4 Ways to Support Someone Struggling with Grief

Grief is a complex and deeply personal experience that can be hard to process. It's not unusual for people to be taken aback by the depth of their grief or even attempt to suppress it.
By illume Editorial Team
Last updated: Apr 5, 2023
7 Minute Read

While everyone grieves differently, there are certain steps we can take as friends and family members to support those who may be struggling with their grief journey.

By acknowledging their pain, listening without judgement, offering comforting words and encouraging self-care practices, we can help create an environment where our loved ones feel supported in expressing their emotions fully so that healing becomes possible.

Acknowledge the Grief

We often find it difficult to acknowledge someone’s loss. Talking about death can make us uncomfortable, or we worry about saying the wrong thing or upsetting the other person.

However, it’s important to recognise that grief is a normal and natural response to loss. The other person is already living with their sadness, and you are unlikely to say anything that could make things worse.

By acknowledging their situation, you show your support and invite the other person to talk if they want to.

Listen Without Judgment

Truly listening is one of the most important forms of support we can offer to someone who is grieving and is by no means the sole preserve of professional therapists. Here are some tips to help you provide comfort and support by listening well:

  • Allow the other person to be upset, express their emotions, share their experiences, or say nothing. Offer a comforting and non-judgmental space where they can be honest about their loss.
  • Don’t try to “fix” them. This can make them feel like they need to act like everything is okay. Avoid offering solutions unless you are asked for them.
  • Use active listening. This can involve reflecting on the person’s words, asking open-ended questions, and offering empathy and validation.
  • Let them set the pace. People are comfortable with different amounts and formats of contact (e.g. phone calls, texts, in person), so ask them what they need.

Try not to say the right thing or offer safe wisdom. People tend to underestimate the impact of showing up and being present for someone else. Let go of expectations and let them lead the conversation.

Listening with empathy is key when supporting someone through grief; refrain from judgement and provide space for them to express their feelings.

Encourage Self-Care

While everyone’s experience differs, several activities can help someone manage their grief and care for themselves. Suggest some of these activities to the person you’re trying to support. Or you could offer to do some of them together. The Grief Works app shares insightful ways to care for yourself in this challenging time.

  • Exercise is an excellent way for grieving people to reduce stress levels and release endorphins that can help lift their moods.
  • Going for a stroll in the great outdoors or ambling on an outdoor trek can be particularly advantageous, as being encompassed by nature has been demonstrated to soothe our brains and bodies.
  • Yoga is another great option, as its practice helps us focus on the present moment while allowing us to move our bodies gently yet effectively.
  • Journaling can provide a safe space to express one’s emotions without the risk of being judged or criticised, aiding in processing grief and finding clarity on moving forward.
  • Socialising with friends can provide meaningful connection, emotional support and distraction. It’s important to remind your loved one they can take breaks from processing their grief – learning that it’s okay to have fun can help them invite light and joy back into their lives.
  • Professional support from a therapist provides a safe space for someone to process their grief. However, due to taboos around death and grief, many people avoid seeking professional help. If possible, reassure your loved one asking for help shows courage and that you support them in their healing.

Give Practical Support

Grief can be overwhelming, and even simple tasks can feel impossible to a grieving person.

However, some people may find it difficult to ask for what needs, so instead of asking, ‘Let me know if I can help,’ it can be better to take action.

Offer to help with practical tasks such as cooking, cleaning, running errands, or looking after children. Be specific about how to help, and follow through.

Suppose you can commit to longer-term support. People are more likely to offer practical help during the initial crisis, but ongoing support is rare. Moreover, it often lasts longer than we expect.

You could even create a shared rota with other friends and family members to make this commitment realistic and manageable. This can also help the grieving person worry less about being a burden to their friends, as the responsibility is shared across a group.

Providing practical help such as cooking, cleaning, and running errands can greatly relieve a grieving person. You can keep this up beyond the initial crisis, as this is when your help will be appreciated.


Grief is a difficult emotion, but by providing compassion and love during this pain, we can help them heal from within. The anguish of bereavement can be immense, and it is essential to offer to back those not granting themselves the opportunity to experience their sentiments.

By understanding the grieving process, listening without judgement, offering comforting words and encouraging self-care, we can help our friends or family members effectively cope with their grief.

Find Grief Support with Grief Works by Illume

Getting support when grieving is essential. It can be challenging, but you don’t have to worry!

The Grief Works app helps you overcome grief and connect with a community that cares for you. It also offers live monthly calls and the ability to chat with a therapist when needed.

Moreover, it has a built-in journal book for your daily diary and the Grief Works Curriculum to guide you in this wonderful healing journey.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Grief

How long does grief last?

There is no set timeline for grief. Grief often lasts much longer than we would like or expect, and it’s important to avoid putting your expectations on how long healing should take on the other person.

The healing process may also be non-linear, meaning someone may feel better and worse again. Often, a grieving person will receive more support at the beginning of a crisis, so providing ongoing and non-judgemental support can be hugely appreciated.

What is the most painful form of grief?

Losing a beloved individual can be one of the most severe forms of grief. It can be devastating to endure such a powerful sentiment, particularly when it appears that no measure of time or space will ever assuage the agony.

Grief can bring forth a spectrum of intense emotions, such as deep sorrow, loneliness, regret, ire and disorientation; these may persist for prolonged periods after the passing.

Finding support from friends and family members and seeking professional help are important steps in managing this difficult emotion so that healing can begin.

What is the hardest part of grief?

Accepting the permanent departure of a beloved person is often one of the most difficult aspects of grieving. It can be tough to grasp the irrevocability of passing and come to terms with it, particularly when near them.

Grief brings up a range of emotions, such as sadness, anger, guilt, regret and fear, which can sometimes be overwhelming. It’s important to remember that grieving takes time and patience for healing to occur. Seeking support from friends or professionals can make this journey easier and more bearable.

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