Supporting someone through grief

It can be hard to support someone who is grieving. 

It can be hard to know what to say to someone when they are grieving. You don’t want to upset the person but you may struggle to find the right words to express what you want to say. 

There are things you can do to support someone through grief – let them know you are there if and when they need you.

Letting the person know you are there

Although it can be difficult to find the words, reach out and let the person know that you are thinking about them and that you’re there should they need anything.

Think about what,if any, practical help you can provide. Could you help with childcare, administrative arrangements or helping out in the home? Would this help be appreciated by the person who is grieving? They may struggle to ask for help, but may gladly accept if it is offered.

Giving the person space and time

People don’t always feel up to meeting and talking with others when they are grieving. Let the person know you don’t expect a response to any messages or calls. Maybe ask the person what they need from you – see if there is anything practical you can do to help.


A person who is grieving will often appreciate an opportunity to talk about their loss and how they are feeling. Allow them the space to talk and listen without feeling the need to provide solutions to how they are feeling.

Be sensitive to the person’s loss – they may not want to answer questions about their loss or how they are coping. They may be happier talking about positive memories and happy recollections.

Finding the words

Some of us struggle to know what to say to someone who is grieving. You may be worried that you’ll say the wrong thing or think you have to offer solutions to the person’s grief.

Sue Ryder’s Grief Kind campaign can help if you’re unsure how to help someone who is grieving. The charity provides

  • An email service offering expert advice on supporting someone who is grieving
  • Video discussions with bereavement counsellors offering advice on helping someone through grief
  • A free pack of sympathy cards which you can send to your friend or family member at different stages while they are grieving to show you are thinking of them

Supporting someone through tragedy

All death brings pain. But some deaths are particularly tragic and the people left behind will struggle more than usually to move through the grieving process.

When someone dies unexpectedly or tragically you should be extra sensitive to the loss and pain that goes hand in hand with this types of loss. The person you are supporting may be triggered by particular sounds, situations and conversations.

Encouraging someone to get support

If it seems as though the person you are supporting needs extra help, encourage them to get this. Help them to research and understand the resources and support that can help someone who is grieving.