After the first few weeks of loss, we are so depleted that it may feel impossible to ask for help, or even know what help to ask for.   Friends want to help, but they often are not sure either on what to do.  Below is a short list of ways to take charge of your grief and ask for help.  Consider copying or e-mailing this list to friends.

  • Please reach out to me with specific offers of help.  Don’t expect me to reach out to you.  I am overwhelmed, and the simple act of picking up the phone can be too much.  Simply, help me with responsibilities.  Offer to help with errands, the kids, the laundry, meal preparation and the everyday things that I may not be able to complete.
  • Please share a meal with me.  Eating alone or without my loved one is difficult.  Please bring a meal over on invite me to go out to eat.
  • Please don’t minimize my feelings or try to eliminate the pain.
  • Please remember me on special dates, such as the one-month anniversary of loss, my loved one’s birthday, the holidays, and other milestones.
  • Please say the name of my loved one.  It doesn’t upset me.  In fact, I like to hear my loved one name.
  • Please don’t judge how I am grieving.  Support my decisions and how I choose to grieve.
  • Please help me through the entire journey of grief.  I need your friendship and support during this dark time.

If you are not comfortable sharing the list of suggestions yourself, perhaps have a close friend or family member serve as a guide in letting others how to best help you.


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Providing assistance to a grieving family can be an invaluable gift of support. But how and when to help a family can be a difficult and tricky question because even the grief stricken family won’t always know what they need or want. One thing for certain though, you should create a support network for a grieving family. Below are guidelines to assist you:

1. Put one trusted person in charge as the main support person. Perhaps that person can be in charge of assisting with household operations or staying with the family. The support person should be someone other than an immediate family member.

2. The main support person can delegate to other volunteers. Others can be in charge of various tasks ranging from babysitting to planning meals. Volunteers should report back to the main person in charge to avoid confusion or more upset to the family.

3. Consider having the support person stay with the family. The person should at least be there during the day to help with phone messages as well as the deliveries of remembrance gifts, condolences, food and sympathy flowers. Even if the family needs to be alone, the support person could stay in a separate part of the home.

4. Try to have someone relieve the support person periodically. Sometimes well-wishers, deliveries and the phone calls can be exhausting for the main support person. If there are issues that arrive when this main contact person is away, all helpers should still contact him or her so the family is not disturbed.

5. The support network should respect the choices of the grieving family. Although it may be hard to understand some of the family’s choices, it is important to accept the family’s decisions. Just know that setting up an effective communication network during the initial stages of grief can with preventing any extra stress on the family.

6. As a friend who wants to help, be sensitive to the complete picture of grief. Instead of assuming what the family needs to hear or do, take guidance from the bereaved and the situation. In the beginning, don’t place too much on the family’s plate either, such as giving suggestions for coping or asking when thank you notes will be written. Most things can wait until the family requests guidance or may not need to be addressed at all.

For additional support or guidance,  get a free copy of “How to Help Someone who is Grieving – A Grief Support Guide,” written by Chelsea Hanson.



Offering condolences can be awkward no matter which side of the gesture you’re on. Friends and family may struggle to find the right words while the bereaved may feel like no one really understands what they’re going through. Unfortunately, there is no right way to make that process easier, but sympathy gifts can offer deep support can be a step in the right direction and can offer deep support.

The loss of a loved one is never easy and it is something that you never entirely get over. While the initial shock and pain may eventually ebb, there will always be a feeling of loss and sadness. Having a tangible way to remember your departed loved one, whether a family member, friend or beloved pet, can also be a tremendous source of comfort.

Whether you want to show your support to a grieving friend or family member or want a way of remembering your own loved one, there is a unique gift that can express your feelings in ways that words cannot. An angel statue, a picture frame to house photos taken during happier times, an inspirational book, these are just a few of the ways that you can memorialize lost loved ones.

In most grief support groups the prevailing sentiment is that grief is a very individual process. We each experience it differently and there is no right or wrong way of going about it. If having a special memento to help you remember your loved one facilitates the process for you, then you shouldn’t hesitate to find that special something.

