When a friend experiences a death in their family, it’s hard to know what to say or do. The best thing you can do for your friend is put yourself in their position. How would you feel after losing a loved one? What things would be helpful for someone to say or do for you?
Everybody handles death differently, so there is no perfect answer. However, your friend will appreciate your support in any way you possibly can. Just knowing they have someone to lean on during this difficult time will help them get through their sad ordeal.
Who Can Be Part Of A Support System After A Loss?
Supporting a grieving friend might feel a little overwhelming at first. You may not be sure how to help your friend or feel unsure of what to say. The most important way to help your friend is to make sure they know they have a support system.
While they may need some alone time, going through grief completely alone is not ideal. It can be easy for people to slip into severe depression if they isolate themselves for too long with their grief.
One way in which you can help your grieving friend is to set up a grief support system. These should be people that you are close to your friend, people whom they trust. This could be family, friends, their children, co-workers, or church members. Supporting a grieving friend takes a team.
Help put a team together for your friend so that they always have someone they can turn to in their time of need.
What Times of the Year Can Be Challenging for Someone Who Has Lost a Loved One?
Holidays and anniversaries of significant events may be extra tough on someone who has recently lost a loved one. During this time, your grieving friend may need extra support. Make sure to keep track of these specific dates so you remember to check in with your friend.
It will mean a lot to them to have someone remember both them and their deceased loved one. Some of these special days of the year could include:
THE ANNIVERSARY OF THEIR LOVED ONE'S DEATH
The day a loved one passes will be forever ingrained in the minds of those they leave behind. Your friend will be very aware of when the anniversary of their loved one’s passing is coming.
The significance of this day will have them reliving their final days with their loved one, which can be very painful. Offer to spend this day with your friend so that they don’t have to be alone. Your company will help them get through their painful memories.
THEIR WEDDING ANNIVERSARY
Losing a significant other is a pain like nothing else. Coping with loss of a spouse becomes even more difficult when you are reminded of the day you were most in love, your wedding.
A wedding anniversary can be a particular difficult day for someone who has just lost their best friend and lover. Make sure to reach out to your grieving friend on this day so they know you are thinking of them.
THE BIRTHDAY OF THE DECEASED
Birthdays hold significance in all our lives. It is one day of the year that is all about us. We celebrate the birthdays of our friends and loved ones with as much excitement as our own. When a loved one has recently passed, their birthday serves as a sad reminder that they are not here to celebrate it.
Make a note on your calendar of your friend’s loved one’s birthday. They will appreciate you offering your support on this special day.
HOLIDAYS - ESPECIALLY THE WINTER HOLIDAYS
Holidays are a time to gather with friends and family and celebrate together. When you’ve recently lost someone, the holidays will feel different. The extra place at the dinner table will be hard to cope with along with the memories of holidays past.
This may be the most difficult time of year for a friend who is dealing with grief. If you want to support your grieving friend during this time, check in with them often and make plans with them during the holidays.
15 Ways To Help A Friend After The Funeral Is Over
Comforting a friend after the funeral for their loved one can seem like an impossible task. You can never replace the person they have lost, nor is there anything you can say or do that will take all their pain away.
What you can do is help make their lives easier in any way possible following the death of their loved one. Below are 15 helpful things to do after funeral for your friends loved one.
1. HELP OUT WITH THE HOUSEHOLD CHORES
Helping others deal with grief can be as simple as offering to help with their household chores. Unfortunately, dishes need to be cleaned, clothes need to be washed, and meals for the kids need to be made, even when you are coping with a death in the family.
Dealing with life’s simple, mundane chores is the last thing your friend will be interested in doing right now. It’s likely they will let these tasks go to the wayside, which may even contribute more to their depression.
If you want to help your friend out during this tough time, offer to come over on a weekly basis and help out. Prepare meals for them and their family, offer to do their laundry, pick up their mail, or do the grocery shopping. Any little thing you can do to help them out will be much appreciated.
2. OFFER TO BABYSIT OR PET SIT
Offer before or after funeral support by volunteering to babysit or pet sit for your friend. There are a lot of important matters to attend to in preparation for a funeral. It can be stressful trying to get these important tasks done on time when you have both kids and pets to take care of.
