10 Ways to Help Someone Who’s Grieving

If you’re joining me here today from my Proverbs 31 Ministries Devotion Just Be with Me: How to Respond to Grief, welcome! I’m glad we’re here together. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, just click here for the devotion.

After I wrote this devotion, I reached out to some of my friends, asking them, What has brought you the most comfort when you’re grieving? If you’d like to read their responses, keep going! If you feel short on time, you can jump to the free resource 10 Ways to Help Someone Who is Grieving by clicking here.

I had no idea when I wrote this devotion or reached out to my friends, that I would have my niece pass away just a few weeks later. One of my friends listed below has had her mother pass away this week. We’ve witnessed just how much we need help when it comes to processing our grief. God was kind to nudge me in this direction; to help us right when we need it most.

Grief comes at us from all directions in all seasons of life. We need comfort when we suffer from disappointment. We need a deeper comfort when someone we dearly love dies. Grief comes suddenly and is a shock and other times we expect it coming. It is a part of living this life God has blessed us with. So how can we best help those we love, and communicate what we need, when we are grieving?

We Each Need Something Different

One thing I have noticed in talking with my friends is that the type of comfort they desire resembles both their love languages and their personality types. I’ve found the same to be true of myself. Some want to be held; others not so much. One friend wants to share all of her story; another desires simple tears and presence alone. My love language is acts of service, so I naturally feel loved when others offer their help.

Let’s look at what they shared:

What We Need When We’re Grieving:

  • Presence: Amy shared that when she is hurting, she wants a friend near, making the time and space to be with her. Renee said companionship brings comfort; a walk, lunch, or coffee.
  • Act: Counselor Michelle Nietert gives good advice: Instead of asking what can I do to help, choose three acts of service they can choose from. For example, could I take the kids one night this weekend, do a grocery run for you, or take the kids to school so you can stay in your pajamas one morning? If it’s an older person, you might give them choices like coming over for an evening, mowing the lawn, going with them to a doctor’s visit, or visiting with them while they sort through some difficult items.

Alicia agreed on practical help such as bringing dinner. She added: “Just do it, without needing permission or causing the person to have to navigate it. See something and do it. Offer; don’t ask. Simply be direct: “What time can I bring dinner?” This way the person doesn’t have to humble themselves. “I’m at the grocery store, what can I get you?” Bring a cup of coffee. These all speak love.

Grief depletes your energy. Small things like creating a grocery list zaps you. When people step in and do the ordinary things that suddenly feel like too much, it is so helpful.”

  • Acknowledge: Suzie encourages us, that no matter how uncomfortable we feel, acknowledge our loss. Love puts others’ comfort before our own. Alicia agreed: “Acknowledge the pain. Words such as: “That is hard. That hurts” are restorative. Naming the pain can help the person feel seen and understood on days that could be especially hard like holidays or “firsts”.”

After my father died (Lynn), I wanted to talk about him. When people didn’t ask, it made me feel like he was forgotten…and so was my ongoing pain. Loretta says: “Show genuine interest and give people the opportunity and freedom to talk about the person or thing they’re grieving instead of avoiding the subject.”

  • Purposeful Present: When Suzie’s brother passed away, she received a very intentional gift from her friends. This gift leaned into the grief with her and brought her healing and comfort. This purposeful present said, “I know this person mattered to you and you matter to me.” Loretta expanded on the present idea: “Take time to find out something that is meaningful that others may not take time to research, and gift it to the individual.  This may or may not be something in physical form. It could be a meaningful story or memory.”
  • Don’t Identify: For me (Lynn), I don’t find it helpful when others try to identify with me as one who is also hurting by the pain. Sometimes I can feel like someone is trying to “one-up me”. “My story is harder than yours.” I heard this from others too. The one hurting has enough pain to bear. When we are speaking with the one grieving, hearing your story of similar pain in your life or even if the situation caused them pain as well as you, can cause the hurting person to have to bear the pain of the person sharing and their own pain as well. They are the one grieving, not the one in a position to bring comfort.

Amy added something similar: “Don’t make your response about yourself. Be sure you have grieved as you need to so that you can be a person who gives comfort, not a person who needs comfort. Process your grief with someone other than the one who also needs comfort.”

Or, as one of my wise children told me, “You may need counseling yourself.” It was true!

Loretta shared: “Allow someone to share their stories and experience without inserting your own unless you’re asked to.” If you’re like me, I think we think when we tell our stories, we are saying “Me too.” Maybe instead, we should just say, “Me too.” That may be enough.

  • Remember: Renee said she loves cards; at the time of loss, in months that follow, a year anniversary of the loss, or a holiday without that loved one. She enjoys texts too. Simple ones that say: Just thinking about you, praying for you. Keep in mind that grief lasts long after others have moved on.

Loretta adds: “Send a card, note, or brief message to acknowledge someone after the dust has settled, the details have been addressed, and others are back into their routines.”

I have noticed that card sending seems to be going by the wayside. From my conversations with my friends, I think we need to hang on to this love giving tradition.

