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What to Say to a Grieving Friend (when you don’t know what to say)

Anita Chauhan
Anita Chauhan
December 30th 2021 - 4 minute read
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Here are some ways you can be supportive or present for those in your life who are in the midst of their grieving process or have just experienced a loss.

Anita Chauhan

Loss is tough. No matter who you are or what you have experienced, everyone grieves differently. Truly, there is rarely anything that you can say to ease the pain of loss, especially if someone you love is experiencing grief. In this blog, we’ll discuss ways that you can be supportive or present for those in your life who are in the midst of their grieving process or have just experienced a loss. If you need a little help, we’ve also provided some easy-to-use templates on how to reach out to a loved one or an acquaintance when they have experienced a loss.

Being there means a lot.

If you have someone in your life that is struggling or has just experienced a loss, you can show support, compassion and empathy by simply being there. Presence can account for a lot, and being a stable force in someone’s life as they move through their process is key.

Acts of service can provide untold support.

If you’re looking to do more than just being present for a friend or someone you love, consider giving them an act of service. This includes well-known and culturally appropriate actions including:

  • Bringing food over to their house
  • Sending flowers
  • Making memorial donations in the deceased’s name
  • Helping them take care of small tasks that they need around the house or running errands

Something to note is that if you’re looking to provide support in the form of help, try to be as specific as possible. For example, asking your friend or loved one “can I help pick up or drop off people from the airport?” or "would you like me to
pick up Robin after practice?“

Being this specific is far better than a simple, throwaway statement like, "let me know if I can help."

Depending on your relationship with them, you can also do something more intimate, including:

  • Sharing any memories of the deceased
  • Lessons you learned from the deceased and how they impacted you and your life

While you may be sharing both of the above at the viewing or the funeral, it is also a nice gesture to send these thoughts in a condolence card or a note. This will be cherished by your loved one and a reminder of your support.

Things to Avoid Saying

When someone is grieving, it’s best to avoid invalidating or minimizing their loss. An example of this can be saying things like “they’re in a better place now,” “you’re young, you can always get remarried.” or  “think of the children that are still alive and in your life.” or even things like “She had a very long life,” and “at least he did not suffer.”

Saying things like this, while may be an innocent attempt on your part to provide support, can come across as insensitive. This is because statements like that do not acknowledge the loss and deep grief that the person may be experiencing.  

Sometimes the simplest and most impactful thing you can do is say that you are sorry for their loss. Each experience of grief and loss is unique and special to the person who is experiencing it. Take time to consider the situation and respond appropriately with the tips we have provided above. It’s a tough situation to navigate, but genuine care and empathy always shines through.

Templates for reaching out to a grieving friend or acquaintance

Here are some easy templates for emailing or writing a handwritten now to a grieving loved one.

Dear [Name of loved one],

I’m so sorry to hear about [name of deceased person]. One of my favourite memories of [name] is: (a meaningful memory that is a part of their legacy or a shared history between you and them, this is not the place for an inappropriate story).

With love,
[Your Name]


Dear [name of griever],

I am very sorry to hear about the loss of [person]. You have my deepest sympathy/condolences (choose one) during this difficult time.

Sending all my love and thoughts to you and your family.

[Your Name]

Need more help? We're here for you. Check out our free end-of-life planning checklist ebook for some more direction on how to prepare. Download it here.

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