How to help someone with grief

Randy Stocker knows a thing or three about grief...

On July 22, 2003, Stocker lost his mother, Jean, and his two daughters, Jenelle-age 19, and Amy-age 9 when they were broadsided by a speeding semi-truck and killed instantly.

This led him to become a nationally known expert who's passionate about helping people become better supporters of loss by understanding what a grieving person is really thinking.

How to help someone with grief

From personal experience, he shares 8 things a grieving person needs tell you:

1. Please be patient and understanding with me. I'm not the same person I was before my loss. This is not a detour on the way back to my old life and you need to begin accepting the person I am now. I feel fragile and forever changed.

2. I don't want anyone telling me how to grieve. Don't tell me how, where or when to start and stop my grief. I want to grieve in my own way and time. There are a thousand stages of grief, not just five. 

3. I need a pass if I say something stupid or insensitive. My mind and body are in chaos, and I might say things that upsets people.  I'm exhausted, have insomnia, no appetite, no attention span, a racing heart, brain fog and can't cope with stress. I'm sorry in advance.

4. I want to hear their names and I want you to tell their stories. I never want my loved one to be forgotten. (You aren't reminding me of their death, you're reminding me of their life.) Show me pictures I've never seen. Tell me stories I've never heard. Share your favorite thing- or what you'll miss most- about them.

5. Never stop calling me.  I want the phone to ring for someone to just say, I'm thinking of you today. Invite me and keep including me even if I don’t accept the invitation. "I'm going for a 2 mile walk this afternoon, would you like to come?"

grieving person waiting on call from friend

6. Be a supporter, not just a comforter.  Make concrete offers of support so I can focus on surviving my grief:

  • I will be there at 4 pm on Thurs to bring your recycling to the curb.
  • I'll stop by each morning on my way to work and give the dog a quick walk.
  • I'll drop off a bag of groceries on Monday evenings on my way home from work, so text me a list of what you need.
  • I'm going to Target this afternoon, what can I pick up for you?

7. Reach out BEFORE key days. Grief builds up inside of a body. Reach out 2-3 days before key days (Father's Day, anniversary of loss, Valentine's Day etc.). Let me know you're aware the day might be hard and that you'll be thinking about me and here to help. The buildup to the day is so often harder than the actual day.

8. Hugs help. A hug is sharing pain between two people. Sometimes this is so much better- and easier for everyone - than exchanging words.

Want more information on how to help someone with grief?

Stockers experience has led him to write Hugs Help and become a professional grief speaker who's teaching others to be able to communicate better with the bereaved without feeling awkward.

Hugs Help shares some insights on how to help someone with grief.

If you know of someone who is struggling with their grief, this book will help both them and you.

Hugs Help  | Help someone with grief

If you'd like to learn more about Randy Stocker, you can view his website here:


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