If words fail you when approaching someone who is grieving, then perhaps giving a gift of remembrance will provide you with the perfect way of expressing your support. It can be difficult to know exactly what to say, but a thoughtful gift can demonstrate what words cannot. It can show your friend or family member that you care and that you are standing with them in their time of need.

Even the most sincere expression of sympathy can sometimes fall short of the mark. In most cases, it’s more for the benefit of the speaker rather than the individual who is grieving. It’s a way to try and alleviate your own discomfort at confronting their pain. You may mean well, but your words can fail to have the desired effect.

Sending a sympathy gift goes far beyond words. It demonstrates that you took the time to find something to bring comfort to your loved one. More than a mere expression of condolences, it is a glimpse into your own heart and can speak volumes. For it is the quietest of gestures that often say the most.

Grief is a very natural experience and with a beautiful and unique gift, you can bring comfort and strength beyond measure. Whether the process is your own or a loved one’s, you can lighten the load with a thoughtful remembrance. It’s the perfect way to ease toward deeper healing.

Visit for your free copy of Chelsea Hanson’s e-book, How to Help Another Who is Grieving.

For additional grief support, visit Chelsea’s blog at

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Remembrance Poems

The world may never notice
if a rosebud doesn’t bloom
or even pause to wonder if the petals fall too soon,

but every life that ever forms
or ever comes to be
touches the world
in some small way for all eternity.

The little one we longed for
was swiftly here and gone,
but the love that was then planted
is a light that still shines on

And though our arms are empty
our hearts know what to do
every beating of our heart says,
“We will remember you.”


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Angel gifts are among the most popular and special forms of sympathy expression.  Unlike any other symbol, angels represent peace, comfort and a unique connection to the one we’ve lost.  Whether the deceased is an adult, child or even a pet, we can find solace in the thought that they are now with the angels in heaven and even looking down on us as angels themselves.

This lovely sentiment has taken many different shapes, from inspirational sayings to figurines and garden statues.  All of them offer a personal way of demonstrating your care and understanding during a time of tremendous pain and loss.  It can be a particular source of comfort knowing that friends and family are reaching out in such a thoughtful way.

Stemming from the Bible itself, the image of angels watching over and protecting us is one that has lasted over the years and appeals to a wide range of people.  Angel gifts pick up on that feeling and add to it with words and images that pertain to a specific situation.  You can find something that speaks directly to the mourner, offering a sense of connection to the loved one they have lost.

There are even angel figurines and ornaments that are designed for very specific situations, such as the loss of a child, which can be particularly difficult.  It can be especially hard to figure out what to say to parents who have lost a child or experienced a miscarriage. A remembrance of their own little angel who is now watching over them can help to ease that pain.

Angel gifts can serve to ask for protection for deceased loved ones or be reminders of the loved ones themselves.  They can speak to us in many different ways and be a lasting keepsake to ease the grieving process in the quiet times as well as the more immediate moments right after a loss.  Because grief is not something that comes and goes quickly; it can be a long, slow process that requires patience and care.

That’s where sympathy gifts really make an impact.  Instead of just a fleeting token like a card or flowers, a special gift can stay with the mourner and remind them that they are not alone in their grief.  It can also help to keep the memory of the deceased alive, allowing their life to have an impact well beyond death.

While writing a note of sympathy can seem more personal, sending a gift can carry weight far beyond that of words.  Angel gifts in particular can express emotions and sentiments that we might otherwise be unable to convey adequately.  It can be a touching way to extend arms, or wings, of comfort and lessen the ache of loss.

No matter how harsh the loss or how deep the sorrow, you can be a solace to your loved ones by sending them a personal and meaningful sympathy gift.  And for a truly special message, consider choosing something related to angels.  It will show your loved one that you are thinking of them and offering your support in the most thoughtful manner possible.



“I keep thinking of all the things I would have bought for her this year . . . it tears me apart.”  This bereaved mother, who lost her only child six months ago, echoed a frequent lament amongst grievers.  During the holidays, it is painful not to shop for their loved ones. What may be a better idea, is to shop for a memorial gift that will help stay connected to your loved one.