Offering to babysit or pet sit will relieve your friend of much of the stress in planning for a funeral or dealing with after death legal matters. They will be able to handle these important matters without having to rush home to take care of kids and pets.
Additionally, babysitting or pet sitting may be helpful post funeral as well. Your friend will appreciate some alone time to decompress after such a stressful situation. Being able to take the time to care for themselves without having to take care of other people or pets will be helpful in their grieving process.
3. CHECK IN WITH THEM OFTEN
Set a weekly time to call your friend or stop by their home to make sure they are doing okay. The days following a funeral can be very lonely. It’s very common for grieving people to become isolated and deal with their pain internally. This can sometimes lead to a person spiraling into a deep depression.
While feeling sad is normal after losing a loved one, deep depression can become more devastating and may encourage unhealthy behaviors, like suicidal thoughts. Make a point to check in with your friend and ask them how they are doing.
Set up a time to see them in person so you can make sure they are taking care of themselves. If they show signs of deep depression, such as not taking care of their hygiene, not eating, or not being able to work, suggest that they get professional help. They may need to see a psychiatrist or family counselor that is trained in helping others with grief.
4. ENCOURAGE YOUR FRIEND TO TALK ABOUT YOUR LOVED ONE
Sometimes talking about a deceased loved one can help with the grieving process. Your friend is likely consumed with thoughts of their loved one and sharing what’s on their mind may help them to cope with their loss. Memories are what keep our deceased loved one’s alive in the present, and sharing those memories keeps them alive in everyone’s heart.
Invite your friend out for lunch or dinner and encourage them to say what’s on their mind. Offer up your own fond memory of their loved one or stories they have told you before about them. Encourage your friend to be open and honest with you about how they are feeling and how much they miss their loved one.
Your friend is at a very vulnerable time in their life and any kind of emotional support they can get is helpful. Just knowing that you are there to listen to them will be a comfort.
5. INVITE THEM TO JOIN A GROUP CLASS WITH YOU
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Some people prefer to be around the company of others while some choose to grieve in private. If your friend has chosen to keep to themselves, respect their wishes. However, be mindful that their alone time is not turning into a depressive episode.
At some point, your friend needs to get on with their life and resume their daily activities. If you feel that your friend needs help re-joining the living, offer to sign up for a class or club with them. This could be a hobby club, cooking class, workout group, or even a volunteer group.
Getting them involved with a group will give them an excuse to be social and take their mind off their grief for at least one day a week. It may help them to ease back into their daily routines and enjoy being social again.
6. BUY THEM PERSONALIZED KEEPSAKE JEWELRY
Your friend may appreciate having something special to remember their loved one by. Personalized keepsake jewelry that memorializes their loved one may help them to cope with their loss. Jewelry made from ashes of their loved one is a unique and personable way to keep a part of them close to their heart.
You can gift keepsake jewelry to your friend after their loved one’s funeral or on special anniversaries. For example, photo engraved jewelry with birthstones would be a special way to commemorate their deceased loved one on the anniversary of their birthday. In this way they can look down at their photo engraved pendants and see their loved one’s image to remember them by.
Thumbprint jewelry or cremation rings also offer a personable way to honor their loved one by always keeping them close to them.
7. UNDERSTAND THE GRIEVING PROCESS
Grief can take the form of many different emotions and behaviors. Sadness is the most notable way to grieve, but grief can also look like anger, impulsiveness, anxiety, or isolation. The best thing you can do for your friend right now is to be patient and understand that they are not themselves right now.
If they break plans, start fights, or act irrationally or irresponsibly, it could be part of how they are dealing with their grief. Be kind to them and offer them any help they will take.
Try not to judge them for how they choose to deal with their pain as we all handle pain differently. At some point they will be back to their normal selves, but for now they need their time to work through their emotions.
8. LISTEN MORE, TALK LESS
It’s easy to fumble around for words when we are in an uncomfortable situation. It’s even easier to say too many words when we are not sure of what to say to someone who is coping with a death.
