22 Ways to Help Someone Grieving


When I woke up I saw I’d missed two calls. You know that feeling you have when something bad is about to happen? This was that time. I called the nursing home where my mom had been staying for the past few days.

Their tone? Uncertain. “Hi, Cori, we wanted to let you know that we found your mom unresponsive last night and she was rushed to the hospital.”

My heart dropped. My stomach dropped. My mouth dried. Still, I didn’t think the worst, just that I needed to make an immediate trip to the hospital. “What happened? What hospital? Is she okay?”

“I don’t know anything further. You’ll have to call the hospital.”

My body kicked into overdrive. I had to get to my mom’s side. I yelled to the basement where my husband was, “The nursing home said my mom was rushed to the hospital last night. I gotta go now.”

Still in my pajamas, I grabbed my shoes, but before I could put them on my phone rang again. It was the nursing home. “Hello.”


“Yes.” I didn’t like their tone. It was sad. Too sad. Time stood still.

“I just got off the phone with the hospital and I’m sorry to tell you this, but your mom didn’t make it.”

I started shaking. Disbelief coursed through me. My oldest daughter and I had been at her side less than twelve hours prior. My sister had been there after me. We laughed, joked and watched Hocus Pocus. To say that I couldn’t understand what they were saying is a gross misstatement. Tears poured from my eyes.

Shock hit me like a freight train.

From that point it was all a blur. I had not prepared for this moment. Why should I have? I was thirty-four and had to plan my mom’s funeral. I was thirty-four and had to call my sister at work to tell her our mom had died.

As the next of kin I was in charge of EVERYTHING and I had no idea what EVERYTHING was.

The above is a very small portion of my ongoing story to accept, grieve and heal. During this time many have helped in ways that I never knew I needed help with. In the past, when someone died, I never knew what to say or do to someone grieving. Now, I feel like I have a grasp on ways to help. That is why I am providing this list of 22 Ways to Help Someone Grieving.

While there are plenty of ways to help someone through their grief, keep in mind that everyone grieves differently. Everything listed could help one person, while nothing listed would help another. You may have to try different things at different times. 

Call or Text Them

Here’s the thing-once you’ve lost a loved one you think about them practically every day. In my opinion, you’re either already having a good day (meaning you’re not feeling down) or a bad day. Although they may not be doing okay in the typical sense, a call or text can make sure they are doing okay. Have they gotten out the bed? Bathed?

Make Sure They Eat

This includes their family. It doesn’t matter if you cooked it, bought it, fried it, baked it, tossed it or that it got cold on the way over. Food will be the last thing on their mind as they work through the growing to-do list. 

Help Clean Out Their Loved One’s Home

This is a very hard task to complete. They may find momentos that send them into tears or letters their loved ones wrote. You can be that shoulder while they sort through and clean up the mountain of items. 

Make or Purchase Thank You Cards

They may or may not want to thank those that attended the service. You can make sure the cards are there and that there is a list of people at the ready.

Find a Funeral Home

There are many options available and always remember, the funeral industry is a business. You can assist by contacting and asking for prices or by providing a list of funeral homes in the area.

Make a Program or Write the Obituary

If you aren’t designer savvy you can still help by gathering a few examples and asking if they have a preference. You can also make a list of things that could be included in the obituary and find out how to add one to the local paper.

Make a List of Hotels

Chances are there will be out of town guests and they will most likely not know which hotel will put them in close proximity to the services. Having a list of hotels helps them choose.

Pay Their Bills

Don’t take this literally and come out of your pocket to pay their highest bill, unless you want to, because I’m sure that would really help. What I mean is that they may become absentminded and forget to pay their bills. If you feel close enough to ask how they pay their bills, you can take over that task.

Break the News to Family & Friends

When someone dies that means people need to be notified. Personally, I HATE discovering that someone has died when I log onto social media and text messages just aren’t appropriate. For the person grieving, contacting family and friends also means reliving the moment repeatedly to everyone that they talk to. This isn’t a fun task so if you are strong enough to lighten that burden, please do.

Sort Through Mail for Important Documents & Have It Forwarded

Even though people receive less mail than ever, it remains the place for important documents, especially when creditors/hospitals/others can’t get in touch through phone or email. You can make a pile of stuff to be thrown out and a pile of things to be reviewed. The mail will also need to be forwarded to a new address. As of today, this cannot be done online; it can only be done in person.

Call Creditors/Banks/Employer

Once the news has been broken to everyone else, the news has to be given to the employer and creditors. Have a notepad ready so you can write down instructions for how to close accounts, what you will need to do so and how to make claims on insurance policies.

Pick the Loved One’s Last Outfit

No one wants to do this. Well, at least I didn’t. Some may insist on doing this but if they don’t, here’s where you come in. Go through their closet and pull a few options to make the decision just a bit easier.

Make a Tribute Video or Collect Pictures

If they want to show a tribute video you can put the word out for people to send the pictures to you while they are handling other tasks. If you’re technologically savvy you can even make the video.

For an example, you can watch my mom’s.

Take Care of Their Pets

In all of the madness, pets still require the love and care they’ve always had. They need to be fed and possibly walked or groomed. On the day of the service they may even need to go to a boarding location or daycare. You can make the reservations or find someone willing to petsit.

Be the Point of Contact

There will be many people that need information about everything. As the point of contact you can keep the griever’s phone from ringing nonstop.

Attend the Services

When a life is lost you want to know they were loved and cared about. You want to know that people thought enough about them to miss work or take time out of their day to spend one last moment with them. This small task matters.

Do a Chore

Due to grief or other, their home may be falling apart (or they may feel like it is). Something as simple as washing their dishes or vacuuming goes a long way.

Make A List of Grief Counselors

You don’t have to push this on them but this will be good to have just in case they get the urge to go.

Leave Them Alone

Visitors can be overwhelming. If you sense that this is happening you can make it a point to give them some space.

Create a Folder for Important Documents

Death certificates, wills, tax documents, bills, copies of licenses…all of these may need to be readily accessible. Creating one folder for all important documents makes life easier.

Share a Memory

They will miss their loved one immediately. This cannot be changed or avoided. When they are ready, share a story about their loved one. The story can be entertaining or something simple.

Just Be There

They may need nothing more than for you to just sit with them. It can feel awkward to sit and do nothing but if that’s what they need then you can provide that. The last thing you want them to feel is alone.

I pray this list is beneficial. Have something to add? Write it in the comments! Every bit helps.



1/18/59 – 10/14/18

2 Responses to “22 Ways to Help Someone Grieving

  • Beautiful tribute to your Mother, Cori! Thanks for sharing this list, which is very useful for those who want to show love and support. Sorry for your loss, and I pray that you continue to find comfort in your family and memories.

  • Jessica
    5 months ago

    I think this list just about covers it. I would add that a simple “I’m sorry for your loss” or “My heart breaks for you” goes WAY farther that a well intentioned but thoughtless comments like “he/she is in a better place” or “at least he/she isn’t suffering anymore”. It’s already tough enough to try to process grief and it’s corresponding emotions but to have to contend with the overwhelming amount of condolences that sometimes feel sharp or uncaring when your emotions are raw are too much. Instead offer a listening ear and encourage that person to honor the deceased memory with stories of them or by asking questions of them. This may not be true for everyone but it was that way for me.

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