How to Support the Grieving

Death, injury, divorce, destruction are among a long idea list of tragedies to catapult grief. Standing as a supporter is a test of fortitude and love. When grief strikes, helpless and uncomfortable are only the beginning of the onslaught of feelings a viewer will experience. When those feelings become overwhelming then force is initiated to make the experience go away. These tactics can soon put you on the outside creating a brand new hurt requiring a brand new healing. This can be simmered through a few realizations and recognitions.


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    Know the Grieving Process: There are five stages to grief: [1] denial: this isn't happening; anger: usually directed at the person who left; bargaining: God, if I do X, will you make the pain go away; depression: pulling away from friends, activities, and not feeling motivated to do anything; and acceptance: okay, it happened now what. While others have adjusted to add more or less or recent research shares other micro levels, these stages remain as a sturdy guide.
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    Realize your own feelings in their grieving process: watching someone grieve often initiates your grieving process (they are suffering a loss, and because of it, you are suffering as well). Knowing and acknowledging this will position you as a true support to the grieving.
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    Know healing happens "all over the board". Healing is not where one stage starts and stops before another begins. Healing will ebb and flow. As a supporter, allow it to happen. One woman listened to her adult children talk about their father years after he had passed away. The woman listened to her children speak of her husband as if he was a saint. She waited and finally commented, "Yes, he was good but remember I knew him best and he had flaws".
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    Be willing to stand/sit still. To allow healing, it often requires a supporter to be still. This goes completely against what the heart wants to do in "helping the healing", but it's often the best medicine. Be still in judgment, still in opinion, and be still in time.
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    Be willing to remember. Just because it's not being said doesn't mean it's been forgotten. To be a support to the grieving, be willing to remember. One supporting woman called her grieving friend each year on the date her first husband died and on the date he was buried. They talked gently but openly. After time the supportive woman called and find out it had taken her grieving friend nearly all day before she remembered "the date". The memories were still there, but their wasn't a disability surrounding the date anymore.


  • Be open to:
    • looking at pictures
    • sending cards
    • checking in on the grieving
    • talking openly about experiences
    • remembering the person or situation on the date it happened
    • having a favorite meal of the lost loved one and saying it
    • making keepsakes
    • admitting you miss the person


  • Be willing to seek the advice of professional health providers.

Sources and Citations

  1. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a pioneer in near-death studies

Article Info

Categories: Creating Life Balance | Death Funerals and Bereavement