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What To Ask For When Grieving



by Deb Sims, MS,RNCS,LCSW

When a death occurs or is about to occur, our friends and family members frequently react in ways we don't expect. Some people will immediately reach out and offer appropriate help. Others will be there for the funeral and then be gone. It would appear they don't care. However, in fact, they may care deeply but not know what to do. Sometimes they mistakenly think they would be intruding by calling or stopping by.

So what can we do to help others know what our needs are? I found a letter in a book called Life after Loss by Bob Deits. It is a way of telling a person who has never experienced grief what they can do to help. For all who are grieving, I share this letter from his book with you. With some slight modification, it can also be a good way of explaining what you need from others as a grieving caretaker. All credit for the creation of this letter goes to Bob Deits.

I recommend sending it to anyone who has indicated they'd like to help or anyone you need help from. If you can not do it yourself, perhaps a family member could for you.

Dear_____________________(Family, Friends, pastor, Employer),

I have experienced a loss that is devastating to me. It will take time, perhaps years, for me to work through the grief I feel because of this loss.

I will cry more than usual for some time. My tears are not a sign of weakness or lack of hope or faith. They are the symbol of the depth of my loss and the sign that I am recovering.

I may become angry without seeming to have a reason for it. My emotions are heightened by the stress of grief. Please be forgiving if I seem irrational at times. I need your understanding and your presence more than anything else. If you don't know what to say, just touch me or give me a hug to let me know you care. Please don't wait for me to call you. I am often too tired to even think of reaching out for the help I need.

Don't allow me to withdraw from you. I need you more than ever during the next year.

Pray for me only if your prayer is not an order for me to make you feel better. My faith does not excuse me from the grief process.

If you have had an experience of loss that seems anything like mine, please share it with me. You will not make me feel worse.

This loss is the worse thing that could happen to me. But I will get through it and I will live again. I will not always feel as I do now.

I will laugh again.

Thank you for caring about me. Your concern is a gift I treasure.


(your name)

I hope this letter will help ease some of the loneliness that comes from others not knowing what they can do.


Debbie Sims is a Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist in Adult Psychiatric Nursing, has a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She maintains a private practice in counseling but her devotion is to her position as Editor for Beyond Indigo an Internet web site for those who are grieving.

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Kelly- the letter above that you have recommended will be helpful. I recently lost my husband 46 days ago unexpectedly.  We were married 34 years but knew each other for 36 years. I have a 44-year-old son from a previous marriage who my  husband brought up as his own since he was seven years old. They had a wonderful relationship as father and son.  My husband worked hard to give him everything he could possibly give him The world. Since my husband's passing I have not seen my 44-year-old son but only three times once was at my husbands wake. I know that people grieve in different ways but I am not sure if this is what the reason is. My question to you is is there a similar letter that you know of that I may send my son? 

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