How To Support a Grieving Friend In A Time of Social Isolation

Do you feel it?

Loss is in the air. Grief is prevalent. 

With more than 150,000 COVID-19 deaths being reported in the U.S. alone, chances are you’re either dealing directly with loss, or seeing it all around you.

And without touch (perhaps the most important needs of humans), it’s hard to try and attempt to “touch” someone’s heart across social media waves.

But it’s possible. With the help of these tips, we hope you have some tools and conversation starters to support those grieving in your community. 

Check out our 6 tips below:


Tip #1: Acknowledge the loss and reach out to the grieving person.

When grief expert Jocelyn DeGroot is asked what to say to a grieving person, she always has the same response: “Recognize the loss. And let the person have their grief.” With isolation playing a major part in our lives in the era of COVID-19, most of our interactions with others take place online. And in the realm of social media,  it’s all too easy to see a loss has happened and keep scrolling, either out of avoidance, discomfort or even apathy. The key here is to NOT ignore the loss. Rather, reach out. 

DeGroot went on to explain in this recent NY Times article that it doesn’t matter if what you have to say isn’t unique. She says “I’ve learned that people often scroll through social media comments not to glean unique insights but simply to remind themselves that people support them — so the specific message is less important than the fact that the message is there”.

Some helpful conversation starters to acknowledge the grief are:

  • “My deepest sympathies.”
  • “I’m praying for you and your family.”
  • “My condolences on the loss of _____.”
  • “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Simple, right?! Let’s keep moving…


Tip #2: Don’t offer your help. Instead, just help. 

For a lot of folks, it’s not easy asking for help. Especially while facing a loss. It’s one of the more difficult asks for many of us. So instead of waiting for your grieving friend/family member to reach out and ask for help, show up for them. You might not be able to show up at their house, but you can still show up for them. Here’s some more ideas of how you can show up for a friend from a distance:

  • Order their favorite takeout food to their house and watch a Netflix movie together, from afar.
  • Check in on them daily/weekly/monthly.
  • Send them flowers and a card letting them know you’re thinking of them.
  • Host them for dinner by dropping a meal off at their house, and eating together via Zoom.
  • Organize a meal train for them, so other friends and family can share their love via food.
  • Help them create a tribute for their loved one by offering ideas and space holding.
  • Encourage other friends to support them through this grief journey.


Tip #3: Try to leave behind these all-too-common unhelpful phrases.

Many common phrases said after someone dies live on and get thrown around in the storm of grief, but the truth is that some of these most common phrases downright invalidate the person, their loss, and their grief. Avoid these common phrases such as:

  • “Only the good die young.”
  • “God must have needed another angel.”
  • “At least you still have your cat/sister/house/husband.”
  • “You can always remarry.”
  • “I know how you feel.”

Instead, DeGroot suggests “admit that the death was terrible, the current circumstances are terrible, and if you don’t know what to say … say that”.


Tip #4: Instead of fixing, try validating.

It’s so easy to try and fix someone’s grief, either because you feel uncomfortable, or because that’s how you’ve been taught to handle someone else’s pain. But know that fixing doesn’t really fix anything, really, except for maybe helping you feel better. But that’s not the point. Instead of offering suggestions or advice, try validating the person’s feelings by reflecting back to them the feelings they just said.

Here’s an example:

Grieving friend: “I just don’t know what to do now that he’s gone.”

You: “I hear how hard this must be for you.”

Grieving friend: “I miss him so much.”

You: “Yes, you loved him a lot, and now he’s gone.”

As you can see, validating someone’s feelings, again, doesn’t involve offering solutions, judging, or fixing. It’s just allowing them to feel what they’re feeling. This is a MAJOR step in the process of grief. So allow, hold, and listen.


Tip #5: Avoid avoidance.

Loss certainly isn’t comfortable. And grief is not fun. But that doesn’t mean they should be avoided. If you find yourself avoiding the topic of the loss, or avoiding the grieving person altogether, be courageous, show up, and be direct. Reach out to them and tell them why you’ve been avoiding them. Address the loss first thing in a conversation. It’s important to look the loss straight in the eye. This builds trust between you and the grieving person, and let’s them know it’s safe to count on you.

Here’s some ways you can be direct and helpful with them:

  • Ask them about the lost loved one. What were they like?
  • Tell the grieving person how much you love them. 
  • Ask specific questions like how are they sleeping, eating, to help them contemplate on their own self care.


Tip #6: Know when you can help, and when you can’t.

It’s very possible that you’re moving through your own feelings of loss as we see our world shifting and changing at a rapid pace. These aren’t easy times. Things can get heavy sometimes. It’s important to know when you’re at capacity, and can’t be of help. By honoring yourself when you can’t show up for others with boundaries, you can actually show up stronger for them when you ARE in a space to do so. The meme below gives an excellent example of how to respond to someone in need when you’re not in the best place yourself.

We hope this gave you the inspiration you need to stay in the eye of the storm. These tools are great ones to add to your arsenal, because you never know when you’ll need them.

For more exploration and education on grief, try one of these articles:

How are you and your community supporting those grieving during these isolated times? Tell us in the comments below!

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