Q. My co-worker and friend recently lost her husband of 23 years to prostate cancer. I want to be there for her, but I'm not sure how best support her. Could you give advice on what I might say or can do?

A.

When someone close to you experiences such a loss, this is bound to affect you deeply. You are likely to observe that your friend is not quite herself in the workplace, and that she may be overcome with emotion, filled with sadness, and tearful. These expressions are normal responses to grief. Still, you and other co-workers may feel unsure about what to say or do to comfort and support your friend.

Remember that it is natural for you as her friend, to be struggling with your own reactions to her loss. You may feel that you have to offer her answers to her problems or find a way to help her through her grieving more quickly. It’s important to recognize that there is no magic answer or quick fix. Instead, focus on these few basic guidelines:

  • Grief is a process and takes time. Remain patient and available, and be aware that she will have her ups and downs. Reassuring your friend that it’s okay to have ups and downs will help her understand what is normal in grief.
  • Listening is often the very best kind of support you can provide. Just be available to her and allow your friend the time and space she needs. She will have sorrow and many other powerful feelings to express. You cannot take these feelings away or “make it all better,” but by listening you can demonstrate that you care and that her feelings matter.
  • Extend yourself in practical and specific ways. It can be uncomfortable for a person who is grieving to ask for help, so offering to do specific tasks can be helpful.

For more information on how you can help your friend, please read our fact sheet, How to Help Someone Who Is Grieving.