How to Help During Initial Sorrow

1. Recognize your own feelings about death and grief and be honest with yourself.

2. Know as much about grief and loss as you can. Know that grief is unique to the person experiencing it.

3. Listen, listen, listen
– Earnestly
– Actively
– Receptively (verbally and nonverbally)
– Sensitively

4. Don’t try to cheer the grieving person up. Don’t attempt to provide false reassurances, such as: It was for the best. He is in a better place now. Now he doesn’t have to suffer any more.
– Such comments sound like you do not ahve any understanding of the situation and are trying to minimize it.

5. Don’t try to divert the grieving person’s attention by talking about other things. Allow the grieving person to talk about their loss and the loved one. That is all that is on their mind.

6. Do not underestimate the therapeutic use of your self. Your presence is a valuable gift demonstrating caring and compassion.

7. Don’t be afraid of causing tears or of crying with the grieving person.

8. Be comfortable with silence.

9. Do not be afraid to laugh with the grieving person.

10. Reassure them when they express guilt feelings and about not having done enough for the one who has died. Do not argue. Most people who have lost a loved one experience some degree of guilt. This may not seem justified, but it is natural.

  • “Tell me what you mean when you say you feel guilty?”
  • Sometimes being able to put it in words is all that is required for them to resolve it.

11. Do not probe. Wait until you are invited to talk about their concerns. Permit the expression of feelings or the maintenance of privacy. Be careful that you do not respond to your own anxieties rather than to the grieving person’s desires.

12. Do not pity the grieving person; do not ascribe them a sick role. Do not value judge (normal versus abnormal responses). Grief has many faces and the faces change over time.

13. Do, at least, one practical tangible act of kindness (make necessary phone calls, find someone to get the kids from school, find someone to do errands).

14.  Arranging for help with day to day tasks may be appropriate.


Copyright Dr. Jane A. Simington Ph. D.



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