How to Listen to Your Grieving Friend in a Helpful Way

6 Things to keep in mind. Hint: It’s not about you

Jean Anne Feldeisen
5 min readFeb 26, 2020


Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

I went once to a support group for grieving family members. My brother had died recently. I went because I was kind of lost and thought support might be a good thing. People said it would be helpful. But it was not.

Maybe you know how it goes. People introduce themselves, say why they are there, whom they’ve lost, how they’re doing. You go around the room. Sometimes people say stuff like “I’m sorry for your loss”. Or “That must be really hard”. I listened kind of numbly, noting that a lot of people had similar losses, but not feeling anything except my own deep pain. I wanted to scream “my pain is different”. My stomach was in a twist, my heart hurt constantly, I cried off and on through the whole thing. But I was polite and stayed till the end. I knew I would not go back, thinking that it was just too early in my grieving process for me to benefit from this sort of thing.

I didn’t give the group a chance because of this. At that moment It was all about me! I didn’t want to hear about any other tragedies. I had nothing left in me to give someone else. I was hurting too badly to care. I had NOT EMPATHY. What I needed was someone to listen to me.

A friend who is a good listener can be a lifesaver

But not this kind of listener

  • Not a person who tries to one-up your story or distract you with a different story of their own
  • Not a person doing their nails or playing on their phone or obviously unavailable because of their own problems
  • Not a friend who offers unasked-for advice or platitudes like “this too shall pass”, “you’ll get over this”, “she’s in a better place”, etc.

(Not that I haven’t done all of those things myself at times. I’m talking about what’s ideal)

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Six things to keep in…



Jean Anne Feldeisen

I've got my fingers in way too many pots. Cook, writer, poet, reader, musician, therapist, dreamer, a transplant from New Jersey suburbs to a farm in Maine.