5 Ways to Help a Friend or Family Member Grieve

Dealing with death is a difficult thing. If we are experiencing the pain, it becomes incredibly obvious to us who among our friends and family are making us feel better versus who is making us feel worse. The reality, however, is that even those who make us feel worse actually WANT to make us feel better. They are not as attuned to what should and shouldn’t be done. They may not know the proper grieving etiquette.

sad person sitting

Just like at a wedding or a party or a business meeting, there is an etiquette to funerals, grieving, and all end-of-life affairs. Anyone interested in helping those they care about through difficult times will take the time to educate themselves on the dos and don’ts of grieving. Besides educating yourself by reading articles like these, you can also look into innovative end-of-life planning companies like Lantern, which can help guide you and your loved ones through some of the most difficult and challenging times.

Don’t Be Overly Positive

When you see someone you care about in pain, you reflexively want to care for them and alleviate their suffering in any way possible. As adults, though, we realize that there is a time and place for feeling pain. If you lose a loved one – someone close to you – there is nothing wrong with allowing yourself to feel the pain of their loss. Rather than distracting yourself with pleasures or insisting that others distract themselves with pleasures, there is a time and a place to grieve and or mourn.

Sometimes it is harder and far less comfortable to allow negative emotions like sadness to wash over yourself or others. Still, anyone who does not allow this to happen is simply bottling up their emotions, and that means they will come out in more harmful ways at some point down the road. Allow the grieving to be sad. Allow them time to mourn. Usually, just by being there and being supportive, you will help them to eventually lift themselves back up and return to some sense of new-normal. 

Don’t “Tag” On Social Media

One somewhat recent trend is people tagging the deceased and the grieving on social media. Generally speaking, this is a bad idea. If you want to be there for someone and be supportive send them, a private message, text, call or show up to see them in-person. Posting on social media is usually a way to spotlight yourself rather than as a way to help those in mourning. 

Don’t Diminish Your Friend Or Family Member’s Feelings

Feelings surrounding a death can often appear illogical. Sometimes we lose those very close to us and have little to no public displays of sadness. Sometimes those public displays are delayed, and sometimes there are people who, perhaps, we were estranged from or not perceptibly “that close with” who, when they pass away, leave us in absolute shambles. If you are trying to help someone through a difficult time, regardless of how you feel about the situation personally, do not diminish those in grieving. We can never know others’ internal lives, and just because you feel someone should (or shouldn’t) be reacting in a certain way does not mean you’re right. Different people react differently to different things, and often there is no objective right and wrong in the grieving – there is only your process and their process. 


When you are helping a friend or family member grieve, remember that empathy is the key. Try not to make the situation about yourself, avoid tagging them on social media, do not diminish their feelings, and, perhaps most importantly, do not be overly positive. Grieving is a healthy process that everyone in mourning should be allowed to experience fully. 

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