Showing Love In Times Of Grief or Sorrow: What To Do (And What NOT To Do)

by Texas Homesteader ~ 

Showing Love In Times Of Sorrow & Grief or sickness. It’s often hard to know what to do.  And more importantly, what NOT to do. So I’ve surveyed our followers and come up with a helpful list.

Showing Love In Times Of Sorrow. After a friend lost her mother I knew she would need any comfort I could give her. But what to do? And what NOT to do? #TexasHomesteader

Comforting Someone Experiencing Grief or Sorrow

We often want to comfort a friend experiencing grief or a frightening medical diagnosis. But we don’t know what to say. We feel awkward wondering if we’ll say the right thing.

Having gone through troubled times and known others who have as well, here are some things that well-meaning people say (and better ways to say it):

Let Me Know If There’s Something I Can Do

This is the most common thing said. But someone overwhelmed with emotion doesn’t even know for themselves what they need. And even if they did they often won’t ask. It’s just too hard to think, to make these decisions.


Can I pick up the kids for the afternoon tomorrow so you can rest?

What’s you favorite local restaurant (and buy them a gift card to that place). 

I’m going to Target tomorrow – can I pick something up for you while I’m there?

These things relieve the decision making for someone who’s feeling overwhelmed. They still feel the love, you’re still able to comfort.

Friend Suffering A Severe Medical Condition

If your friend is suffering a severe medical condition you may want to keep up on their health. But I can tell you from experience that so many calls coming in asking “How’s it going?” can sometimes add anxiety to someone who’s already fearful of their medical diagnosis and uncertain treatments.

Hospital bed - what to do when a friend experiences grief or illness. #TexasHomesteader


Go ahead & make calls or send texts often so your friend doesn’t feel loneliness on top of their fear. But talk about other things than illness updates. Talk about how their favorite sports team did for last night’s game. Talk about what you’re planting in your garden, or ask about their new grandbaby. 

Your friend may share their medical updates as they’re comfortable. But this respite conversation will be a welcome distraction.

Awkwardly Staying Away 

I’m pretty shy and am always worried about “bothering” someone. So I get it.

It’s awkward for you to be around your friend because they’re sad. You’re afraid you’ll cry. You don’t know what to say. So you don’t. You stay away. But this is the worst thing for a friend going through hardship.


If you’re afraid your emotion will keep you from comforting your friend (Spoiler alert: It won’t) contact your friend by text or email instead. They’ll know you were thinking about them and you’ll still be able to send your love.

What Matters Most To A Grieving Friend?

I asked my dad what mattered most when he lost my stepmom a few years ago. He commented how alone he felt since his friends seemed to back away after his loss.

He assumed that those friends were afraid of saying the wrong thing or causing him to cry. So they just stayed away instead.

But backing away hurt my dad emotionally. It was during his time of grief that he actually needed those friends the most!

So I asked dad what things mattered most to him when he was going through his grief.

He said that a hand on his shoulder and a sincere “I’m so sorry” was what helped him the most.

Yes the tears came, oftentimes from both my father and his friend. But my dad felt the love, and that was most important of all.

Showing Care or Being A Burden During Grief?

When a friend lost a family member, my thoughts turned to how to comfort her. But I also had doubts.

What if she was already fielding so many phone calls from family members & well-meaning friends that my call is just another burden for her to bear? Do I call anyway to tell her how sorry I am for her loss? 

Showing LOVE in times of sorrow. I wonder if I can... #TexasHomesteader

Do I Bring Food For The Family for the expected surge of visitors to come to their home? Or is that all just a bother when she’s got more on her shoulders than she feels she can bear while dealing with her grief?

Is yet another container of food just overwhelming when everyone else is bringing food already?

Or am I just overthinking this whole thing??

What NOT To Do For A Grieving Friend

What about contact? I want to support my friend but I’m a very sensitive person. For me, if a tear is coming then it’s coming & I can’t hold it back. 

I realize that a tear is a direct window to the heart and I know I shouldn’t apologize for that. But how can I be strong in front of my friend if I can’t hold back my own tears? 

It’s not that I’m afraid to cry, it’s that I’m afraid my tears will make her pain even worse. The fear of hurting my friend further has me hesitant to do much more than to just give her space

How To Show Comfort To Someone Who’s Grieving?

So I polled a group of friends. I asked them if they had ever been comforted in their grief by friends?  

There were way too many responses to list all of them. But many echoed the same sentiments.  Here are some of the answers:

Bobbi said: I would take her something warm to eat (maybe a casserole) and while there offer my services. Anything. The small things matter more than the big things. Both my sisters lost their husbands within 6 weeks of each other and they said the best things were the little things.

Goodie said: I think a casserole and some home made bread, would be fine. I find that the best thing we can do is just be there, to listen. The most difficult time is after everything is over. Folks are gone and you are left alone to deal with the loss. Maybe you can spend some time with her then.

