• How to Help
  • How to Be Supportive

    Riley Children's Grief Team

    • Be present and stay present. Stay connected with the griever. Often, grievers feel abandoned by friends. Friends may stop reaching out or stop talking about the deceased special person.
    • Be ok with silence and tears. Practice listening without having to fill in silence. If you think about difficult times in your own life, you may have felt like you also wanted someone to just sit with you so you didn’t feel alone.
    • Share memories of the special person. If you experience something that makes you think of the special person, share it with the family. Many people fear their special person will be forgotten, so having friends still mention them truly brightens their day. For example, you can tell someone, “I saw the most beautiful daffodils today and it made me think of Jane. I know Jane loved daffodils.”
    • Understand grief is lifelong. Keep checking in. Keep remembering their special person. Keep saying their name out loud. Keep acknowledging their special days.
    • Don’t be afraid. Grievers often share that people became afraid of them or tried to avoid them. It can be helpful to learn more about grief to help understand how to be supportive. If you do feel like you said something unhelpful, simply share that you are sorry and keep coming back.
    • Avoid trying to fix it. There is no special words of encouragement or ways to sugar coat a loss that will resolve grief. Grief is a normal and needed experience after we lose someone we love.
    • Avoid clichés. Many grievers find clichés unhelpful and insensitive. Sometimes they can even feel hurtful. Here are some common ones and reasons why to avoid them:
      • “He/she is in a better place” or “He/she isn’t in pain anymore.”
      • Many grievers struggle with the concept of not seeing their loved one and feel in that moment, the best place for their special person was to be here next to them. This is especially true for a parent grieving the loss of a child.
      • “Now you have an angel watching over you.”
      • Grievers often struggle with their faith after experiencing a profound loss.. You never know where someone is in their grief and/or spiritual journey. Allow them to be where they are.
      • “At least you still have…”
      • Any “at least” statements minimize and dismiss the very real loss they did experience. It’s expected a person will grieve their loss.
      • “Your special person wouldn’t want you to be sad.”
      • Statements like this tell the griever that it’s not ok to grieve and they are now upsetting their special person by grieving. Again, it’s expected that someone will grieve their loss.
      • “I know how you feel. I lost my mom/dad/sibling/pet.”
      • While you may share a similar type of loss, only the person grieving truly understands what is like to lose their special person. Every person’s grief is unique and even people who share similar types of loss may have very different grief experiences.
      • “You must be so strong/ I don’t think I would survive/ God won’t give you more than you can handle”
      • People who are grieving often don’t feel strong; they are simply trying to survive, often moment to moment. Additionally, they don’t want to be told they were “chosen” for this immensely painful journey.
      • “There is a reason for everything/ You may not see it now, but this will make sense one day.”
      • Especially for grieving parents, there can never be a good enough reason for their beautiful child to be taken from them. Siblings may put added pressure on themselves to carry out their sibling’s dreams in order to fulfill “a reason”. Terrible losses do happen and it is important to acknowledge them as a tragedy rather than a stepping stone to a bigger purpose.
      • Rather than saying “Call me if you need anything”, say “I’d like to come over this Saturday to help with things you need done around the house. Would that be ok?”
      • Grieving parents are trying to survive moment to moment. They rarely remember who offered help and find it difficult to reach out. By offering a specific date, you take this pressure off the parents.
      • Some practical tasks that might be helpful: bring in meals/ gift cards, mow the lawn, do the dishes, do the laundry, help the siblings with homework, help get the siblings to sports practice, etc.
      • DO NOT offer to pack up their deceased child’s things/room or go through their child’s belongings. These belongings are often the last tangible items they have connecting them to their loved one and it can be traumatic to have the items put away.