How to Support Grieving Kids, Friends, & Family

Get advice on ways to help a child, friend, or family member in their time of need.

Helping Those Who Are Grieving

  • Striving to be a support for someone you care about while they are grieving is a difficult but compassionate effort. The tips below may be a starting place for your support.
  • Meet the person where he/she is. This may mean identifying your own anxiety as you do so but will allow the person to be genuine, i.e. crying or laughing etc.
  • Validate the feelings of the one grieving. Know that you do not need to “fix” the pain, only that you are there for the person. All feelings are O.K.
  • Allow the person to talk about the grief/loss, about the memories-both good and not so good, and about the situation which has brought them to this place.
  • Avoid arguing or attempting to convince. Feelings which the person is experiencing allow him/her to feel and that is necessary in order to heal, to begin recovery, and to reorganize life.
  • Avail yourself to the griever, not in an isolated manner but in ongoing support. Identify time and assistance you are able to share and do so, without second-guessing yourself or what you bring to them.
  • Develop a comfort level with silence. Your presence may be all the person needs at this point in time.
  • If the grieving person whom you are supporting needs to talk, let them talk. Use good listening skills by focusing on the moment without a need to respond or worrying about what to say. Just listen.
  • People who have mourned are able to tell others what is helpful. What to say that is helpful:
    • I am so sorry for your loss/sadness/news.”
    • “Take all the time you need.”
    •  “I wish I had the right words to say to comfort you, but know that I am here for you.”
    • “May I give you a hug?”-Always ask first.
  • People who have mourned are able to tell others what is not helpful. What not to say:
    • “It was/is God’s will.”
    • “Be strong.”
    • “(Your loved one) would not want you to cry.”
    • “Don’t cry as it will upset (fill in the blank).”
    • “I know how you feel.”
    • “You can always remarry (find another partner, friend, etc.).”

Helping Children & Teens

This table will give you a general overview of what your child may be feeling and how you can help.

Age Common Reactions What you can do to help
Infants and Toddlers Ages Birth to Two
  • Change in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Fussiness
  • Trouble being away from caregivers
  • Try to keep up routines and be consistent.
  • Give lots of hugging and cuddling.
Preschool Ages 3-5
  • Change in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Behavior is more baby-like. (May start sucking thumb or have setbacks in toilet training)
  • More fears
  • Try to keep routines and structure.
  • Be consistent.
  • Assure them they did not cause the illness.
  • Explain what is happening in simple terms.
  • Give them chances to ask questions.
  • Give choices when possible.
School Ages 5-12
  • Trouble being away from caregivers. Return to behaviors they had outgrown
  • Complain about physical problems
  • Irritable or angry
  • Trouble with change
  • Reassure them that they will be taken care of.
  • Explain what is happening to
    the best of your ability.
  • Give choices when possible.
  • Offer lots of times to ask questions
Adolescents Ages 13 and up
  • Anger, withdrawal, physical complaints
  • Concern about being different
  • May have poor judgment or
  • May turn feelings inward
  • Give chances to listen and talk.
  • Encourage peer support.
  • Allow him or her to express feelings in a safe way.

Consider professional help if there are persistent symptoms that last more than a few months.

Looking for Support?

Call Grief Support Services at 218-786-4402 for more information regarding counseling and grief support groups for children, teens, and adults.