How to help a friend who lost a parent

Acknowledge the Loss

The loss of a parent can be one of the most difficult and painful experiences a person can go through. It is important to remember that it is not always easy to express grief, and it is okay to feel sadness and anger.

Acknowledge your friend’s loss, and let them know that you are here for them and that you are willing to listen and support them in any way that you can.

Express your sympathy

When someone has suffered the loss of a parent, acknowledge their grief and express your sympathy. Avoid clichés or platitudes such as “Everything happens for a reason” or “Time heals all wounds”. Instead, offer items of comfort such as:

  • Food
  • A hug
  • Listening when they need to speak
  • Providing distractions – a movie night together or an outing to the park

Be prepared that a person going through this kind of loss might lash out in unexpected ways. This is normal and is usually caused by shock and disbelief in what has happened. Be patient and gentle with them and try not to take anything too personally; focus on supporting them rather than pushing back against aggressive behavior.

Show your understanding through physical contact like comforting hugs or gentle pats on the back. Small actions can mean a lot during this time – bringing coffee when visiting, offering errands you could run for them, dropping off flowers, remembering particular anniversaries or dates of significance can help show your empathy and support. Let your friend know that you respect his or her feelings and appreciate whatever contribution he or she has made in honoring the deceased parent’s memory; express thoughts of sympathy explicitly and tactfully whenever possible.

Respect their feelings

It is essential to acknowledge your friend’s loss and show them respect for their feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, and grief. Share stories about the person making them laugh or cry if it helps. Be prepared to listen if they want to talk about how someone or something had a positive impact on their life.

No matter how hard you try to help them cope, your friend may still feel overwhelmed in their grief. This is normal and acceptable. Remember that the grieving process can take days, weeks, months or even years – so be patient with them while they take the time they need to heal emotionally. Encourage them to seek out support from peers or professionals who can offer guidance and solace as needed.

Offer any practical assistance that you can with difficult tasks such as:

  • sorting through finances
  • making necessary arrangements (ex: funeral)
  • sending thank-you cards
  • running errands for your friend related to this loss.

This kind gesture will help take a burden off of your friend during this challenging time in their life and shows that you truly care about them and are there for them whenever needed – no matter what!

Offer Practical Help

When a friend loses a parent, there are so many practical things that need to be done in order to help them cope. You can offer to help with errands, like grocery shopping or running other needed errands. You can also offer to help with paperwork or phone calls that may need to be made. If a friend has siblings, you can offer to help coordinate between people.

Practical help can be one of the best ways to help a friend in such a difficult time.

Ask what they need

The death of a parent can be a terribly painful experience. It may feel overwhelming and lonely for your friend, and you want to help, but you’re not sure what you can do. The best thing you can do is to listen with empathy and ask your friend what they need from you.

Don’t assume that your friend will want or need the same things that other people have asked for or suggested in similar situations. Ask them how they are doing and if there is anything specific that they need help with at this time. Let them know that their feelings are normal and it’s OK to feel sad or confused or angry. Ask how you can best support them right now.

It can also be helpful to offer practical support by:

  • Cooking meals for them
  • Cleaning up the house
  • Taking care of any errands
  • Inviting them over for activities
  • Spending time together (without talking about what has happened)
  • Setting up an online calendar where others can chip in to help out so your friend doesn’t have to manage it all themselves
  • Being available when they want someone to talk to

Offer to help with day-to-day tasks

The grieving process is a long one, and there are some practical tasks that your friend may not have the heart or energy to do during this difficult time. Offering to help with day-to-day tasks– such as cleaning, grocery shopping, running errands, taking care of children or pets– can be a great way of lending physical and emotional support.

It’s best to give your friend options so they can accept the help they really feel like they need. It’s also important to remember that it can be hard for people in grief to ask for help. So you may want to make specific offers of things you know you can do without waiting for them to ask:

  • Cleaning
  • Grocery shopping
  • Running errands
  • Taking care of children or pets

Suggest counseling or support groups

It can feel overwhelming to offer support to someone who is grieving a loss. It often involves navigating a delicate balance between giving them space to process and demonstrate that you care. One of the best ways to do this is by suggesting professional counseling and linking them with local support groups.

Counseling is an effective way for people who have experienced loss to gain insight into their emotions, as well as practical tips on how to handle grief in constructive ways. People often benefit from talking out loud, understanding they are not alone, and having an experienced therapist evaluate their emotions in an objective way. Support groups provide a similar opportunity by sharing stories with other individuals facing similar struggles and creating connection during times of sorrow or loneliness.

