21 Ways to Comfort Someone Who’s Upset or Crying


Learning how to comfort someone who's grieving inconsolably takes time, patience, and compassion. It may seem as if there's nothing you can say to make things better for them, especially if they're grieving deeply and are upset and crying. When they're feeling this way, they aren't in the right state of mind to receive or accept your advice or any attempts of consoling them.

Jump ahead to these sections:

They may be in a deep state of grief with the pain of losing someone they love weighing heavily on their heart. Although it may be clear that you want to make them feel better, their grief may keep them from thinking and reacting rationally. They might lash out at you, or become even more upset at your attempt to have them stop crying.

There are a lot of ways to comfort someone, but one of the first and perhaps most important things you can do for them is to love and support them by accepting their grief and letting them cry it out.

How to Comfort Someone Who Lost a Loved One

There are a lot of ways to comfort someone, but one of the first and perhaps most important things you can do for them is to love and support them by accepting their grief and letting them cry it out.

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

1. Offer your presence

How to comfort someone - offer your presence image

When your loved one is grieving and is deep in the throes of despair, it's not your job to fix things and make it all better. Your responsibility is not to stop their tears from flowing. A good friend will try to know when to be there as a shoulder to lean on when things get rough, and when saying something is necessary to offer support.

You don't have to say anything, and sometimes not saying anything at all is the best thing you can do. Being there and offering your silent support allows your loved one to work through their emotions as they grapple with their loss.

2. Empathize

Putting yourself into the shoes of your loved one may help you see things through their eyes.

You may not be able to fully understand their loss because maybe you've never experienced it at their level, but you may be able to empathize with them based on having gone through a similar loss. You don't need to know exactly what they're feeling to know that they're in pain and grieving. 

When sharing your experience, consider that in their eyes nothing can compare to what they're going through right now. It may not be the appropriate time to give the details of what you suffered through. Just allow them to have this moment to mourn the death of their loved one without comparing.

3. Say words of compassion

Not knowing how to console someone is one of the main reasons why people ignore their friends and loved ones who are dealing with loss.

It's not that they don't want to acknowledge the death, it's that they genuinely don't know what to say. This fear of saying the wrong thing can cause some people to distance themselves until things return "to normal," and may ruin their relationships along the way. 

When a person is grieving they may not feel like reaching out to you to see why you haven't called to offer your condolences. They assume you've heard the news, and now it's up to you to follow through with your expression of condolences. Saying something as simple as “sorry for your loss” goes a long way in letting your loved one know that you care and support them. 

4. Ask questions

How to comfort someone - ask questions image

When your loved one is crying uncontrollably, it hurts to stand by and watch without knowing what to say or do. One of the last things they want to hear is for you to tell them to stop crying, or that everything is going to be okay. Try, instead, gently asking questions as you allow them to cry and get it all out. 

You may want to start by telling them that you know that they are in pain and that it's okay to cry. Then try asking them if it's okay for you to get some tissue for them, or if it's okay that you both go outside for some fresh air. When you present these as options, they may feel more in control and more receptive to your attempts to console them.   

5. Offer emotional comfort

When supporting your loved one through their loss, realize that the grief process takes time. They will likely go through all the stages of grief before they start to make peace with the loss they've suffered. Being a constant and reliable presence in their life during this time will give them comfort. 

Simple ways in which you can support them is by calling to check up on them, inviting them out for coffee, or letting them know that you are there for them. All of these acts of love and support will let them know that you care and are there for them as they go through their grief journey.

When the time comes, consider putting together a small celebration to honor the life of their loved one at their death anniversary. This lets them know that you still remember their loved one even as time goes on.

6. Let them talk

Opening up a dialogue to get the conversation going will help your loved one process their grief more so than if they keep their emotions bottled up. Encouraging them to tell you how they feel may take some time and patience, but once you gain their trust and confidence, give them time to share what they are feeling.

Sometimes things resolve on their own when allowed the opportunity to talk about them out loud. You don't need to offer profound words of healing and comfort. Just listen as they tell you what they're going through. 

7. Offer to cook and clean

When someone is grieving, it's difficult to focus on the details of day-to-day life. They may forget to follow basic hygiene routines and may even forget to eat. Regardless of how much reminding and prodding you do to get them to do both, they may not feel emotionally up to it.

