50 Practical Gestures to Help a Grieving Friend


When comforting someone who is grieving, how many times have you said “If there’s anything I can do. . .”?

You mean it sincerely—you want to help—you just don’t know how. Yet grieving people often don’t know what they need, and if they do, they may not trust that your offer is sincere.

Next time you want to do something for a friend or family member who is grieving, consider offering a specific, tangible action. Think about their circumstances. What role did the deceased loved one fill—what things are now left undone? What relaxes this person? What is their current need? What is your relationship to them?

Once you’ve considered their situation and needs, take the initiative. Offer to do something specific. Here are 50 ideas to get you started:

  1. Help get the obituary done.
  2. Make a list of who brought casseroles and who belongs to what dish.
  3. Accompany to the funeral home.
  4. Make a donation in memory of the deceased.
  5. Grocery shop.
  6. Run errands.
  7. Drop off baked goods.
  8. Give them some nice coffee or tea.
  9. Help with thank you notes and acknowledgements.
  10. If it’s a colleague, offer to take a 10-minute coffee or tea break together. Bring their favorite beverage.
  11. Do laundry.
  12. Do dishes.
  13. Do home repairs.
  14. Acknowledge anniversaries of the death—1 month, 2 months, 1 year, etc. Set calendar reminders and reach out on those days.
  15. Answer the phone when they call.
  16. Show up if there is an emergency.
  17. Invite to stay over at your house.
  18. Help sort through and pack up their loved one’s belongings.
  19. Provide names of good handymen, auto mechanics etc.
  20. Clean up.
  21. Drive (kids to school, friend to doctor’s appointments, etc.).
  22. Invite to lunch, dinner or coffee.
  23. Bring dinner.
  24. Drop off dinner.
  25. Bring fresh tomatoes.
  26. Take their dog for a walk.
  27. Clean out the cat’s litter box.
  28. Take their pet to the vet.
  29. Take them to the farmer’s market.
  30. Invite them to take a walk with you.
  31. Encourage them to take daily walks with you—or schedule a regular day each week or month.
  32. Go bike riding with them.
  33. Take them for a massage or manicure.
  34. Give a gift certificate to a spa.
  35. Take their kids to a movie or out for ice cream.
  36. Babysit the kids.
  37. Take them for a country drive or an outing to the mall, yard sale, book store, etc.
  38. Accompany them to religious services.
  39. Go volunteer with them.
  40. “Celebrate” their loved one’s birthday with them.
  41. Invite them over for the holidays.
  42. Help organize finances.
  43. Help with taxes.
  44. Organize medical bills.
  45. Send a care package.
  46. Help them get back into the swing of things at work.
  47. Mow their lawn.
  48. Weed their garden, or offer to do it together.
  49. Drop off paper goods—paper plates, paper towels, napkins, toilet paper.
  50. Help them decorate for the holidays.

If this article helped you, please share it with a friend.