How to Help a Grieving Friend

When children watch their friends going through the emotions that arise after death, they are naturally going to be curious, but they may also choose to maintain a distance between themselves and that friend.  Because death is a relative unknown for most children, they are unlikely to know how best to approach their friend who has experienced a death (and not likely at all to know that most adults suffer this hesitancy as well).  

The following tips may be helpful to share with caregivers of children a grieving child spends time with.  Open communication with members of a child's "village" can help keep responses to the child's reactions to/about the death and their feelings consistent, while also maintaining the safety and security of the people they care about around them.  

Do’s and Don’ts from Ele’s Place Kids


  • Know that some days your friend will want to talk about or share feelings about the person who died – be a good listener!  Other days, they may not want to talk about them at all – enjoy their company! 
  •  Make a card for your friend
  • Go to the funeral
  • Ask if your friend wants to talk about the person who died
  • Be a good listener when your friend talks about the loss – even if you don’t know what to say.  It is okay to tell them that you don't know what to say but you care about them and how they feel.  
  • If you knew the person who died, talk with your friend about good memories of that person
  • Invite your friend to do something fun with you
  • Include your friend in activities
  • Treat your friend the same as always
  • Understand that your friend might have good days and bad days
  • Be patient and forgiving when your friend is upset or seems different
  • Ask what you can do to help
  • Remember that holidays and special days might be difficult for your friend, and ask how he or she is doing
  • Say, “I don’t know how you feel, but I care and I’ll try to understand.”
  • Tell your friend it’s OK if he or she cries.  Also let them know that it is okay to have fun and smile and laugh still. 
  • If you feel worried or sad about the death in your friend’s family, talk with your parent or another adult


  • Don’t tease or joke about the death or about the person who died
  • Don’t ask a lot of questions (if your friend is very open and they would like to talk about the death, questions and conversation are okay – being able to talk or not talk are part of what makes your friendship strong)
  • Don’t treat your friend “special” – Yes, they may be sad or angry, but they are still the same person they were before; they are just missing the person they cared for who died. 
  • Don’t change the subject if your friend wants to talk about the person who died
  • Don’t say “I know how you feel.”
  • Don’t make fun of your friend if he or she cries