How Do I Support Someone After a Violent Loss?



  • Don't let your own sense of helplessness keep you from reaching out to a bereaved friend or relative.
  • Don't avoid them because you are uncomfortable (being avoided adds pain to an already intolerably painful experience).
  • Don't say you know how they feel. Even if you have lost someone yourself, you cannot understand unless you have walked in their shoes.  It's better to say, "I can only imagine what you must be going through."
  • Don't say, "you ought to be feeling better by now" or anything else which implies a judgment about their feelings.
  • Don't tell them what they should feel or do.
  • Don't change the subject when they mention their loved one or avoid mentioning their name out of fear of reminding them of their pain.
  • Don't try to find something positive (i.e. a moral lesson, closer family ties, etc.) about the death.
  • Don't point out that at least they have their other children (children are not interchangeable; they cannot replace each other).


  • Do let your genuine concern and caring show.
  • Do be available to listen, to help with the other children, or whatever else seems needed at the time.
  • Do say you are sorry about what happened to their loved one and about their pain.
  • Do allow them to express as much grief as they are feeling at the moment and are willing to share.
  • Do encourage them to be patient with themselves, not to expect too much of themselves and not to impose any "shoulds" on themselves.
  • Do allow them to talk about the special and endearing qualities of the loved one they lost.
  • Do give special attention to the family's children at the funeral and in the months to come (they too are hurt and confused and in need of attention which their parents may not be able to give at this time).
  • Do reassure them that they did everything that they could or whatever else you know to be true and positive about the care given their loved one.


Adapted from