Supporting Someone Who is Grieving

It is uncomfortable for us to be around someone that has just experienced the death of a loved one. What do you say? Do you say anything about the death or the loss? Do you act like nothing happened? What if you make it worse? What if he starts crying? What if I start crying?

Mindful Transitions’s last Mindful Minute (our monthly e-newsletter) offered tips for grieving the loss of a spouse. Our follow-up to that newsletter is a list of tips for supporting a grieving friend, co-worker or loved one.


  • Acknowledge your discomfort and let it be—witnessing someone’s pain is hard.
  • Be patient, empathetic, and understanding.
  • Be an active listener.
  • Allow silence; listen without giving advice.
  • Know that nothing with “fix It.”
  • Accept the tears, rages, and silences as normal and healthy.
  • Acknowledge birthdays, death dates, anniversaries, etc.
  • Accept that you cannot make them feel better.


  • Avoid talking about the loss or death.
  • Force the grieving person to talk about the death or loss.
  • Claim to fully understand by saying, “I know exactly how you feel.”
  • Minimize the loss by saying, “Think of how much worse it could have been,” or, “At least…”
  • Offer cliche sayings such as “She’s in a better place now.”
  • Try to fill the empty space with chatter.
  • Let your sense of discomfort and helplessness keep you from reaching out.

Talking to a friend, neighbor, co-worker or family member after a death can be uncomfortable and intimidating. Nothing is gained, though, by avoiding them or the topic. Remember, by reaching out and letting the person know you care and can be there through the discomfort along side them, you ARE doing something to help.

Please See Me Through My Tears
by Kelly Osmont  

You asked, "How am I doing?"  
As I told you, tears came to my eyes...  
    and you looked away and quickly began to talk again.  
All the attention you had given me drained away.  

"How am I doing?"...I do better when people listen,  
     though I may shed a tear or two.  
This pain is indescribable.  

If you've never known it you cannot fully understand.  
     Yet I need you.  
          When you look away,  
                 When I'm ignored,  
                      I am again alone with it  
Your attention means more than you can ever know.  

Really, tears are not a bad sign, you know!  
      They're nature's way of helping me to heal...  
      They relieve some of the stress of sadness.  

I know you fear that asking how I'm doing brings me sadness  
       ...but you're wrong.  

The memory of my loved one's death will always be with me,  
    Only a thought away.  

My tears make my pain more visible to you, but you did not  
     give me the was already there.  

When I cry, could it be that you feel helpless, not knowing  
       what to do?  
You are not helpless,  
And you don't need to do a thing but be there.  

When I feel your permission to allow my tears to flow,  
       you've helped me  
You need not speak.  Your silence as I cry is all I need.  
      Be not fear.  

Listening with your heart to "how I am doing"  
     relieves the pain,  
     for when the tears can freely come and go, I feel lighter.  

Talking to you releases what I've been wanting to say aloud,  
      clearing space  
            for a touch of joy in my life.  

I'll cry for a  minute or two...  
      and then I'll wipe my eyes,  
           and sometimes you'll even find I'm laughing later.  

When I hold back the tears, my throat grows tight,  
       my chest aches, my stomach knots...  
           because I'm trying to protect you from my tears.  

Then we both, because my pain is held inside,  
     a shield against our closeness...and you,  
         because suddenly we're distant. 

So please, take my hand and see me through my tears...  
         then we can be close again.