Barbara said: Homemade food would be a very thoughtful thing to do.

Donna said: Also, paper goods – there are a lot of people in the house right now and a lot of food – paper plates, cups, cutlery, towels, toilet paper.

Keeta said: All the food was a godsend. Stay in touch after the funeral, that’s the hard part. Oh, one of our neighbors brought paper plates, napkins and plastic forks and spoons. That was a great help.

Friends Showing Love During My Own Grief

I was at my parent’s house after my grandmother passed away. There were many people who brought various foods (I assume they were their friends and local church members.) 

What a blessing that our family could gather together without having to worry about fixing meals. I know that was certainly a comfort for all of us at that time. 

Supper plate brought by friends while experiencing grief. - pork chops, green beans and carrots. #TexasHomesteader

And when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through the surgeries that followed, it was such a comfort both from a chore-relief standpoint as well as touching to my heart that friends brought food.

That meant that RancherMan didn’t have to worry about fixing meals for us. He could focus on the caregiving duties.

The food provided by friends fed not only our bodies, but our souls as well.

Bringing Food: Non-Returnable Dish Convenience

And when a dear friend was delivering food for us she commented that I was NOT to return the pretty dishes in which the food was delivered.

She shared with me that she scours estate sales for cute dishes and buys & washes them up so that she can deliver food without burdening anyone with returning dishes.

Sharing love during times of grief, buying dishes from estate sales or thrift stores to bring food. #TexasHomesteader

She told me to fill that dish when I got well and pass the love on (which I did). What a great idea.

Taking Food To Families Suffering Loss or Hardship

Since it’s cold I feel I should maybe whip up some warming food to comfort my friend, both her body & soul. I ran through ideas in my mind:

The gift of food - a list of meal ideas to bring to a family dealing with grief & sorrow. #TexasHomesteader

I’ll focus on foods that serve easily and freeze well in the event that there’s too much food delivered in the beginning.

How I Comforted My Grieving Friend

I ended up making a large pot of homemade chili & packaged it in a large resealable container. And I baked up some fresh cornbread and sealed it in another container with a note that the containers were not to be returned, but refilled & passed on at a later date.

Cowboy beef, black bean and dark beer chili with homemade cornbread. #TexasHomesteader

We’ll swing by to visit our friend, presenting our gifts of love.

Emotionally Uplifting Gift For Grieving Friend

I also got a sympathy card for her. But on the edge of the card I’ve attached a little angel pin.

My family has a tradition of “Angel on your Shoulder“.  We pin an angel pin on the shoulder of our shirts when honoring or lifting up special people in our lives.

Today I’ll pass that tradition on. I’ve included an angel pin on the sympathy card I’ll be presenting.

Showing Love In Times Of Grief & Sorrow. After a friend lost her mother I knew she would need any comfort I could give her. But what to do? And what NOT to do? #TexasHomesteader

Have you suffered a loss and felt comfort from the love offered to you by friends? What actions mattered most to you? And what types of foods were most helpful? 

More importantly, what well-meaning things were really just a burden to you?


This post categorized in       Inspirational posts #TexasHomesteader   

Tagged in Our posts dealing with grief and loss. #TexasHomesteader          

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37 thoughts on “Showing Love In Times Of Grief or Sorrow: What To Do (And What NOT To Do)

  1. Pat

    Finding this on #MotivationMondays, after losing my dad this past December. I love the ideas of the “pass along plates” and the sweet angel pin…might have to adopt those m’self 😉
    I think you hit everything spot on…It IS awkward to comfort grieving friends sometimes. I think it’s because it causes us to face our own mortality head on.
    Comfort comes from hands stretched out in sincerity…no matter how bumbling they may be… <3
    Thank you for sharing this oh-so-personal story…

  2. Joanne T Ferguson

    Sorry to hear about your friends and in sharing your story with me in turn…Pinned all
    You asked? I have suffered many losses and for me, JUST know someone, anyone cares is enough for me!

  3. Vicki

    Lovely post, and I just wanted to say that I am truly sorry for your loss, and I hope your friend is coping. My dad passed away Sept 2013 so my comment is really just based on what my own experience with grief has been.

    For the funeral and the first two weeks after, I had my family. For a few weeks after that I just needed the world to leave me along, I found I needed my friends more after the life went back to “normal”. I needed my friends to be okay with me talking about my dad a ridiculous amount, and I needed them just to let me do and feel whatever it was.

    If she has children, perhaps you could offer to take them for an hour or so, just so she can have some time out, or so she can cry without feeling guilty about her children seeing her fall apart. Maybe send her a card reminding her of your heartfelt love and support, I remember we got lots of cards, but most of them were addressed to my mum (and rightly so), it was nice for me to receive some cards from my friends acknowledging my grief as well though. Anyway, those are my suggestions, hope they help 🙂

  4. Jessica

    There are some wonderful suggestions here. I never would have thought to send paper proucts to help eliviate the burden of all of the dishes to clean.