  • Physical Touch: A real hug; one that lets the person exhale and cry is what Sheila said she needs. I recently re-read Tuesdays with Morrie. Touch, in even the simplest form, gave Morrie, who was dying of ALS, great comfort.
  • No Timeline: Several of my friends shared the need they had to not be rushed. “When people try to fix my grief, it makes me feel like I have to hurry up. Yes, there is a time when you do need to move forward. Let that evolve, and don’t push a person to get there.” shares Julie. It can be hurtful when people make you feel there is an acceptable timeline for grieving.
  • Safe Place: We’ve gotten used to people sharing so much on social media. Yet not everything needs to be, or should be, shared there. Alicia says she appreciates a friend who has the type of listening ear where she doesn’t have to “clean it up” before she speaks. It takes a lot of energy to pretend when you’re hurting. Suzie said she needed someone who would listen all the way to the end; not poised with comfort or answers. “Listen until they quit talking. A safe person doesn’t come back with pithy answers, especially tied to faith. Be that safe person; one willing to sit in the tension of grief with them.”
  • Bring a Break: My friend Michelle suggests: “Perhaps they need time and space to not talk about the loss. When my sister-in-law was fighting cancer, my friends took me out for an evening. We had fun and did not talk about the difficult season we were in.

I could keep writing much more, but this is enough to take in already! I hope you have found the wisdom of my friends as helpful as I have. This advice has all been hard-earned through their pain and suffering.

We have all either been through grief, are experiencing grief now or a loss is around the corner. Save this post, or even print it out, for when the time comes and you will again need to remember the ways to help someone who is grieving.



  1. There is also a program called “Griefshare” that is in several churches that meet once a week or so, and when the person is ready they can attend and read the blogs and books on all the other days! Thete is a workbook for “Griefshare” that helps you understand some things about grief, it was very helpfull for me! And I still read the other grief books also!

    1. I highly recommend GriefShare.

    2. Lynn Cowell says:

      Thank you so much for sharing about Griefshare, Jeanette. Such a wonderful resource!

  2. Jill Baucom says:

    Thank you sooo much for this Lynn! You are spot on, especially in realizing the need! A couple weeks ago marked one year since my husband suffered a horrible, unexpected death. I was gutted.
    While I know it has helped others (including my mom after dad passed away), GriefShare Cannot be the only the answer for how to help the grieving in this country! To me it feels like everybody brushes their grieving friend or family off with a “whew, now They can deal with/fix her now”. And even to the extent it can be extremely valuable – that’s not until minimum 6mos, most cases, much more like 9 months to a year after the loss is suffered that it is the best time to begin the group.
    That leaves a whole lot of time beforehand when loved ones need to be PRESENT.
    You bring up a great point we don’t all have the same needs or necessarily have them all at the same time, on any particular day, but there are certain constants that you mention.
    As you may gather, GriefShare was not a good experience for me, atleast not 9 mos after my husband passed or either of the 2 groups I tried. Maybe I’ll try again in another year, but that will be two years after my husband has passed away.
    I think part of the issue is that participating in the group griefSHARE is inherently contrary to a couple of the things you state above and I agree 100% : “Allow someone to share their stories and experience without inserting your own” , “ Don’t Identify “.
    And as a 52-year-old widow with no children suddenly living at home alone or things I desperately needed just the presence of other people around me as much as possible. Sometimes just to sit in silence and we’re on a puzzle other times to listen no matter how long I wanted to talk about how much I loved Bob was. No Clocks, watches, time limits or timelines.
    Increasingly, I find myself longing for a huge hug. Several times in the past month I’ve called out “Abba, Father God please Wrap your loving warm arms around me- I need a hug.”
    It is my hope to write a short book and ultimately start an organization (in memory of my late Husband) That will expand upon exactly what you’ve done here: Teach people how to genuinely help and be there for their loved ones who our grieving and hopefully ensure no one grieving their spouse, ever feel is completely alone and abandoned as I did. Despite supposedly having lots of friends and family.
    Thank you for these words, which I hope will help many have encouraged me today!

    1. Lynn Cowell says:

      Oh Jill…my heart breaks as I read your words. To have loved with all your heart and to have that love no longer with you. I am truly sorry. I am glad these words were comforting to you. I gathered them last fall as I was facing (and am still facing) a different kind of grieving, but very unexpected as well. Then, as God would do, the time when this devotion released was when my 40 year old niece passed away.

      One organization that does a FANTASTIC job is Wisdom of the Wounded of teaching how to help those who are hurting. You can find them here: https://wisdomofthewounded.com.

      Thank you for sharing, Jill. Abba, show Jill Your care in tender, personal ways. Send those who are near, physically near, with hugs and listening ears. And help us, Lord, to be that for others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

  3. Cathy Haynes says:

    My son passed away unexpectedly, at the age of 47, in Feb. My heart is shattered. I so needed to see this today. I know where he is and I pray for peace. I sat at the hospital with him all night and talked to him even though ,I don’t think, he could hear me anymore. Having to turn off the ventilator the next morning was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. My faith and my Savior got me through those days. I am having such a hard time dealing with the pain of my child being gone before me. The “no time line” speaks to me as I am experiencing the rushed feeling. I know I will need to move on but right now it’s too raw. What you have shared from others is so true. Thank you…♡

    1. Cathy – Tears fall as I read your words. Heartache so deep…only someone who has had a child pass, only Father Himself, could comprehend such pain.

      When Jesus left the earth, He said He was sending the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. What a gift! The One who was there, when we were formed, is in us to comfort us, help us, in a way that only the One who created us can.

      Holy Spirit, draw so near to my sister today, that she knows, with the senses you gave her, that you are near. Soften her painful memories and grief. Full her heart with hope again. Draw her to rest her weary head against your warm heart, where you hold her close. Thank you for being near to us, our suffering Savior. You know heartache and you comfort us in our’s. Amen

      2 Cor. 1:3 “ Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,”

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