5 Ways to Comfort a Grieving Friend

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

When I was in elementary school my grandmother passed away. While I didn’t understand everything that was going on at the time, I was sad. It was the first time I learned about death and tried to get my little brain to understand that I would never see her again. There was loss and as a result, I experienced grief. Fast forward to high school, I was faced with the loss of a classmate and friend who passed away unexpectedly in a car accident. Grief, again. Ugh. Then as a college student, my friend’s dad passed away. Grief, again.

Grief is definitely hard to talk about and equally as hard to “sit with.” The truth is that, at some point in our lives (if we haven’t already), we will be faced with the uncomfortable reality of grief. Friends play a vital role in how we deal with grief and their support can make all the difference. As a friend to someone who’s grieving, what are we supposed to we say? How can we help? What is appropriate? During my grief experiences, my friends have served as a “sturdy shelter” through tough times.

The following are practical suggestions to assist you in supporting your friends through their journey of grief:

Listen with compassion

“Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). It’s really not about what we say, but more about the way we listen. The word compassion means “to feel with.” Sometimes as friends, we feel like we need to say something or insert the typical platitudes such as, “this will make you stronger” or, “everything happens for a reason.” Though most of these comments are well-intentioned and aim to bring forth good, these efforts can put pressure on the grieving friend and invalidate their feelings of grief. Jesus listened with compassion. When Jesus met the woman at the well, He was not in a rush; He knew it would take time for her to open up and share her feelings. In following Jesus’ lead, we too, need to be patient and listen with our hearts.

Be present

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). It may not feel like much, but physical presence alone is a comfort to a person who’s grieving. As awesome as our devices are for connecting us, face-to-face human interaction is still needed. Your full presence is a generous gift to your friend who is grieving. What would it take for you to be 100% in the room and attentive to your friend in need? No thoughts of to-do lists, Instagram feeds, school, sports, musicals, and other activities. While you can’t fix the friend or the grief, you can certainly be present to them.

Recognize the loss

When someone is grieving a loss, they’ve lost something or someone they valued — an opportunity, an experience, a relationship, a friend, or a family member. That loss needs to be acknowledged. Communicate and affirm their feelings to show you understand that something they valued has been lost. Some practical ideas are sending flowers, writing a note, or helping the friend who is grieving with their homework. Also, don’t be afraid to ask about the loss. Doing this shows you care and want to know more.

Remember holidays

Try to remember holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays that might be significant for your friend. Sending a card or a text on the day will let your friend know you are remembering, too. The rawness may be dulled over time, but the emotions and nostalgic feelings tend to come up around special holidays. It’s not easy to remember all dates on your own, so use your phone calendar or reminder app to set alarms.

Remind them loved they are

Pamper your friends, hug them, love them, and take special care of them during this time.
Reach out by calling them, sending a thoughtful text message, bringing them their favorite candy, buying a small gift, empowering them by sending encouraging Scriptures, visiting them, and always keeping the line of communication open. By these simple expressions of care, you are reminding them that, although they are in the midst of grief, they still have friends who love them.

Grief is extremely difficult, regardless of the timing. As friends, it’s easy to feel helpless in what seems like hopeless situations. Don’t let the reality of grief prevent you from reaching out to a friend. They need you now, more than ever. You don’t need to have answers or give advice, or say and do all the right things. It’s your support and caring presence that will help your friend work through the pain and gradually begin to heal.

Let’s ask the Holy Spirit, the counselor, to be good friends to those mourning loss, to be good listeners to those who are hurting, and to be attentive to their need to be loved in their grief.