These helpful grief resources may help you figure out what to say to someone who has lost a loved one. (Check back from time to time for newly discovered materials. I post the most recent finds at the top of each category; they are not “ranked” in any way.)
If you know of additional resources that show ways people can support their grieving friends, relatives, and coworkers, please share them in a comment below or contact me via Twitter (@TealAshesTBruce), my Facebook author page (Teal Ashes by TL Bruce), or email (writeTealAshes@gmail.com).*
- “Supporting Those Who Are Grieving” This five-minute video by my friend Julianna Sellers explains ways to show grieving friends your understanding and support.
- “RSA Shorts: The Power of Empathy” This is a WONDERFUL, short animated demonstration of how (and why) to show empathy rather than sympathy.
ARTICLES & BLOG ENTRIES:
- “What You Need To Do The First Hour After Death” by Marcie Lyons of Stand Up & Live is essential reading if you know someone who has just lost (or is about to lose) a loved one to death.
- “Helping Another in Grief” by Martha M. Tousley lists practical ways to help individuals through all aspects of grief, including suggestions for those facing a terminal diagnosis as well as for those who have already lost a loved one.
- “Jewish Funeral Etiquette: 10 Tips” by Rabbi Ruth Adar on Coffee Shop Rabbi lists many suggestions (showing up, listening, being unobtrusive in appearance and actions, respectfully heeding directions and requests, and not pointing out the unusual) that also apply to supporting mourners from other faiths, backgrounds, and traditions.
- “Unique and Devastating Loss” by WifeLess on YWBB, aka Fred Marotto, eloquently explains how the loss of a spouse is “unique and devastating.” [Note: I first read this essay in the early months after my husband’s death, when shock and grief were my primary language and reflexes. On reading each line, I thought, “Yes, that explains it.” The rest of the world seemed unaffected, but WifeLess’s words helped me understand why I felt so overwhelmed.]
- “About Childhood Grief” by the National Alliance for Grieving Children presents essential, practical information about the needs of children who’ve lost loved ones.
- “64 Children’s Books about Death and Grief” by the authors of the What’s Your Grief? site lists titles and age-appropriate ranges for them.
- “You Went to a Funeral and Then You Went Home” by Courtney Fitzgerald reveals how the public and private faces of grief vary and how support must extend beyond the funeral when the day-to-day work of grieving begins.
- “What Losing Your Mother Feels Like” by Rachel Oakes-Ash describes the unpredictable impact of grief and how each new loss triggers grief over “old” losses.
- “What Not to Say to a Grieving Mama” by the author of The Story of Aria blog recounts one woman’s awful foot-in-mouth reaction to learning an acquaintance’s child died.
- “Dos and Don’ts for Supporting a Grieving Loved One” by Cristi Dame lists the most helpful and the least helpful things people did and said following her own and several other women’s losses.
- “‘Charlie Mike’ on Memorial Day” by Mike Jason expresses why “happy Memorial Day” isn’t an appropriate greeting. PLEASE read this lieutenant colonel’s views.
- “7 Ways to Help Someone Who Is Grieving” by Laura Roberts explains seven ways to offer nurturing condolence to the bereaved.
- “Nine Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Depressed Loved One (And What to Say Instead)” by Juliet Miller relays useful advice for supporting friends and loved ones who suffer from depression. Even though grief and depression are separate (yet sometimes overlapping) conditions, the principles in this article can help you support your mourning friends as well. As you read, substitute “your depressed loved one (YDLO)” with “your grieving loved one (YGLO).”
- “You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know” by Michelle L. lists ways to support families in “broken” circumstances. Although she did not write it specifically regarding bereavement brought on by death, the points she shares apply.
- “11 Healthy Ways to Grieve” Although this is written to offer direct encouragement to mourners, Margaret Howard’s suggestions can help you better understand how to support your grieving friends.
- “How to Help Others” by Debbie Kay of hopeforthebrokenhearted.com offers a comprehensive resource page of helpful things to say and do (as well as things to avoid).
- “6 Things to Never Say to a Bereaved Parent” by Angela Miller
- “Grieve and Now Go Back to Work” by Kathy of greetgrief.com. This post offers specific suggestions for supporting a coworker who has lost a loved one.
- “Embrace the Mess” by Katie Unger shows the supportive advice she received after her mother’s death.
