What To Say To Someone Who Lost A Loved One

| 7 min read Financial Assistance

It’s natural to feel helpless or feel like you don’t know what to say when someone close to you is in terrible emotional pain. It’s also completely normal to feel anxious about lending a hand. Will you say something to make it worse? Should you reach out or just give them space?

Fortunately, there are ways to help your friend while they grieve, and you don’t have to navigate this uncharted territory alone. In this guide, you’ll find specific tips on how to help someone who is grieving through simple gestures, resources to help you understand the grieving process, and the best ways to help financially.

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Five thoughtful ways you can support a grieving friend

Grief can be all-encompassing. It has a way of infiltrating every aspect of someone’s life and making normal tasks a struggle. When your friend is deep in the trenches of grief after the death of a loved one, there are a few key ways you can be there for them and comfort them when they need you the most. Here are four ways you can help a grieving friend or family member.

1. Acknowledge what your friend is going through

It may be hard or it may feel awkward to do, but when someone has lost a loved one, simply acknowledging their loss can go a long way. According to Frank Ostaseski, founder of the Zen Hospice Project, when someone loses a person they love, it’s important to acknowledge their loss rather than avoid it. 

When thinking about what to say to someone who just lost a loved one, simply stating you know about their loss and are there for them can go a long way. Death is a tough topic and many well-meaning people will avoid addressing the topic for fear of bringing up difficult emotions for their friend or loved one, but addressing the passing of a loved is always important. 

2. Provide emotional support 

It’s human nature to want to eliminate someone’s pain or get as far away from it as we can, but experiencing pain is a natural part of the grieving process. Trying to remove or ignore grieving can actually invalidate your friend’s feelings rather than helping them feel better. Don’t try to push your friend to move on and understand that everyone heals differently so avoid projecting your own expectations or experiences onto them. Try your best to keep these things in mind as you try to navigate what to say to someone who has just lost a loved one. Simply letting your friend talk through their emotions can go a long way.

The grief education website Refuge in Grief looks at loss and grief through a different lens. It coaches us to join our loved ones in their pain instead of trying to cheer them up or offer advice. We can be there for them by acknowledging their pain and lending an empathetic ear. The site describes acknowledgment as “the best medicine we have.”

3. Offer to help in specific ways

Assessing what your friend needs and then taking care of it requires stepping into discomfort and getting close to their grief—but this is far more helpful than saying, “Let me know if you need anything.”

Does your friend have dogs that need to be walked, errands that need to be run, or kids that need to be babysat? Showing up with a hot meal or a gift card to a restaurant will most certainly be appreciated as well. Taking these responsibilities off their hands will give them some much needed space to grieve.

4. Volunteer to write the obituary or eulogy

Your friend may be too overwhelmed to take on the task of learning how to write an obituary and delivery a eulogy. Volunteering to sit down with them and assist them in creating a meaningful tribute to the deceased may ease a lot of stress.

5. Don’t forget to check in periodically

Many say that two to three months after the loss of a loved one can be the most difficult. It’s around this time that the heavy duty support has waned and the surviving friends and family are expected to return to their normal lives. If you’re wondering how to help grieving parents, a sibling, or a friend during these latter months, it can be as simple as sending a quick text message or making phone call to let them know you’re thinking about them. When you’re thinking about what to say to someone who lost a loved one, this simple gesture will let them know that you still acknowledge their pain and you’re there for them. It also allows them to reach out to you when they are feeling ready. 

Three ways you can help a grieving friend financially

When you offer emotional support as well as financial support to a friend while they grieve, you can help lift a huge burden from their shoulders. Below are just three ideas of how to help a grieving mother, friend—or anyone else—with finances during a difficult time.

1. Start a scholarship fund

A scholarship fund pays tribute to the person who died and what they were passionate about while also helping students. From academic achievement to sports, there are many different categories you can choose for a scholarship fund.

If your friend is interested in starting a scholarship fund to commemorate the deceased but lacks funding, you can contribute and ask others to do the same. To get started, see our blog post  How to Start a Scholarship Fund and Honor a Loved One.

2. Chip in for funeral expenses

It’s all too easy for people who are in the midst of dealing with the loss of a loved to become overwhelmed with the cost of burial expenses. The average funeral service runs over $6,000, according to the National Funeral Directors Association, and can leave many families wondering how to get help with burial expenses. By stepping up to help pay for funeral or burial expenses, you can make an immense difference.

3. Establish a community memorial

A community memorial is an ideal way to celebrate the life of the deceased. Many people choose to build a lasting tribute in a place where their loved one enjoyed spending time. A park bench, community garden, or permanent plaque are just a few ideas for a community memorial.

Why crowdfunding is a powerful tool during times of grief

Crowdfunding for funeral or memorial expenses can help ease the financial stress that so often accompanies planning a funeral or dealing with unexpected loss. Thousands of people turn to GoFundMe every day to raise money for burial costs and provide financial support for surviving family members. Here are just a few reasons why GoFundMe is the leader in online memorial fundraising:

  • GoFundMe offers fundraising with a 0% platform fee for organizers, which means more of your donations can be used to honor the memory of your loved one.
  • Setting up a fundraiser is simple and takes just a few minutes. From there, you can begin sharing it with family members and friends via social media, email, or text messages all through our platform and powerful mobile app.
  • GoFundMe’s blog offers countless memorial fundraising tips, like our blog post How Do You Pay for a Funeral With No Money? or our Funeral Savings Guide.
  • A memorial fundraiser is not just a place where others can provide financial support; it can also serve as a central hub for everyone to share their memories of the deceased, post photos, and celebrate their life.
  • If you aren’t sure how to start a memorial fund or run into any other issues, our Customer Happiness Agents provide 24/7 support through the GoFundMe Help Center.

Lend a hand to someone who needs you

Knowing how to deal with loss or help someone through tragedy is never easy. Your friend may be so deep in their personal grief that they aren’t able to think about finances or start their own online fundraiser. This is where you can step up and truly make a difference. During this challenging time, you can help lessen any financial stress so those close to you can begin healing. Sign up and start a memorial fundraiser on GoFundMe today.

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Written by Jenna Davis

Asking for help is never easy, but it's my hope that our resources make it a bit easier and empower individuals and organizations to reach their fundraising goals. I believe we can create a better future through generosity and compassion—all it takes is a little bit of support from each of us.