10 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend

2020, am I right? Like I don't need to say much more for us all to know how tough this year has been on all of us, the world, collectively, as a whole. It's been a wild ride and we've all been going through it together. But it seems that through 2020 and COVID, some people have had even MORE piled on top of their hard than others. And it can be hard to know how to help others when we're all having a hard time, when finances may be tight and when we're all scrambling to make things work.

But if you ask me, this is the best time for us to get creative in the ways we help others. My number one recommendation for helping someone is to use your strengths and talents. Don't try reinventing the wheel or doing things you don't feel good at; do things you KNOW you're good at that you know can help.

Let me give you an example. I had a friend whose baby passed away earlier this year. I wasn't sure how I could help her because I've never experienced that and didn't want to do the wrong thing. (Hint: the only wrong thing is to do nothing. Something is ALWAYS better than nothing) But one day as I was thinking about how I could help or something I could do, she posted about how they had begun making graveside preparations. I sent her a quick text saying that I would be more than happy and willing to take photos of the graveside for her. Because we're in times of COVID, I also told her that I would wear a mask and rent a lens that would allow me to stay multiple feet away and follow social distancing protocols. I told her that she could say no or not even respond if she didn't want me to.

She ended up allowing me to document the day for her. I cried through the entire graveside, but it was a really simple way for me to be there for and support my friend and provide a service that they might not have thought about.

The reason I offered photography was because that was a skill that I knew I was good at. I knew I could provide images for them to be able to remember the day that weren't just phone photos.

When a friend is grieving and you're not sure how to support, just remember The Three S's: Service, Skill and SOMETHING [is better than nothing].

I've taken a few minutes to think of a few ways to help a grieving friend and come up with 10 unique ideas for you to use next time:

  1. Photography - if appropriate, offer to photograph an important event for them
  2. Bring throwaway dinnerware - when you're going through something hard, the LAST thing you want to do is dishes, so providing paper plates, plastic silverware and cups can be very helpful
  3. Give them gift cards to restaurants- gift cards can be more beneficial than a home cooked meal because they can use them when they feel they need them
  4. Shovel their driveway and walkway during the winter/Mow their grass during the spring/summer
  5. Pay for their fuel - a lot of hard trials include a lot of travel to appointments and gas can be an expense that a lot of us don't think about
  6. Send them $5 on Venmo to get a treat on a day they need a small pick-me-up
  7. If you bring dinner, bring it in containers that don’t need to be returned or cleaned & bonus points if you leave it on the doorstep in something that will keep it warm/cool.
  8. Send them a text or card letting them know you care about them
  9. Gift them a copy of the Grief Journey Journal from Good Grief Journals with a note telling them you care about their healing process and that you see them.
  10. Invite them out. Out of their house, out for lunch, out to a movie, just out. Give them an opportunity for a change of pace and a change of scenery.

Some of my favorite ways to offer these services include, just showing up and doing the thing. Reaching out and telling them I am available and willing to help. Asking if I can drop something by. 

Oftentimes, when people are in the middle of their grief, responding to all of the “let me know what I can do” messages can get so overwhelming. Especially when you DON’T KNOW what someone else can do for you or what needs to be done. Having someone just simply offer and follow through can be so helpful!

10 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend | Good Grief Journals

Some tips for helping your grieving friend:

  1. Make it easy for them to accept or decline. Tell them it is okay to decline, but make it easy to say yes. Or tell them the details of what you’re planning and how it will make their experience easier.
  2. Set a time and then be there when you say you will be (or keep them updated if you’re running late) Say something like, “I’ll be coming by at 5:00 to drop off ____. I’ll leave it by the door in a bag that will keep it warm.” (pro tip: you can buy hot/cold bags at the dollar store)
  3. If you’re not invited in, don’t stay. If they’re not keeping the conversation going, let it end. Sometimes just dropping something off or providing your service and leaving is the best thing to do. 
  4. Just do the thing. I PROMISE it gets easier and easier every time you reach out.

Finding a way to help a grieving friend can be hard. It can often feel like you’re overstepping your bounds or “doing the wrong thing” but I promise that as you continue to reach out and continue to try to be the friend that you need when you’re having a hard time, it’ll get easier. And I promise, your efforts do not go unnoticed and they are so needed. Join our email list to get more tips and ideas for how you can help a grieving friend.

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