What I frequently suggest is to buy that special item, the gift that would have meant so much, and donate it to a charity in honor of their dear one.  There are a wide variety of places happy to receive gifts of love, from homeless shelters and women’s shelters to educational facilities and hospital waiting rooms.

No, it’s not the same as watching your loved one’s face light up on Christmas morning.  Still, the gesture can be meaningful and even take on significance as an annual ritual.  You get to shop for your special someone, and you get to pass it forward to another who will benefit from your thoughtfulness.

 Memorial giving is a way to stay connected to your beloved one, which is an important aspect of grieving.  Your loved one has died, but your relationship lives on.  Finding creative ways to remember and to feel connected while helping others in the process is truly a win-win.

Author:  Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW

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Hang on when riding the roller coaster of grief.

A Vekoma Boomerang roller coaster at Wild Adve...

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You can yell and scream all you want as your grief hits all those curves and dips and bumps, but don’t give up.

Hang on to hope. Hang on to love.  Hang on to memories.  Hang on to life.

Know that a bad day just means you can “start over” tomorrow. Have realistic goals that you can meet. Be fair to yourself.

We all have bad days that blindside us, the ups and downs of the grief, but these bad days also enable us to feel the beauty of a good day, the love of a friend, the power of a gorgeous sunset, the peace of a serene lake, or the joy of a child.

Hang on!

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When sending sympathy messages, sometimes words can escape you, as you aren’t sure what to say.  Below are some simple examples of what to say in sympathy messages.

  • My thoughts and prayers are with you.
  • Thinking of you in these difficult times.
  • Our hearts are filled with sorrow for you and your family.
  • We’re sharing your sorrow.
  • With deepest sympathy.
  • In loving memory.
  • Forever remembered.
  • With heartfelt condolences.
  • Fondest remembrances.
  • You are in our thoughts and prayers.
  • Always in our hearts.
  • Your loved one’s sprit will live on in your heart and memory.
  • Our thoughts are with you.
  • With heartfelt sympathy.
  • You will be in our thoughts and prayers.
  • Thinking of you at this time of sorrow.
  • Please accept our deepest sympathy for the loss of your Mother.
  • Our hearts are saddened by your loss and our thoughts and prayers are with you.
  • We wish to express our sympathy in your loss and to let you know that our thoughts are with you.
  • At a time such as this, words cannot express our feelings
  • We are very sorry for your loss.
  • We love you and are here for you.
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At holiday time, when someone has lost a loved one in the last year, silence is not golden.  We may choose silence, when we don’t know what to say; however, this can leave the bereaved feeling more alone, when that is not your intent. Do you need tips on helping someone who is grieving during the holidays?

Christmas card by Louis Prang To show your continued care and concern, a short and simple message is all you need to say or send:  

  • “I am so sorry that your husband will not be with your this Christmas.”
  • “I am thinking about you during the holidays. I am very sorry that your dad won’t be with you.”
  • “I wish that your daughter was here to celebrate Christmas with you.”

Simply include one of these messages in a Christmas card  or even an e-mail, and your support will be so valued and appreciated by the recipient.  It could make their day to know that someone else is thinking of them!

Now, who do you know that could use a simple message of support from you?

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Grief and the Holidays: Pay Attention to Yourself.  These words are worth repeating.  The holidays are difficult when you are dealing with grief and have lost someone, so self care is critical.

Rest when you need too.  Listen when that little voice tells you that you’re too tired to shop and buy one more gift. Give yourself the option of not attending another party.

Be sure to let your friends and family know what you are up for, and what you are not up for. Pay attention to what you don’t want to do, and what others can do for you.  As you become aware of these things, share them with others who can help you do these things.

Ask for help when you need it.  Most people want to help you, and simply just do not know how.  Give them the opportunity to help you and don’t try to do everything your self.

The holidays are the season of giving, and others do want to give to you!  Let them know what you need.

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