12 Things You Can Do for a Friend Who Lost a Parent⁠—Right Now

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Our parents are there for us from the moment we’re born. They’re some of the few people you can count on to always be there for you. When someone loses their parents, it can feel like their whole world is crumbling around them.

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It’s hard to know exactly what to say when someone loses a parent. But if your friend is experiencing this kind of tragedy there are words and actions that can help bring them some peace. Here, we talk about some of the ways you can help a friend cope with the loss of a parent.  

What You Can Do for a Loved One Who Lost a Parent If You Can Be There In-Person

Sometimes the best thing you can do when it comes to helping a grieving friend is just show up for them. Here are some ways you can help a friend who is geographically close to you: 

1. Be there while your friend processes their loss

When someone loses a parent, they will have a lot of emotions to process. They may not want to talk about it right away, and that’s ok. You can just be there with them and sit in silence. Just knowing you’re there with them can help. If and when they are ready to talk, keep being there with them, and just listen.

They may display a wide range of emotions, from heartbreak to anger. Don’t invalidate this display of emotion by trying to cheer your friend up. Be a witness to these feelings, no matter how complicated they may be. Your friend will need to deal with these dark and dangerous feelings in order to begin healing. Bearing witness to this conflict is a powerful gesture of friendship.  

2. Organize a meal train

It can be incredibly challenging to deal with the mundanity of day-to-day life when you’re grieving. Tasks that would be simple under normal circumstances can be absolutely draining when you’re grieving. There are many ways you can offer practical support to help your friend during this hard time. One thing you can do is organize a meal train.

A meal train is what happens when a group of people gets together to provide meals for a family in need of support. A primary organizer will mobilize volunteers and make sure this process goes as smoothly as possible. They can make sure that meals arrive spaced out appropriately, one at a time, instead of ten casseroles showing up on the same day. The organizer can also make sure volunteers are aware of any allergies or food restrictions the meal recipients may have.

Taking this on can take a lot off your friend’s plate. Not having to go grocery shopping or spend time meal-planning for their family gives them time and space to grieve. There are websites you can use to help you manage this kind of effort. You can even collect donations from faraway friends to help defray the cost of groceries or food delivery. It’s a great way to bring a sense of community together.  

3. Offer child care

Putting a meal train together is one way you can offer practical support to a grieving friend. There are other ways you can help in a practical manner.

One way is by offering to take care of your friend’s kids for an evening or a weekend. As a parent, it can be hard to let yourself fully experience difficult emotions when your kids are present. You don’t want to scare them or make them feel sad. If your friend is in that situation, you can give them that space they need to process their emotions in private. When they’re back with their kids, they’ll be in a better place emotionally. 

4. Invite them to come to stay with you

If your friend served as a caretaker for a sick or elderly parent, they may be reeling on a lot of levels right now. Not only are they grieving the loss of a parent, but they are also dealing with losing their sense of purpose.

If they shared a home with their late parent, they may likely have a very hard time being in that space on their own. Offer them some sanctuary in your guest room for a while. This will help them as they adjust from being a full-time caretaker to their own person. It will also give them the chance to be cared for, for a change.  

5. Tell your friend stories about their parents

If you’ve known your friend for a long time, you may have also known their parents. If they’re in a reflective mood, offer to share stories about their parents with them. You can reminisce about times you all spent together growing up.

Or you could even share stories that your friend might not know. Maybe their mom was there for you when you were having problems with your own mother. She might have given you a talk that helped you navigate that situation. Sharing a story like this can help your friend see their late parent in a new light. That can actually bring them some measure of comfort.  

6. Help them put together a memory jar

If your friend isn’t ready to talk about their late parent, you can take a slightly different approach. A memory jar is a vessel where people can write down memories and stories about a person who has passed away.

You can start a jar and enclose slips of paper with your own memories. Then encourage your friend to add their own stories to the jar while those memories are still fresh in their minds. Then, when they’re ready, they can revisit those stories alone or with you as support.  

ยป MORE: Grief is a form of remembrance. This complete post-loss checklist is your guide to honoring their legacy.


What You Can Do for Someone Who Lost a Parent If You’re Far Away

Unfortunately, sometimes we aren’t able to be near our friends when they are dealing with a loss. But that doesn’t mean we can’t offer our support. Here are some ways we can help a friend through the loss of their parents even from far away:

7. Say it with flowers (or a donation)

Sending flowers is a tried and true way to express your condolences to someone. You likely know your friend’s taste when it comes to flowers, so you can send a beautiful and meaningful arrangement their way.

However, pay attention to any messaging regarding funeral arrangements. If your friend has asked for people not to send flowers, don’t ignore them. Instead, make a contribution to the organization they may have specified to donate to in lieu of sending flowers.    

8. Send a condolence card

A condolence card is another classic and simple gesture you can extend in when a friend is experiencing a loss.

Take time to craft a truly heartfelt and sincere message. Tell a specific story about your friend’s late parent if you had an occasion to get to know them. That attention to detail will elevate this gesture to something really special. 

9. Pick out a sympathy gift

If your friend’s love language is gifts, you can check out this great list of sympathy gift ideas. A thoughtful and personal gift can go a long way towards bringing solace to a friend.

These gifts could include a memorial stone for their late mother’s garden, or a gift certificate for a spa day. Anything that brings them comfort is appropriate.     

10. Send photos from happier times

If you and your friend grew up together, you may have photos of their family from years past. Look through your personal photo collection (or reach out to your own parents) to find pictures from younger, happier years.

Get copies of these photos and put them in a sweet photo album, or share them digitally with your friend. In sad times, we can sometimes derive comfort from remembering a happier, bygone era. 

11. Touch base frequently via text message

When someone dies, a person may feel inundated with people checking in on them. It can be hard to keep up with a steady stream of condolences. But after a few weeks, those condolences can taper and fall off.

Everyone else starts to move on with their lives, even while the grieving person is very much stuck in place. Continue being there for your friend not just in the immediate aftermath of a death. Keep on showing up for them while they continue to heal. 

12. Set up a video chat with them

A face to face chat with a trusted friend can be one of the most comforting things when you’re dealing with a loss.

Even though you and your friend may be far apart, you can still talk face to face. Use Skype or some other video-based service and set up a time to chat with your friend. It’s a lot more personal than even a phone call. 

Help Your Friend Deal with the Loss of a Parent 

If a friend of yours is coping with the death of a parent, you can do so much more than just say “sorry for your loss.” There are all kinds of thoughtful gestures you can make, whether you’re nearby or far away. This list should give you the inspiration you need to help your friend deal with tragedy.  

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