If you can stop by to check on them regularly, consider cooking a meal for them. You can sit and visit while they eat. You may need to encourage them to do so, but at least they'll be getting one nutritious meal per day. When the meal is over, try casually tidying up the rest of the house as you clean up after cooking. 

8. Offer to call the family

When you're hit with the devastating news that someone you love has died, your emotions may go into a tailspin.

Everyone reacts differently to this type of news, and not everyone will lose control, but you'll likely not know what to do next. When this happens to someone you know and love, understand that they may not be able to think clearly at the moment. And, they may not consider calling others to let them know what's happened.

Offer to take over this responsibility while they take a moment to process the news. You may want to start going through their contact list on their mobile phone and start making phone calls on their behalf. Be prepared to offer a short introduction of who you are and why you're calling. 

» MORE: It's time to focus on what really matters. Use these tools to help.

9. Offer to set up funeral arrangements

How to comfort someone - offer to set up funeral arrangements image

If your loved one doesn't have an extended family or other support systems in place to help them navigate death, offer to help in any way you are comfortable doing so. Some of the things they may need help with are identifying the body, deciding on end-of-life issues, and making final arrangements.

This may be more responsibility than you are willing to undertake, so consider carefully before making this commitment.

10. Offer financial help

One of the hardest things for someone to accept is financial help when they need it. It's usually a matter of pride. Most people don't want to inconvenience their loved ones by asking for money — even when they may be in a financial bind.

During a time like this, one of the best things you can do is discreetly handing them an envelope of cash. An alternative is for you to directly pay any outstanding balances at the funeral home. 

These gestures of financial help are almost always welcome. By not making it a big deal, your loved one will more readily accept the help, and you'll help relieve some of the stress they may be under. You can decide later if you expect them to repay you, or if this was a gift or contribution in honor of their loved one.

11. Allow their tears to flow

Giving the space and time to cry to someone who's grieving lets them process their emotions as they make sense of their loss. This is a normal part of the grieving process and is a healthy way of dispensing with all of the pent-up emotions they may have been suppressing.

Some people think that they have to put on a brave face and be stoic around others as they come to pay their last respects. They never allow themselves to feel the human emotions associated with death, pain, and suffering.

As time passes, these emotions they've been holding back on may surface in ways they may not know how to handle. Their feelings of loss and despair may turn into anger towards themselves and others. Crying helps soothe the soul and alleviates some of the pressure of suppressed emotions.

How to Comfort Someone Who Is Sad or Stressed About Another Type of Loss

Tragedies strike every day without warning, and they have the power to send people into a tailspin of stress and anxiety. Comforting someone experiencing a loss that isn’t related to a death can be challenging. It can be especially complicated when you don't know the details of what's happened. You might struggle to do or say the right thing to someone who may not be ready to open up. Keep reading below for some ideas on how to give comfort and support to someone sad or stressed. 

12. Help them put things in perspective

Whenever someone experiences stress and anxiety, they may lack reason to see things from a rational standpoint. They may get so immersed in their fear that it causes them to lose sight of things as they are. Stress and anxiety cause a person to see things differently. The chemical reactions occurring inside your brain and body alter your perception of your situation.

These stress responses cause you to see conditions as more severe than they are. Remind your friend or other loved one that things aren’t always as bad as they seem, and once they feel calmer, they'll be able to see things from a different perspective. 

13. Acknowledge their loss 

As with any loss, it’s important not to downplay another person’s perception of their experiences. Grief affects everyone differently, and what may seem trivial to someone may be life-changing to another. Try and keep this in mind when comforting someone you know. Your love and support shouldn’t depend on the type of loss experienced.

Instead, you should focus on how that individual feels about it. Often, a bereaved individual wants to have their grief acknowledged, not understood. Finding the perfect balance between acknowledging their grief and understanding it might take time, but is not a prerequisite to lending your support. 

14. Reassure them that they’re not alone

Reassuring someone worried or sad about a particular loss will benefit them by letting them know that you’re validating their experience. Coping with anxiety after a significant loss can be tricky. A person suffering from tragedy may feel their world has turned upside down without any way out. No matter how hard they try not to feel anxious, their racing thoughts get the better of them. Let your loved ones know you’re available whenever they need someone to talk to, and you can be someone who will reassure them that things will get better. 