These services differ from a personal interaction in that they are designed to give practical advice and help people compartmentalize feelings. Groups may provide helpful coping strategies or matches for deeper one-on-one sessions, allowing those suffering from grief the chance to tailor their sources of support according to their needs and comfort level. It can be difficult for two people grieving together because both may be too overwhelmed with emotion during conversations; these professional avenues aim to ease this process by providing a safe environment where members are validated but also gently supported through difficult times.

Be Present

Losing a parent can be one of the most emotionally devastating experiences an individual can go through. Supporting a friend through this tragedy can be difficult, but it is important to be present and available to them.

So how can you be present and help your friend who has lost a parent? Here are some tips that can help you through this trying time:

Listen to their stories

When a loved one has recently lost a parent, our natural instincts often make us want to quickly fill the silence or offer platitudes. But one of the most powerful things we can do is actually listen to their stories without judgment and without rushing to offer apologies or explanations.

Take your friend’s lead when it comes to talking about their parent. If they want to reminisce and share memories, let them take the lead in guiding the conversation. Allowing them to come back to their stories when they need can help them process their loss. As you listen, find meaningful ways to connect with what they’re saying by asking follow-up questions that show interest and attention. Verbalizing the connection between what you’re hearing and how you relate can help your friend feel seen, heard and supported in their grief journey.

Be as present with them as possible by avoiding outside distractions in person or through delaying conversations over text messages if feasible. This can be hard for those struggling with being separated from friends due to social distancing rules, but aim for quality over quantity when it comes time for physical contact or virtual communication. Show compassion and accepting that this grieving process doesn’t have any “right” way of taking place; no person will grieve exactly like another – even if it is seemingly similar on the surface – so validate where they are at regardless of whether you think should be progressing faster/slower than they are now.

Be patient

When a loved one has experienced the loss of a parent or other close family member, it’s important to remember that grief takes time. Everyone experiences grief differently and it is not helpful to expect someone to “move on” quickly. It is also important to be patient with the bereaved as they are trying to process their feelings and find ways to cope in their new normal.

An understanding attitude and open listening ear can be invaluable during these times of sadness and confusion. Listening without judgement can help your friend feel safe expressing their emotions while also allowing them the chance to hear their stressful thoughts out loud in order to work through them. Offering suggestions may seem helpful but try not to give advice unless asked for because oftentimes those grieving just want someone who will listen and validate their feelings.

Showing that you are present and here for your friend who lost a parent is a great way to begin (or continue) discussions about dealing with loss. Allow them the time they need and try not to force conversations until they are ready – reach out periodically if they have not initiated any contact, especially if you haven’t heard from them in awhile. Showing that you will remain supportive despite this tragic event helps those struggling feel seen during moments of darkness, bringing solace during difficult times.

Encourage them to talk

It is important to make sure that your friend knows that you are there to listen and that their feelings are valid. Some people may not be ready or able to talk extensively about their grief, but you can offer a nonjudgmental space where they can say whatever they feel like they need to say. Encourage them to express their thoughts and emotions, as this can help relieve the stress of bottling up pain and allow them to start on the road to healing.

Be present in more ways than just being an ear for them to speak into – take some time out of your day and send them a text or chat with them via message just letting them know you are thinking of them. If distance does not prevent it, plan visits that involve their favorite activity so that they don’t need to be alone or stay at home dwelling in sadness.

Supporting a friend through the emotion-laden process of dealing with death requires deep attentiveness and empathy, so try your best to put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would want people around you if something similar were happening in your life.

Provide Comfort

When someone you care about has suffered the loss of a parent, it can be difficult to know what to do to help them. However, providing comfort and support can be one key way to help them through this difficult time.

Comfort can come in many forms, from simply being there for your friend, listening to them talk, providing a hug, or even just simply providing a gentle presence. Regardless of the form of comfort you provide, it can be an invaluable way to help your friend through this tough time.

Offer hugs

Showing physical compassion helps us let out our emotions, and it goes a long way when someone is grieving. Hugs are essential for the healing process. Encourage your friend to give and receive hugs; taking in comfort from others can make all the difference. Try offering strong hugs that provide unconditional acceptance during this difficult time, as a gentle embrace from someone you care about can be one of the greatest sources of comfort.

