May 15, 2024

wellness wednesday: grief support

Sometimes, the best thing you can say is simply, I’m here for you.

Supporting someone through grief can be challenging, especially when it comes to finding the right words to offer for comfort. While well-intentioned, certain phrases or remarks can unintentionally add to their pain. Let’s examine six tips that will help you navigate the difficult terrain of pain and loss as you provide grief support.

Acknowledge their pain

Far too often, people jump to try to fix what is causing pain. But it is important to first acknowledge the person’s loss and pain and express your sympathy. Simple phrases like, “I’m so sorry for your loss” Or “I can’t imagine what you’re going through,” convey empathy and understanding without minimizing their feelings. Acknowledgment is a solid foundation for grief support that you can build on with the next tip.

Offer your presence

Sometimes the most meaningful support is just being there for someone. Let them know you’re available to listen or provide companionship whenever they need it. Practical support, such as a home cooked meal or running an errand for the person grieving, is another great way to demonstrate your support. Remember: don’t push. Allow the person who is grieving to take the lead and let you know what they need.

Use Active Listening

This is a great tip for grief support, but a good habit to build for countless scenarios. Active listening gives an individual space to share how they feel without judgement or interruption. A great tip to help with active listening is to repeat back to them what you hear them say to make sure that you are understanding them correctly. This will also ensure you are listening to what they say, instead of thinking about your response.

Avoid Comparisons

It’s human nature to want to relate to others. But in a grief support situation, avoid comparing their loss to your own experiences or to others. Each person’s grief is unique, and comparisons can minimize their pain. Instead, focus on validating their emotions and offering support specific to their needs.

Don’t offer Unsolicited Advice

Remember that first tip? We are bringing it back around. Resist the urge to offer advice or solutions to “fix” their grief. Grieving individuals need validation and understanding more than advice. Saying, “I’m here to support you in any way you need,” leaves the door open for them to seek guidance or advice — on their own terms.

Validate their feelings

Unfortunately, people wrestling with grief often feel they need to be strong and move past their feelings. You can help create a safe space by validating their feelings. Acknowledge the complexity of grief and feel free to say things like, “It’s ok to feel angry, sad, or confused.” Let them know it’s normal to experience a range of feelings during this time.

Remember, grief support can be challenging. Individuals who are suffering will test your empathy, sensitivity and willingness to listen. But, with a little practice on these tips, you can start to provide meaningful support during the healing process. And don’t worry, simply being there for a loved one is the most important step. Sometimes, the best thing you can say is simply, “I’m here for you”.

Andrea Hickle, LCSW

Authored By

Andrea Hickle, LCSW

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

As part of Kinetiq Health, Andrea provides mental health case management services to employees in a workplace setting. She consults with a multi-disciplinary wellness team to deliver comprehensive mental health care, including assessments, crisis intervention, treatment planning and individual/group therapy.

Andrea received her bachelor’s in social work from Ball State and her master’s in social work from IUPUI. She has worked in several areas of social work including school social work, mental health and macro practice. For the past several years, she has worked at Riley Children’s Hospital with psychiatry.


Meet Andrea