15. Learn about what they’re going through

Many types of losses can affect individuals, and they often have nothing to do with the death of a loved one. A well-known saying states you never know what someone's going through behind their smile or closed doors. Never assume what you think you know about a person's situation is the only thing they're dealing with. Try asking them instead of making assumptions about someone else's issue or problem. You may be surprised to learn they face much more complex challenges than you expected. 

» MORE: A will is not enough. Get all the documents you need.

16. Offer advice only when asked

Offering comfort and support also means knowing when to sit back, listen, and when to offer words of encouragement or advice. Individuals going through several challenges may only need someone to talk to. Through conversation, they can gain strength and clarity about their situation. Still, they may not necessarily want or need any input or advice.

To better understand your loved one’s needs, ask them how you can help them or where they want the conversation to go. Do they need your advice, or do they only want to talk about what they’re going through?

How to Comfort Someone With Only Words

Sometimes people feel sad or stressed about a situation where they feel they don’t have control. You can sympathize with someone you love by choosing your words carefully. Show them you care. Comments can be equally comforting as they can be painful.

Misspoken words often feel like daggers piercing through a person’s heart and soul. This can happen even when you don’t intend for it to be offensive or hurtful. Whenever you’re at a loss for what to say to someone in deep despair, consider some of the following options. 

17. “I can only imagine how painful this is for you.”

When you tell someone that you might not be familiar with their pain, but you can imagine what it must feel like, you're acknowledging their suffering without sounding like a know-it-all. These words convey feelings of solidarity with the bereaved, showing you empathize with their pain and suffering without claiming to know how they feel.

No one can ever know someone else's pain and sorrow, even if they've experienced similar losses. The simple act of acknowledgment is often enough to comfort someone going through a stressful situation. 

18. “Let me help you breathe through it.”

Choosing the right words is a good starting point in helping grieving people get through their feelings of anxiety and stress. When dealing with a stressful situation, many individuals forget to breathe. That can often make them feel even more anxious about their situation. Once they reach this level of stress and anxiety, they usually start experiencing panic attacks.

Generally, individuals who experience panic attacks begin to feel anxious about getting another one, and their fears and anxieties start multiplying. Talk your person through their stress and anxiety by reminding them to breathe deeply. Also, distract their mind with stories or news about what’s happening in the world around them. 

19. “I know things are really difficult right now.”

If you’ve experienced a similar loss in the past, don’t be afraid to share it. What you’ve gone through and survived can help someone struggling through that type of situation. The human experience makes us experts at recognizing grief and loss when we see someone else facing the same challenges we’ve already dealt with.

Your past pain and suffering can help someone else learn to understand their grief and how to deal with its most challenging aspects. When faced with the fear of the unknown, the human mind makes up scenarios of possibilities that often make things appear far worse. 

20. “I’m always just a text away if you need to talk.”

Many people feel more comfortable communicating over text than a phone call. They feel better able to express themselves because they have a moment to gather their thoughts before speaking them. Text messaging also allows you to compose and edit a message before hitting send.

When you factor in the ease and convenience of sending text messages at any time without needing or expecting an immediate response, this makes it the perfect way to support someone who's going through a tough time. You can set the expectation of when you'll respond, especially to late-night messages, to avoid any hurt feelings. 

21. “Let me help you get through today.”

The grief process is unpredictable. One day, a bereaved person may feel well enough to get themselves out of the house for a few hours. The next day, they may feel paralyzed with grief. You can support grieving individuals by helping them make the most of each day while keeping their thoughts and feelings grounded in the present.

When you let your mind and thoughts wander too far into the future, it creates fear and anxiety about not knowing what’s coming next. Staying in the present allows you to focus on surviving through loss one day at a time. Reassure your loved one that things will get better with time and that right now, the only priority is getting through the day. 

Consoling Someone Who is Crying

Sometimes it's best to let someone cry it all out and let the tears flow freely. There is a certain relief that comes over you when you are allowed to express your feelings without being self-conscious of crying in front of others or what you may look like.

There’s such a thing as having an "ugly cry" - of letting yourself express emotion regardless of what you look like while doing it. Just let your loved one go all out and have that ugly cry when needed, but spare them the selfie in the middle of it all. 

Icons sourced from FlatIcon.