The Sanctuary National Grief Support Network

.  Referrals to Bereavement Camps for Children, Teens, Young Adults and Families           

.  Referrals to Grief Support Centers, Counselors & Therapists

.  Grief Support, Education and Training for Schools, Communities and Businesses

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


Do’s and Don’ts of Reaching Out to A Mourner                                                                                                                                                                                                                        


Force the mourner into a role, by saying, “You’re doing so well.” Allow the mourner to have troubling feelings without the sense of letting you down.

Tell the mourner what he or she “should” do. At Best, this reinforces the mourner’s sense of incompetence, and at worst, your advice can be “off target” completely.

Say, “Call me if you need anything.” Vague offers are meant to be declined, and the mourner will pick up the cue that you implicitly hope he or she won’t contact you.

Suggest that time heals all wounds. The wounds of loss never completely heal, and grief work is more active than this phrase suggests.

Delegate helping to others. Your personal presence and concern will make a difference.

Say, “I know how you feel.” Each griever’s experience of grief is unique, so invite the mourner to share his or her feelings, rather than presuming that you know what the issues are for that person.

Use hackneyed consolation, by saying “There are other fish in the sea,” or “God works in mysterious ways.” This only convinces the mourner that you do not care enough to understand.

Try to hurry the person through grief by urging that he or she get busy or give away the deceased’s possessions.   Grief work takes time and patience and cannot be done on a fixed schedule.

Do’s:                                                                                                                                                                       Open the door to communication. If you aren’t sure what to say, ask, “How are you feeling today?” or “I’ve been thinking about you. How’s it going?”

Listen 80% of the time, and talk 20% of the time. Very few people take the time to listen to someone’s deepest concerns. Be one of the few. Both you and the mourner are likely to learn as a result.

Offer specific help and take the initiative to call a mourner. If you also respect the survivor’s privacy, your concrete assistance with the demands of daily living will be appreciated.

Expect future “rough spots,” with active attempts at coping with difficult feelings and decisions for months following the loss.

“Be there” for the mourner. There are few rules for helping aside from openness and caring.

Talk about your own losses and how you adapted to them. Although the mourner’s coping style may be different from your own, self-disclosure will help.

Use appropriate physical contact – like an arm, around the shoulder or a hug – when words fail. Learn to be comfortable with shared silence, rather than chattering away in an attempt to cheer the person up.

Be patient with the griever’s story, and allow him or her to share memories of the lost loved one. This fosters a healthy continuity as the person orients to a changed future.

** Excerpt taken from “Lessons of Loss, A Guide to Coping” by Robert Neimeyer (2000)