While you may think you are helping your friend by keeping the conversation going or sharing some of your own experiences with losing a loved one, make sure you are not talking too much. Whether you intend to or not, your friend may feel like you are subverting the attention away from their pain and focusing more on your own life.
Right now, your friend needs to grieve and talk about their own pain. Be there for them to listen, don’t make this time about you or anyone else. Let them talk as much as they want about their deceased loved one or how they are feeling. Don’t rush the conversation or cut them off when they are telling you what they are going through. This is a very vulnerable time for your friend, and they need someone to lend an ear, not an unwanted opinion.
9. ACKNOWLEDGE THE SADNESS OF THEIR SITUATION
Death is sad and no amount of positive thinking or affirmations will change that. While it’s true that focusing on the doom and gloom incessantly isn’t healthy, sometimes we just need to recognize that our situation sucks. Misery loves company as they say, and your friend may need you to acknowledge that they are in a bad place.
Let them vent to you about all the negative feelings they have, whether it be towards the deceased or themselves. Allow them to freely express their fears, anxieties, or just overall desperation they feel at this moment in time.
Accompany them in drowning their sorrows with a bottle of wine or box of donuts. Let them get out their feelings and don’t try to give them a pep talk. While you may need to be a guiding light of hope for your friend later in their grief, right now let them wallow in their sadness until it’s out of their system.
10. OFFER TO DRIVE THEM AROUND
If your friend is a co-worker, offer to drive them to and from work throughout the week. Returning to work after the death of their loved one will be hard. It will likely be the last thing they want to do but may be the best thing for them. Their return to work may help them to get back into their regular schedule and move on with their life.
It’s going to be weird for them and maybe lonely, especially if their loved one used to drive or pick them up from work. Offering to carpool with your friend may make it easier for them to return to work. Having you to talk to on the ride to and from will take their mind off memories of the deceased.
Plus, driving by themselves may not be safe if they are having a tough time with their loss. Lack of sleep and inattention to their surroundings can make for risky driving behavior. They may need more time to heal before they can drive themselves.
11. PLAN A TRIP TO TAKE THEIR MIND OFF THEIR GRIEF
It may be helpful to plan a trip to take your friend’s mind off their grief. This may be especially helpful if a holiday or their deceased loved one’s birthday is coming up. Getting your friend out of their normal surroundings may make it easier for them to focus on something other than their pain.
A holiday or birthday will be a lonely time for your friend and being with other people might make them feel less lonely. Get a group of their friends and family together and take a road trip somewhere fun.
Pick a place that has plenty of activity going on so there is less time for them to get lost in their thoughts. Go somewhere new they’ve never been before so that they have more experiences to take in. They will be grateful for a chance to escape their lonely thoughts and be around people they love.
12. CONNECT THEM WITH SOMEONE GOING THROUGH SOMETHING SIMILAR
If you’ve never dealt with the loss of a loved one in the same way your friend has, it may be more difficult for you to understand what they are going through. Though they will appreciate any support you offer, talking to someone who has gone through exactly what they have gone through could be more comforting.
If you know of anyone who has been in a similar situation, offer to link them up. They can share their stories and give each other advice on coping with loss. Maybe a friendship will develop, and they can be a support system for one another.
It would be helpful for your friend to have a supporter who understands them entirely. So, if you know someone, don’t hesitate to set up a meeting.
13. SEND SMALL GIFTS TO LET THEM KNOW YOU'RE THINKING OF THEM
During this lonely time your friend will appreciate any act of kindness, no matter how small. Sending them small gifts, letters, or cards will let them know that you are thinking of them. Knowing that they are on your mind will help them feel less alone.
Beautiful flowers, chocolates, or even having a meal delivered to their home are all ways you can show your friend that you have them in your thoughts.
14. BE THERE WHENEVER THEY NEED
Assure your friend that you will be there for them whenever they need. Grief is a long and difficult process, and some days will be easier than others. For those days that are rough, let your friend know that you are available to talk or meet up, whenever that may be.
This will be a comfort to your friend who may be having a difficult time sleeping and needs a friend to talk to late at night. It will make them feel more secure knowing that even in the middle of the afternoon when they have a flashback to a memory of their loved one that nearly breaks them, they have you to text or call to help them through it.