- “Have You Been the News? When Private Pain Is a Public Spectacle.” Megan Devine writes of her experience with news reports following her husband’s death.
- “Breaking the Silence: My Name Is Julie …” by Julie Edmunds Jorgensen Toone, a fellow member of one widows and widowers support group to which I belong. This shares the devastation she faced as a newly widowed young mother and the inspiring way she moved forward through her grief, only to find new life-altering challenges ahead. Her resilient spirit shines in this heartbreaking yet hopeful blog post.
- “16 Ways to Support Children Coping with Loss” by Bonnie Carroll, Founder and President, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
- “64 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Grief” will give you better insight into some of the contradictory feelings and attitude grief imposes.
- “Coping with grief during the holiday” by Yumiko Sato
- “The grieving introvert + the holiday season: a different survival guide” by Megan Devine offers practical advice to those experiencing their first holiday season without a loved one.
- “Solving the problem of grief: it’s not what you think” by Megan Devine offers “… what helps, what feels truly supportive and useful.”
- “Ask, don’ tell: how to help someone in grief” by Megan Devine
- “How to Help a Grieving Friend: 11 Things to Do When You’re Not Sure What to Do” by Megan Devine
- “Grief Intelligence: A Primer” by Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW, outlines seven principles about the “norms” of grieving. I recommend this for anyone wishing to help a friend through grief.
- “‘The Best Way Out Is Always Through’ ~ coping with grief” by Yumiko Sato tells why grief can’t (and shouldn’t) be rushed or avoided. (This beautiful site has many other touching entries besides this one.)
- “15 Things You Should Never Say to the Bereaved” by the founder of Widows Wear Stilettos, Carole Brody Fleet
And yes, I’ve personally heard all but #14 (since my husband and I were legally married), including a variation on #10 (since I already had a pet when hubby died).
- In “I’m Sorry,” young college student Keely Burnette, a shares how she hopes people will react when they learn that her father has died.
- I originally posted this “Letter to a Friend” (author unknown) on my personal Facebook wall after I encountered it on a site for young widows and widowers. It offers many, many practical dos and don’ts. Although it is written specifically about the bereavement of a spouse, much of it applies to any mourner. This link is to my Teal Ashes Facebook Page, which I hope you will also find useful.
ORGANIZATION & EVENT WEBSITES:
- The Online Sympathy and Condolence Resources page at ObituariesHelp.org lists examples of phrases and topics you can adapt in your messages of support for the bereaved. [The editor in me loves that they even include a list of commonly misspelled words used in condolence and sympathy expressions!]
- The National Alliance for Grieving Children website includes links to children’s support groups throughout the United States.
- Children’s Grief Awareness Day (the third Thursday each November) educates people (including individuals and school communities) about the unique needs of grieving children.
- “Providing support and resources to parents and others who have lost a child“
Thanks to author Pattie Welek Hall (http://pattiewelekhall.com/#axzz2jn9BzAdx) for linking her page 4 story “Believe” in the April – June 2011 edition of Grief Haven‘s newsletter “for bereaved parents and those who support them.”
- “The Compassionate Friends: Supporting Family After a Child Dies“
- On Loss and Living Onward by Melissa Dalton-Bradford (also author of Global Mom: A Memoir)
After her teenage son’s heroic, tragic death, Melissa gathered the literature of loss around herself as she sought to learn how to live with her own and her family’s heart-wrenching grief. In time, she realized that others could benefit from the wisdom she’d collected from writers who’d found words for the unspeakable. The quotations in this book span historic eras and cross cultures. They reflect the raw commonalities of grief shared by people in all walks of life as shared in fiction and nonfiction through the ages. Throughout, Melissa shares her own journey toward “living onward.”
- A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
This is unlike the author’s more well-known writings. It displays the raw, unfiltered emotions he wrote for himself as he experienced the loss of his wife. If you want to support a surviving spouse, read this to help yourself understand the depth of the loss, then give a copy to the bereaved. (It validated many of the feelings I had during the first year of my grief.)
*[Please note: I don’t receive any tangible compensation by posting the links I share on my site and on my “Helpful Grief Resources” page. I have, however, benefited by friendly correspondence with some writers whose works I’ve admired and shared — and who have also shared mine.]