Do's and Don'ts: Helping Others in Grief

At one time or another, we have all been on the receiving end of an insensitive remark made by someone who is supposed to care for us. For people who are grieving, even well-intentioned comments can backfire, leaving the recipient confused, upset, and feeling more isolated than ever.

So, how then do we best help those who are grieving? The following list of Do's and Dont's are designed to help you do just that. While the list is by no means comprehensive, it will help point you in the right direction.


  • Do let your genuine concern and caring show.
  • Do be available to listen, help with the children, or do whatever needs to be done at the time.

  • Do allow them to express as much grief as they are feeling at the moment, and are willing to share.

  • Do encourage them to be patient with themselves, not to expect too much of themselves, and not impose any ďshouldsĒ on themselves.

  • Do allow them to talk about the special qualities of the person who died.

  • Do allow them to talk about any negative feelings they have toward the person who died.


  • Donít let your own sense of helplessness keep you from reaching out to a bereaved person.
  • Donít try to find something positive about the personís death.
  • Donít say you know how they feel. Unless youíve had a similar loss, you probably donít know how they feel.
  • Donít say ďyou ought to be feeling better by nowĒ or anything else that implies a judgment about their feelings.
  • Donít tell them what they should feel or do.
  • Donít change the subject when they mention the person who died.
  • Donít avoid mentioning the name of the person who died.

© Jill Lehman, MFT

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