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How to Help Someone in a Time of Loss – Adam’s Place

Some people know instinctively how to help a grieving person. But for most of us, dealing with someone else's grief isa little more uncomfortable. We might be at a loss for words. We might be uncertain about what to do. We might not know how to respond to the raw emotions a grieving person exudes. Our greatest temptation might be to avoid the person or ignore the situation. But that is the worst thing we can do.

Understanding Grief

The word “bereavement” means “to be torn apart.” It describes the deep emotional wound caused by the death of a loved one. Grief is not an illness or a disease. It is a normal human reaction to the painful void that death creates. Grief is the process by which healing takes place.

Each person experiences grief differently, but most people find themselves struggling through areas such as:

  • Accepting the reality of the death
  • Feeling the pain of loss
  • Adjusting to life without the person
  • Repositioning the person as a memory
  • Finding new meaning in life

Reaching Out

There is no magic formula for dealing with a grieving person. The best way to reach out to someone will depend on your relationship with that person and where he or she is in the grieving process. And if you don’t have a close relationship with the person grieving, you still might be the first person they have seen since the news of their loss.

If the death just occurred, let the person know that you are saddened to hear the news. Expressions of genuine sympathy- even from acquaintances-offers the assurance that someone else cares. You will know instantly whether the grieving person wants to share the details of what happened.


Most people in the early stages of grief struggle with shock and disbelief. Telling the story of what happened allows them to come to grips with the reality of the death. You can help by listening. A good listener doesn’t interrupt or try to change the way the person is feeling. A good listener just listens.

When grieving people begin to share their story, they sometimes get emotional. Assure the person that it’s okay to cry or to express anger or frustration.

Don’t say...

I know how you feel… You’ve got to be strong… It’s a blessing in disguise…

Instead, say…

I can’t imagine how painful this must be…It’s okay to cry… What I’m hearing you say is… Anytime you want to talk...

Helping Children Grieve

Children grieve in different ways. Some will withdraw into themselves. Others will act out. Here are some suggestions for dealing with grieving kids of all ages:

  • Let them know that you are willing to listen
  • Answer questions honestly
  • Admit when you don’t know the answer
  • Assure children that the death was not their fault
  • Allow them to cry or express angry emotions
  • Help them create a memorial

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