  5. Susan B Mead

    Texas Homesteader, this is lovely. I grew up in East Texas, so feel right at home here.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Well Howdy Susan from one Fellow Texan to another! I’m always so awkward around a grieving friend, not really knowing what to do or say. When I polled my FB followers for advice & they were so helpful in offering suggestions, I thought there must be many folks in my position – wanting to offer comfort but not really knowing what to do. I hoped that others that read my post would be helped – I look forward to checking out your post too.

  6. Brittany

    I love your friend’s idea of buying dishes specifically for the purpose of being able to give them away & not burden the grieving family with having to return them.
    Thanks for Joining us at the #HomeMattersParty. We hope to see you again next week. 🙂

  7. Robin

    I have a hard time with these type of things also. It is hard to really know what to do you want to help but not be a burden either. It sounds like you did something that would help them out a lot. Great post thanks for sharing!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Thanks Robin. I’m hearing from all around that grieving people don’t know what to ask for or what they need, but they always say they need their friends & family NOT to pull back. Since that’s my natural inclination I really struggle with that, but I’m strengthened knowing that whatever I’m doing isn’t a burden, but a show of love, and that’s exactly what they need. Even though my gifts of food are very simple, it’s the LOVE that shows through. ~TxH~

  8. Joy Moorefield

    I love your thoughtfulness at a time of grief. So many people in my family are passing away in recent years. Food is a wonderful gift. My sister, who lost her husband told me that much was a blur during the initial days of the funeral. She appreciates that people are willing to listen and talk to her about wonderful things they remember about him now. Two years later, she still grieves, and I listen.
    Thank you for sharing the idea of the ‘pass it on’ bowl. I am going to start collecting those now for similar reasons. I enjoyed your blog, very much.

  9. beth b

    A beautiful and heartfelt post! Thank you for sharing. May you and your friend find comfort.

  10. Vickie

    So sorry for your loss of a great friend. So nice of you to bring something to the family -I love the angel pin and I would love to get some myself for in times like these . It’s good letting them now she is with the angels now. Blessings.

  11. Amy

    Your post mirrors my experience of last week almost exactly. My friend’s sweet mother passed away after several weeks in the hospital, and I found myself wanting (needing actually) to do something more than just attending the funeral. But, like you, I often hesitate for fear of bothering someone. Taking them food was my first thought, but others seemed to have that well handled. Then I remembered that these ladies were avid scrapbookers. So I gathered my courage, and asked my friend if she would like me to take pictures at the funeral and the lunch that followed. She said yes most definitely. She wanted pictures, but didn’t know who to ask!

  12. Teresa

    I am in tears reading this. I have been on both sides of this issue and the giving and receiving are a blessing to anyone in need. We live today when so many people are afraid to do anything for fear. I heard one day,365 times in the Bible it says “do not fear”. There are so many hurting people out there and if we would all reach out it would be a better place. It is so good to read of the compassion everyone here has.

  13. Terri Presser

    My sympathies on the loss of your dear friend, I pray that you will find comfort at this time. When people are sick or experiencing loss we take food. I make it and my husband drops it off. When my own parents passed away we lived 1800 kms away and we stayed in their house. No one bought food, I suppose they thought that we would survive on take away. I really felt this and it was hard, so now we don’t hesitate when someone is in need. If God puts someone on my heart I will cook for them. Also something to think about is when a few weeks pass and all the meals and help fades away to remember them and drop something off occasionally. You will all be blessed and it will strengthen your relationship. Thanks for sharing your heart at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Oh Terri – how awful that you weren’t able to feel that love that should have been given freely when your parents passed away! (hugs) I always worry that I’m such a simple cook that my food can’t stand up to some of the fancier awesome cooks that abound around me, but the gift of my heart is given through my simple dish & I really think that shines through. ~TxH~

  14. JES

    Food was very much appreciated when we lost some family members. It touched us every time someone brought in a pot or a casserole dish. The love flowed through the house with the aromas and prayers. I personally found the phone to be a burden but very much appreciated messages on the machine. It allowed me to listen to the love without having to comment during that hard time.

    Thanks for sharing this thoughtful post on the Art of Home-Making Mondays!

  15. CTY

    Bring what you can. if you can. But being there is most important. One thing to do to support friends is to be a behind the scenes person. In other words quietly show up just to help out. During funeral times the house is usually left empty (& believe it or not thieves read the obituaries & show up when the know the house will be empty) and you could be the person that stays behind. When I’ve done this I wash whatever dishes are around, empty the garbage and organize whatever I can. I even did a thorough dusting of family picture frames once. I have wiped fold up chairs, replenished dog/cat water & cleaned litter boxes. I organized food as it arrived & made room in the refrigerator. Behind the scenes shows you care and you don’t have to worry about bothering anyone.