If you are not sure you can be this person every time, ask other people in your friend’s support group if they can be of help. Start a group chat with your friend and their support group so they have someone to reach out to whenever they need.
15. DON'T ASK, JUST DO
When it comes to supporting a grieving friend, sometimes you need to take control of the reins. This means you should avoid asking your friend what you should do, and just do something. Even in a state of grief, many people will decline help as they don’t want to be a burden.
They may say they are fine and don’t need help with household chores, cooking, or taking care of the kids. Whether this is true doesn’t matter, a good friend will step in and help anyway.
Don’t ask your friend before you show up on their doorstep to help them mow their lawn or do their laundry. Order groceries and have them sent to their house regardless of if they need them or not. These simple gestures will mean more to them than you can imagine in a time like this. Helping with household chores and daily living tasks will allow them time to grieve and not be overwhelmed by their normal everyday obligations.
Helpful Resources For Comforting A Friend After The Funeral
When you are not sure of how to help your friend after they’ve lost a loved one, or think they may need more help, refer to some of the below resources:
GRIEF SUPPORT GROUPS
Refer your friend to a grief support group if you think it would be helpful for them to talk to other people experiencing loss. Griefshare.org is an online resource for finding in person meetings around the country. Circlesup.com is an online group grief counseling resource for those who are unable to meet in person or prefer not to. They have 24-hour access to members and counselors and offer video group meetings. A quick Google search will also show you nearby grief support groups at various locations in your town.
CHURCH GROUP, PRIEST OR PASTOR
In times of distress, some people turn to their faith. If your friend is religious and attends church regularly, they may have a group of church friends or a favorite priest or pastor who can provide some comfort. Suggest to your friend that they reach out to their church group for help in coping with their grief.
Church groups typically treat one another like family and may be able to crowd source food, funds, or whatever it is your friend needs to get through their ordeal. A priest or pastor can serve as their spiritual guidance in helping them to navigate their loved one’s death. Religion plays an important role in many people's lives. If religion is important to your friend, they may benefit from reaching out to their religious group for support.
LOCAL COMMUNITY RESOURCES
Check into local community resources for helping your friend after the death of their loved one. Community groups may have local grief support meetings held at local churches, schools, community centers, or even local businesses. Google grief support in your area for resources closest to you.
Additionally, there may be local community groups that help with providing meals, housing, or more to those who are in need. This may be helpful for your friend if they are experiencing financial difficulties after the death of their loved one. Ask around your local community to find out about local resources.
SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
If you think your friend may need more help than you can give them, refer them to a doctor or a therapist that specializes in grief counseling. They will have more experience in helping others through the grieving process and may be able to help your friend better. Ask around in your circle for a therapist or doctor who may be able to pencil your friend in for an appointment.
BOOKS ON GRIEF
There are many books written on grief that suggest ways of coping. Check your local library, bookstore, or online for books on grief that may be helpful for your friend to read.
Helping A Friend Frequently Asked Questions
How can I help my friend who is grieving?
You can help your grieving friend by being there for them when they need you most. Offer your emotional support for when they are having a rough day and need a shoulder to cry on. Help them get through the day by helping them keep up with household chores such as cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping.
Check in with them often so they know that you are thinking of them and won’t feel so alone. Any little thing you can do to remind them that you are there for them will be much appreciated.
Should I offer to help my friend with daily tasks after the funeral is over?
Yes, you should offer to help your friend with any daily tasks that need to be done after the funeral is over. Whether they ask you to or not, help them out by doing the yard work, taking the kids to school, or cooking meals for them. Just getting through the day after the death of a loved one is hard enough. Anything you can do for them to take work off their plate will be a welcome offer.
What type of activities help with grief?
Any activity that takes your mind off missing your loved one will help with grief. Some of these activities would include:
Socializing With Friends and Family. It’s important for your friend to socialize with other people to get on with their life after their loss. Oftentimes grieving people isolate themselves while they process their pain. While some alone time is necessary, too much isolation can lead to depression. Being around other people will take your friends' mind off their pain and reintroduce them back into the world. They need to know that life goes on after the death of a loved one.
