about the person who died. This is particularly important as time passes and everyone moves on with their lives. Those closest to the person who died are still grieving long after the funeral. Remind them that it’s OK to keep talking about the person and ask them to share favorite memories.
  5. Take the initiative to keep in touch. Avoid saying things like, “Call if you need anything.” We’ve all heard that before and know that we don’t do it. Instead, say, “I’ll stop by with coffee next Monday.” Or “Let’s go to lunch on Friday.”
  6. Keep your advice to yourself. Avoid making suggestions on how the grieving person should be feeling or acting. Grieving is very personal, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
  7. If you still don’t know what to say, don’t say anything. Instead, offer a hug, a squeeze of the hand or some other nonverbal way to show you care, such as offering to run errands, pick up groceries, do laundry or help out in some other way.


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