A tactful guide on how to help a grieving friend in need

I am at an age now where colleagues and family have died...

David Rigby
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I am at an age now where colleagues and family have died. I have been to funerals and arranged them. But I still find it difficult to approach grieving people. Every grieving person is different, some are more emotional, some more logical. Some like to share emotions some want to keep their feelings in check. Here are a few thinks to consider.

Getting over the grief


Grieving is not an illness. In time, the pain will diminish but will never go away. There could be an empty chair, there may be photos. Grieving is not about forgetting the person (or animal) but finding a new way to incorporate the memories in everyday life.

Telling people that they are strong

They may or not be, but telling them they are when they feel they are not does not help, in my opinion. I feel it just makes them feel more inadequate.

Telling them to call if they need help

It may be they don’t know what they need help on. Even if they do, do they know you are able to help them? They won’t call you. Just be there, be proactive.

Telling them to call you if they just need to talk.

If you need to talk what do you do? Maybe you have a best friend you can call or visit? Most people don’t. Grievers are in no position to decide to call anyone. They don’t want to be trouble. You might be busy and don’t want to listen to their grief. Just go see them, take them cake, take them out. Take them out with you. Take their kids out to give them space.

Telling them about your problems

Don’t complain about your family problems as this could be insensitive.

Telling them what to do

Just don’t. Use your coaching skills to help them decide what to do. But they are not you and your solution is unlikely to be theirs.

Mentioning the name of the deceased

The tears may just be waiting for a way out. Often the griever needs to talk about the deceased. Talking to you is better than talking to themselves. Share memories together and bring up the topic. They may be frightened to do so.

Avoiding contact

People avoid contacting the griever for fear that they don’t know what to say or don’t feel they can cope with any reaction. Just being there, telling them you love them and holding their hand can be enough. So just do it as they may feel isolated. They may want to be alone but not all the time. If you don’t know what to say, just go over, give them a hug or touch their arm and gently say “I’m sorry.” You can even say “I just don’t know what to say, but I care, and want you to know that.”

Invite them out

Ask them to join you to the shops or cinema or family gathering. They may refuse several times, but eventually they might join.

Social media

Social media can be helpful in informing people of illnesses and deaths. Several Facebook friends have died. Odd postings can alert you. The last posting from my friend Brian was “just going to hospital for some tests.” Then others posted progress and demise, news of funerals and historic photos. Posting condolences can help sharing between the extended community of friends.

In Dubai

Where I live in Dubai you are likely to have to deal with the death of loved ones whose family is overseas. Spouses will need extra support as their families could be far away. Remember that different nationalities and religions have different traditions but in general it’s better to reach out.

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