After talking with numerous grieving people who have said that after a loss they were too much in shock and numb by their grief to answer those who said to them, “If there is anything I can do, let me know.”  Below are a variety of things you can do for those who are grieving to express your care and concern without necessarily saying anything.

  1. Look for an immediate need and fill it. Help with basic needs like arranging transportation and accommodations, helping with kids, and helping with communication between friends and family.
  2. Be there when needed. Just being present and in the same physical space as the grieving person so they are not alone, if they do not want to be alone, is helpful.
  3. Provide food. Eating and preparing food can be very overwhelming and often just forgotten by the grieving person, so bringing food is helpful because then they do not have to think about where to get food and it is a reminder to keep healthy and eating.
  4. Sending flowers or donating to a charity. Some say, “No flowers,” and if that is the case a house plant is an alternative.  Also some families ask for donations to a charity or foundation in the name of the deceased, especially if there was an organization that was special to the deceased.
  5. Reach out and touch (literally). Many have a need, sometimes unrecognized, to be touched during a difficult time.  A hug, a handclasp, and hand on the back, can communicate you care without saying a word.
  6. Listen. Just listening, letting them share their feelings of grief helps them work through their own grief and decreases the odds of prolonged depression.  Also do not be concerned about causing tears by listening and encouraging them to talk, if they want to talk, because crying is a normal way to express grief.  Silence is also something that is helpful, sharing silence is another way of listening.
  7. Send a note, card, letter, or make a phone call. You do not have to say much to make your feelings known, a simple, “I am thinking of you” or “I care about you,” speaks volumes.  It can also be comforting to recall a shred event or special quality of the deceased.
  8. Encourage the bereaved to get out of the house. Be it for a quick bite to eat, or to take a walk around the neighborhood.  Time is usually forgotten and the griever welcomes an opportunity to get out of the house, because they may not do it on their own at first.
  9. Give of your talent and experience. Something you know how to do that they do not or are not able to do at the time, like knowing a lawyer, how to fix a clogged toilet, laundry, cooking, etc.
  10. Help with the days ahead. In the beginning there are usually a lot of people around and offering to help, as time passes stay in touch – it is when people start to get back into their daily routines that friends are needed most, grief and loneliness last for many months.

Adapted from Ten Ways to Express Your Sympathy by Kathleen Cruzic.