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Sunset Portrait
Image by samane mohammadi


by Maureen Pollard

Emotional Health Editor, KBI Inspire Magazine

Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW is a registered social worker with a private practice in Cobourg, Ontario.  Visit her online at:

When we learn that a friend has experienced the death of a loved one, it can come as quite a shock. This is especially true if we haven’t yet experienced the death of someone we’re close to yet. Sometimes we just don’t know what to say or how to help. While there is nothing we can do to change the fact that someone we care about is hurting, there are some things we can do to offer comfort.

  1. Show up. Keep in touch with your friend. Drop by, send a text, or a card to let your friend know you’re thinking of them. Often people drop away from someone who is grieving because they don’t know what to say or do, which ends up hurting the person even more.

  2. Keep it simple. Tell them you are sorry to hear about their loss. Let them know you’re ready to listen if they want to talk about their experience and their feelings.

  3. Accept the full range of feelings. Be prepared to sit with the sadness, pain, and fear that your friend is experiencing. Understand that these feelings will be powerful, that they will often last longer than you might expect and that this is normal under the circumstances. Grief is a long process of adjusting to the absence of a loved one. 

  4. Just listen. Don’t try to offer advice. Don’t try to tell them you understand if you haven’t been through something very similar. Don’t try to tell them about some experience you had that you think is relatable. Just listen to them as they share their story. And if they’re not ready to tell their story, or they don’t talk much, get comfortable with just sitting together in silence, listening with your heart.

  5. Do something. While it’s true that we can’t change the fact that our friend has experienced a death, we can help with practical tasks. Ask them if you can do something specific rather than telling them to let you know if they need anything. They might not know what they need as they grieve. Does their dog need a walk? Do they need help with laundry or dishes? Can you put together a meal or two, so they don’t have to think about groceries or cooking for a few days? 


When you can be accepting of your friend in their grief, when you offer your presence and compassion, you are helping your friend adjust to their new reality. This is how we heal in the wake of the death of a loved one, and it is a process that can’t be rushed because it makes others uncomfortable.

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