In addition to hugs, try to listen without judgment when your friend expresses their feelings; it will help them to be heard and validated. Just being with your friend in their presence can make them feel less alone. Take turns speaking and listening; by patiently allowing them time to talk and vent, you are providing a safe space for them to express their emotions. You don’t need to say very much – just remind them that they’re not alone and that they have someone they can talk with if they need it.

Send cards or letters

One way to provide comfort to a friend who has lost a parent is to send them cards or letters. Even if you aren’t able to see your friend in person, sending a card or letter can let them know that you are thinking of them and still care about them.

Writing down your thoughts and memories about their parent can offer some comfort. You can also use this opportunity to share kind words and encouragements with your friend as they face this difficult time. If you know your friend’s parents well, you may also be able to include some of their stories as well.

Receiving cards or letters can give someone strength during trying times:

  • Share kind words and encouragements.
  • Include your thoughts and memories.
  • If you know them well, add stories of their parent.

Offer to make a memorial

Sometimes, when faced with the loss of someone close, it can be difficult to find the right words. A thoughtful way to provide comfort is by making a memorial that honors the life of their parent.

You could make a scrapbook of photos, special memories, and favorite stories to celebrate their life. You could also compile a collection of meaningful music or even create a donation in their parent’s name to support a cause they were passionate about.

No matter how big or small your project is, it will be appreciated and remembered by your grieving friend.

Suggest Self-Care

When a friend experiences the loss of a parent, it can be devastating and can lead to feelings of guilt and grief. There are many things that can help a friend cope with the loss, one of which is self-care. Taking care of oneself during this difficult time is essential because it can help lessen the feelings of distress and sadness.

Here are some ideas of how you can help your friend practice self-care:

Suggest activities to help them cope

Suggesting activities to your friend that enable assessment and personal reflection can be a way of self-care. Activities such as keeping a journal, starting a scrapbook or photo album, or writing a poem or letter can all help to process emotions in an accessible manner. Depending on the individual’s preferences and personal life circumstances, other activities could include:

  • Yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Walking in nature
  • Mindfulness practice and mediation

It is also important for your friend to maintain relationships with others and find support from their existing support network. If possible after social distancing guidelines are lifted, suggesting that they see regularly family members who are able to offer responsive listening and understanding can be beneficial. You may wish to offer social activities of your own – going out for coffee/tea together, cooking meals together over zoom or engaging in a mutual hobby.

Lastly help them find connection with people who have had similar experiences by reaching out to parent bereavement charities such as The Compassionate Friends or Together Apart Bereaved Parent Support Group. These organisations provide individuals with contact information for local groups and resources accessible within the local community which help combat feelings of isolation. By commiserating with people of shared experience your friend may gain insight into coping strategies they have not considered previously while feeling less alone during this difficult time emotionally and mentally.

Remind them to take care of themselves

It can be easy for someone who has recently lost a parent to focus on the loved one they lost and neglect their own needs. It’s important to remind your friend that taking care of themselves is essential to finding strength and peace now.

Encourage them to self-care by:

  • Getting plenty of rest and sleep
  • Eating healthy, nutritious meals
  • Staying active through physical exercise or yoga
  • Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or mindfulness meditation
  • Being creative through art, music or writing
  • Talking to a professional counselor when the need arises
  • Spending time in nature, which has been proven to reduce stress levels.

Additionally, if your friend wants help tending to practical matters like making arrangements for funeral services or providing support as needed during this stressful time, allow them the space and honor their wishes accordingly. Simply checking in every once in awhile with an offer of help can make all the difference.

Encourage them to reach out to others

Even if your friend is not feeling very open to interaction with other people right now, it is still important for them to reach out and talk to others in order to start healing. Helping them make connections, such as setting up potential meetings or just putting them in touch with people who have also lost a loved one, can be beneficial. Reaching out and talking to someone they trust can help them feel less alone and provide an outlet for their emotions. It can also aide their emotional recovery by providing practical advice from those who have been where your friend is now.

Encourage self-care activities like:

  • Journaling
  • Taking walks in nature
  • Engaging in hobbies that bring comfort or joy

Self-care doesn’t have to be big gestures – even small ones can help create positive emotions that aid the healing process.

Offer additional assistance by:

  • Talking through problems together
  • Researching resources together online
  • Helping with tasks like housekeeping that may become more difficult due to their loss of a parent