Supporting a loved one through grief and loss

17 December 2020

If your loved one has lost someone close to them, it can be challenging to know how to support and care for them.

When talking about loss, it’s important to be very mindful of your words, as it is a sensitive situation for all involved, and emotions are heightened. The conversation and support will largely depend on the person, your relationship with them, and their current circumstances. When talking to someone who has experienced a loss, you could consider using some of the following phrases to express your care:

  1. I am so sorry for your loss.
  2. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in any way I can.
  3. You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.
  4. I am just a phone call away / I am up early or late if you need anything
  5. Give a hug instead of saying something
  6. My favorite memory of your loved one is…
  7. Being there with the person – you don’t always need to say something

Other ways of showing support are making sure the person is safe, has their basic needs met (such as food), helping with other responsibilities they have (such as answering messages or paying bills), and involving them in decision-making where appropriate.

It is important to avoid saying things like:

  1. At least she lived a long life, many people die young
  2. He is in a better place
  3. There is a reason for everything
  4. I know how you feel
  5. Just be strong
  6. It’s for the best

When talking, these are some key points to remember:

  1. Be supportive but do not try to fix the loss or the situation
  2. Don’t tell people what to do or feel – even if you have experienced loss, your experience is not theirs
  3. Recognise the loss and what is means to the person
  4. Don’t put a time-frame on how long they can grieve

If you want to understand a bit more about grief and loss, have a look at the blog post.

Written by:

Sandy Lewis, Mental Wellness and Compassion Coach, Akeso Clinics and Netcare