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Helping a Loved One Cope with Grief & Loss

How do you help someone else cope with the loss of a loved one or family member? There’s no “right” or wrong way to do this, as each person is different, and each family is different.

But often a person feels at a loss in understand what they can do to help someone who is grieving. Words don’t seem to be enough — and the right words never seem to come. There may be some things you can do to help a loved one cope with loss that don’t require a lot of thought.

You can help a friend cope with loss, or help a loved one cope with their grief, but you may have to take charge and do these things on your own (even if you don’t get a completely affirmative response from your loved one).

Before the Funeral…

  • Offer to notify his family and friends about funeral arrangements
  • House-sit to prevent burglaries during the funeral and visitations
  • Help answering the phone and greeting visitors
  • Keep a record of everyone who calls, visits or has been contacted
  • Help coordinate the food and drink supply
  • Offer to pick up friends and family at the airport and arrange housing
  • Offer to provide transportation for out-of-town visitors
  • Help him keep the house cleaned and the dishes washed

After the Funeral…

  • Prepare or provide dinner on a day that is mutually acceptable
  • Do the step above every week for two to three months
  • Offer to help with yard chores such as watering or pruning
  • Feed and exercise the pets, if any
  • Write notes offering encouragement and support
  • Offer to drive or accompany him to the cemetery regularly
  • Offer to house sit so he can get away or visit family out of town
  • Make a weekly run to the grocery store, laundry, or cleaners
  • Help with the Thank You notes and/or other correspondence
  • Anticipate difficult periods such as anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and the day of
  • Always mention the deceased by name and encourage reminiscing

Above all, just listening and your concern and presence will help. When in doubt, too, rather than asking what the person wants or needs, just do things that you think will be helpful. These could be as simple as ensuring as they have sufficient food in their refrigerator or pick up some groceries for them; or staying with them a few days, just so they have some company in the house.

Outside of checking to see if it’s okay if you stay over or buy some groceries, it’s usually best not to ask questions or have the person try and make any decisions. In a time of grief, people usually don’t have a lot of extra energy to think about things too much, much less make any kind of decisions. Take the burden off of their plate by making some of the simpler, everyday living decisions for them.

Helping a Loved One Cope with Grief & Loss

Tom Gray

APA Reference
Gray, T. (2020). Helping a Loved One Cope with Grief & Loss. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 12, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.