How to help someone cope with the death of a loved one

Bear testimony. The greatest comfort I had, after the death of my oldest son, Sean, was the knowledge that "families can be forever." My husband was able to act as proxy to perform temple work in his behalf.

Listen. Let the mourner talk about the loved one - but at their own rate. Don't probe about the deceased.- Avoid cliches and platitudes. Statements like, "You can have more children," or, "You're lucky to have a large family" (when right then they don't feel so lucky), make mourners feel more isolated and they feel that you don't appreciate their pain.

Encourage writing in journals. Encourage mourners to write their feelings and emotions in a journal.

Offer specific help. Don't just say, "If there's anything I can do, let me know." My in-laws came over and just did laundry, as I sat there that first day in a stupor of shock. I felt less isolated.

Be aware of child mourners. Often, children are lost in the shuffle. A trusted friend or family member can be available to truthfully answer questions, to explain what has or will happen. I appreciated friends taking our children out for lunch.

Encourage memorializing the loved one. Something tangible, like a tree planting, may help.

Urge letter-writing. When I attended the Mortuary Science Department at Cypress College, my thanatology teacher suggested a therapeutic exercise - for a bereaved person to write a letter to the deceased. It is an opportunity to say goodbye.

Know that erratic emotions can occur. "I feel like I'm going crazy," for example. If it is apparent that the individual is unable to work through grief or anger, suggest a consultation with clergy or trained counselors.

Keep in touch. First, be sure to visit after the funeral, when shock has worn off. Second, as appropriate, give a hug or a handclasp. A touch can express much when words fail. And remember "firsts" - first birthdays, first Christmas, etc. A letter, phone call or visit means so much. - Miriam C. O'Connor, Salt Lake City, Utah


Welcome outlet

A visiting teacher I had in Provo, Utah, was a young widow. We talked about some of her feelings, and she said something that has always stuck with me. "I'm never upset for someone to ask about my husband. It does make me upset for people to avoid the subject as if he never existed. I loved him and love to talk about him."

Ever since then I ask people about deceased children or spouses. I've found that they do love to tell stories and even if they cry, it is a welcome outlet for them. - Vicki Renfroe, Alvin, Texas

Safe environment

The most helpful and healing support you can give is to let the family member feel they have a safe environment to express themselves. They do not want your opinion. They need to be able to express their fears, grief, anger and any other emotion they may want to vent. Your challenge is to be quiet and let them talk. Do not try to fill in the gaps. They will - when it is time. Be there to listen, to love and to support, but do not judge them or foist your feelings and fears on them. - Sandi Eakett Hudson, Mesa, Ariz.

Be there

Be there for them. Phone calls, visits, cards and letters show a great deal of love and support. This is important immediately, but also as the weeks and months pass.

Offer a warm hug and/or a shoulder to cry on. Be there to listen. Let them know as time passes that you have not forgotten them or their loved one.

Do not put a time restriction on grief. There is no right time to "get over it" or stop crying, etc.

Encourage them, where possible, to receive a priesthood blessing and/or attend the temple.

Encourage them to maintain a relationship with their Father in Heaven through prayer and scripture study. It was helpful for us to seek out General Authority talks or scriptures dealing with death, spirit world, resurrection, etc. - Perry and Kay Bohn, Oxford, Ind.

Listening ear

People have to realize that the family who has lost a loved one has a need to continue to talk about them. You really don't have to say much - just an open heart and a listening ear. Reassurances such as, "It was God's will or they are better off now," do not console the bereaved. Those who say those things mean well but saying nothing and listening far out weighs those statements. - Pam Soha, Roseville, Calif.

Show an interest

Show an interest. Sit by him or her at Church. Say hello in the grocery store. Don't assume others are filling their needs. Friendships begun during trying times can be the strongest kind.

Know that you are not showing disrespect for another's feelings when you are positive and happy. Your smile may be the ray of sunshine they needed at that moment.

Don't compare losses. Remember that each person works through his or her trial individually, regardless of what may have happened to another.

Allow a grieving person to talk as he or she becomes ready, but don't take anything they say personally. Don't feel you need to have all of the answers. Never repeat what you have heard. - Le Ann Durfey, Mendon, Utah

Serve them

Serving is the best way to show that we love and care. When my father died, people came and cleaned the house, painted rooms, did laundry, cooked meals and did other small, random acts of kindness. It touched me greatly to see how much these people cared for us by what they did for us. - John Baer, Stockholm, Sweden

Write down memories

Write down your memories of the loved one and share them with the bereaved. Encourage him/her to write down memories, thoughts feelings about the loved one, even a life story. Suggest compiling a book of pictures of the loved one. It helps the grieving process and is a treasure to look at again and again. - Maria Elena Dahlquist, Payson, Utah


Bear testimony of plan of salvation; encourage them to pray, study scriptures.

Be there, keep in touch; encourage writing in journals.

Be willing to listen, avoid platitudes; be patient; don't put time restriction on grief.

Offer specific help; don't wait to be asked for help.


Dec. 5 "How to maintain spiritual strength after full-time mission."

Dec. 12 "How to cope with an anxiety disorder."

Dec. 19 "How to remember Christ beyond Christmas.

Dec. 26 "How to enhance your temple worship."

Jan. 2 "How to better appreciate the Atonement through studying the New Testament."

Jan. 9 "How to, as a single adult, feel at home in a culture that emphasizes family.

Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to apply teachings of Church auxiliaries in your home," "How to avoid seasonal depression," "How to make a will that will foster love, not jealousy, between children," "How to plan ahead for the different stages of life."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2524 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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