Being with Someone in Grief

I think one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but one of the most rewarding, was grieving with someone. Not just saying, “I’m sorry”, although that certainly has a part, but actually walking with them through grief. I know from experience that it was the most helpful thing anyone did for me while I was grieving. It means being willing to suffer with someone. It means not walking away or offering a bandaid. It means not putting a time limit on grief. It’s hard and it hurts. That’s why people don’t want to do it. I’m not here to blame anyone who has chosen to walk away from someone’s intense pain; sometimes we have to do that in the interest of self-preservation – when we are so much in pain ourselves that we don’t have any resources to pull from.

It seems that there are a million essays out there on what to say, what not to say, etc., but I’m going to add a few thoughts of my own and try to keep it simple:

What do grieving people want to hear? 
“I’m here.”
“I’m listening.”
“I’m so sorry this has happened/you are hurting.”
What do grieving people need?
Someone to BE there for them
Reminders that they are not alone
Someone to listen
What do grieving people not need or want to hear?
Plans for the future (not yet)
Medication (unless there is a clear and separate need)
Time limits
“I know what you’re going through.”
Comparison with other people/situations

Consider this an act of mercy if you are ever in the situation of being near someone who is grieving. Please don’t turn your back on them. Please be willing to suffer a little as Christ suffered for us. Unlike dropping a tenner in the Salvation Army bucket or stopping to help someone with a flat tire, this requires no money, no physical investment. The only thing this requires is you giving of yourself. And sometimes that can be the hardest thing to give.


6 thoughts on “Being with Someone in Grief

  1. To this I would clarify that it is also helpful to say, “I understand, I'm here.” which is different from “I know what you are going through.” Perhaps splitting hairs, but I personally found it helpful to have someone who'd already walked the road I was on, say, “yes, I've been where you are now. I understand. I'm here, you aren't alone.”


  2. This is such a useful post! In my periods of grief, I have always deeply appreciated the friends who were willing to come into the dark places with me and to just sit there, being company in my darkness (not trying to fix anything or to say the right thing, but just sitting with me in my grief.) I loved it when people would listen and even laugh with me about how awful everything was. I hope that people are inspired to make the sacrifice and to just *be* with someone who is sitting in grief.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s