Exercising. Exercising is an excellent way to clear your mind and improve your mood. Exercise releases endorphins, which are chemicals in your body that make you feel good. Suggest your friend go for regular walks or invite them to join a fitness class with you. Joining a regular group fitness class will be a way to get some exercise as well as interact with other people.
Gardening. Gardening is a great activity for doing something productive and keeping your hands busy. It also gives you a goal to work towards. Growing plants and maintaining a garden takes time and attention. Your friend may like having something to focus on every day in order to see the fruits of their labor, a beautiful, healthy garden.
Meditation. Suggest your friend try meditation as a way to cope with their grief. Meditation practices teach you to focus your mind on the present and quiet your negative thoughts. It’s used frequently to treat anxiety, depression, and increase mindfulness. It can help your friend with grief by helping them connect to their inner self and focusing their mind on healing.
Creative Artwork. Everybody has a creative side whether it be drawing, painting, sculpting, or making DIY crafts. Making artwork is fun and interactive. It may help your friend to have a fun activity to focus on while they are dealing with grief. Creating artwork can be a meditative experience for some and can be a great way for your friend to express themselves.
Writing. Writing is considered an art form by many as it is a way to express yourself through the written word. Your friend may find it helpful to write down their thoughts and feelings in a journal or even by writing letters to their deceased loved one. It can be a great way to get their anxieties, worries, or memories off their mind and down on paper. Gift your friend a journal and suggest they start writing to help with their grief.
Playing With Pets. Pet owners know that our furry friends are like family. Our pets provide companionship, unconditional love, and lots of laughs. Plus, petting your loveable canine or feline friend actually releases oxytocin in the brain, which helps improve your mood. If your friend has a pet, suggest they spend more time with their animal companion. They can take them for long walks, teach them a new trick, or play with their favorite toy. If your friend doesn’t have a pet, suggest they adopt one or let them borrow yours. Having something to love and care for will help them overcome their grief by giving them something else to live for.
Learning a New Skill. Learning a new skill will give your friend something to concentrate on besides their pain. Invite your friend to take a class with you so you both can learn something new together. Try something that is fun and interactive, like learning a new language, taking a cooking class, or joining a dance group. This will be an excuse for your friend to both learn something new and socialize at the same time.
How do I ask someone how they are doing after they have suffered a loss?
It’s important to check in with your friend frequently after they have suffered a loss. Ask them how they are doing and tell them that you are ready for their real answer. This will let them know that you care, and it is okay for them to let their guard down with you.
They need a chance to let their true feelings out and not just answer back with the customary “I’m fine.” Let them know that you understand and will be there for them no matter what they have to say.
What do I say to someone who has recently lost a family member?
While no words can make the pain of losing a loved one go away, letting your friend know how much you care for them will make them feel less lonely. There is no perfect way to express your condolences but phrases such as, “I’m deeply sorry for your loss,” “I’m so sorry that you are going through this,” “You have my support in any way you need,” “I’m devastated for you and your family, please let me know if there is anything I can do,” are all appropriate ways to convey your sadness for them and their remaining loved ones.
What if my friend is not grieving well after suffering a loss?
If your friend is not grieving well after their loss, offer your support in any way you can. Check in with them often and drop by in person to take an assessment of their mental state. Help them with taking care of themselves and their household. If you can, try to get them out of the house and socialize with other people.
Do your best to try and make things seem more normal for them after losing their loved one. However, if you feel that they need more help than you can give, refer them to a professional grief counselor or doctor. They may be able to provide them with more resources for coping with grief.
Helping Your Friend Cope With Their Grief
As a good friend, you want to help your grieving friend in any way you can. Their pain becomes your pain and seeing them go through something so tragic as the loss of a loved one hurts you as well. Offering your love and support is the best way to help your friend get through such a difficult time in their life.
Unfortunately, we all have our own journeys and must go through some experiences on our own. However, having friends who love you can help you get through the worst of it. Be there for your friend during this sad period and know that they would likely do the same for you.
February 28, 2022 by Jeri K. Augustus