  16. Donna Stone

    I’m so glad you posted on this! I have never felt burdened by any expression of condolence. I think we let grief frighten us too much.
    The sweetest to me was a simple letter from my old childhood church saying we were in their prayers and offering sympathy. All those attending prayer meeting signed. Some of the names were new, but there was my old Sunday school teacher, choir members, and a younger sibling of one of my classmates. It was so touching and comforting. I had not been to that church in many, many years.

    visiting from Good Morning Mondays

  17. Kathleen

    Thank you for sharing that heart felt story. That would have been such a blessing to your friends and a good lesson for us all.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Thanks Kathleen. I figured I couldn’t be the only one who awkwardly pulls back when they desperately want to embrace instead. Hopefully this will show others who feel that way that they are not alone and help them know what they might do to help those in grief. ~TxH~

  18. CassieOz

    I’d say “share the tears” and don’t be afraid of them. There’s a lot of ground between dissolving into a useless puddle in front of your friend and ‘being strong’ (usually means unnaturally stoic). You show your ‘strength’ by being there (not avoiding the hurt and staying away) and bringing practical help (food, a trip to the supermarket, laundry…) but if there are tears in your heart and they come naturally, then they honour the loss and will not be despised by your friend.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      A lovely sentiment Cassie, and one that brought a tear to my eye. Beautifully said – thank you! ~TxH~

  19. Ronda

    Thank-you for insight. I think that it’s perfectly fine to cry with those who have lost loved ones. God’s Word says we should weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Sometimes, a friend needs another friend to cry with them. It would show you loved and cared for your friend’s mom. A meal would be wonderful! When my dad had bypass surgery and then a stroke, all four of us kids came along with my husband and two kids. My parents church friends brought food every night. It was unbelievably helpful. One lady brought a large package of toilet paper, paper towels and paper goods. So helpful! They also gave my mom gas cards because the rehabilitation hospital was an hour away and she’d be going almost everyday for 3 weeks. The men also finished the bathroom he was adding onto their room! Like one poster said, helping with the little things matters! Most importantly, love your friend! Just love on her and give her a long warm hug.

  20. Patti

    So very sorry for your loss of a dear friend! We went through this in April and May of last year and both were so unexpected. When my mom passed people brought food each day for a month and it was once so greatly appreciated. I also had to deal with her home that had just burned down and the last thing on my mind was cooking for my family. Love your blog and glad I found it!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      OMGosh Patti, what a tragedy for you to deal with. (hugs) I’m glad you had many “Love Deliveries” afterward. ~TxH~

  21. gail

    I think you are doing exactly the right thing. The soup and cornbread sound delicious and will give comfort to body and soul, and are a symbol of your concern. Perfect. I used to take a big (disposable) pan of chicken wings, which can be eaten hot or cold and can be frozen if not needed. It was always a big hit. And your post has served as a reminder that I have been lax these past couple years in a new home in a new city, and need to push myself to reach out more to give comfort where I can. Blessings.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      The gift of love in whatever form it presents itself is a much-needed gift during those troubling times. Good for you Gail for realizing that sometimes you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone. ~TxH~

  22. ColleenB.

    Sorry to hear about your friend.
    Thoughts and prayers go out to you and the family of a loved family member.
    Sent you an eamil

  23. Laurel

    I think the thoughtfulness and the company are the right things…. but I do find it frustrating when someone says that they WERE going to stop by or they WERE going to call and then they didn’t. Don’t tell me what you WERE going to do, I see and feel what you DID do.

  24. Sandy

    Thank you for so sweetly sharing your emotions with us. I always go through the same thought process. next time I will just do it. If tears come then so be it.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      YES Sandy. From my uncertainty I’m more apt to step back and do nothing, and that’s just not right. I’m one of those people that cannot stop tears if they are coming so I’ve always been too afraid to make a move. But I’m hearing that those tears can be healing for both of us. Showing the love is so important during times like this. ~TxH~

  25. Terry

    So sorry for the loss of this wonderful woman who meant so much to you. May God comfort you and her family.

  26. bobbi

    Awww, great post. I hope she is coping ok.
    What a great idea with the “thrift store” dishes. I hadn’t thought of that. I always used the foil throw away pans, but this is more in the recycle/reuse department and less waste. 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I’d never thought of it either Bobbi except that a sweet thoughtful friend shared the idea with me. I’ll be on the watch to pick up cool platters & large covered bowls for sharing future love. I put a note on the bottom of the platter that said “Do not return this platter, refill it with love and pass on to someone else”. She mentioned to me that she loved that. 🙂 ~TxH~


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