What’s the best way to help a grieving friend – give them advice? Cheer them up? Remind them that life is for the living?
It’s so hard to know what to do when your friends are hurting. The thing is, you can’t cheer someone up by telling them to look on the bright side, or by giving them advice. It just doesn’t work. Watch this video to learn the one thing that will improve all of your “I’m here for you” intentions, and be that supportive friend you most want to be.
(note: there are Spanish, French, and English subtitles. Click the gear icon at the bottom of the video frame)
Watch it, then share the video far and wide, on all your favorite platforms (be sure to tag @refugeingrief so we can see!). Working together, we can help everyone learn the skills they need to be kind, supportive, and amazing. Want more cool ways to change the whole culture into a sleek, compassionate love-machine? Join the Grief Revolution over here.How to help a grieving friend: the animated edition. You can't jolly someone out of their pain with a barrage of rainbows. Try this instead. Click To Tweet
And remember to check out the monthly Writing Your Grief courses – it’s the best place I know to be seen and heard inside your grief. We’ve got room for you.
How about you? Are you more often the bunny or the bear in this scenario? In what ways do you practice acknowledging someone else’s pain – or your own? Let us know in the comments.
I will share this on my Grief Center site, Emma’s Place!
Such a beautiful, honest and supportive animation x
Never thought of it this way before, very true.
Bee Morgan says
We need to know we cannot control everything. Sometimes things must be allowed to happen. I see that now after watching this little gem ❤️
Annie Bell says
Wonderful simple way to get such an important message to folk! ❤️👋
Lena Herrmann says
Excellent and very true. Nothing can take away the pain, but it is great when someone gives a hug and says, I am so sorry.
This is exactly true, I am the bear.. just walking thru my day… I love this dramalization it’s so impersonal and personal..❤️
Lindsay Rose Smolinski says
This was a wonderful film! ❤️ Is it possible to have it captioned? I would like to share it with my community but many members are Deaf in my community, and it’s content would be appreciated if made accessible to them.
Much appreciation in advance if willing to caption this film and others you create like this.
Debi Hisel says
If you click on the three dots in the corner of the film, captioning is an option. Hope this helps.
I sent it a couple friends desperate to help me. They rejected these notions and said that it wasn’t specific to me. They couldn’t do it. They say they love me and want to help and ask how, but then reject what I tell them. I never thought so many friends would go away after this.
I really love this and understand it. As do other friends of mine. But these two close best friends, they just want to fix me and return me to the friend they lost. That’s not how this works.
Marion, I hope you don’t mind me replying to your comment, but in my experience, when friends/people do what you described, they are doing those things to make themselves feel better. Unfortunately, it becomes nothing about you, but about them, especially when they aren’t listening to your requests.
Your friends cannot fix you, time and memories will eventually help; but only you can control your feelings and life, let yourself mourn and grieve in your own way.
This is a much needed message. So often the sad or grieving are shamed, guilted, rushed, misunderstood, trivialized. Told to ” Stop feeling sorry for yourself” , ” “Other people are worse off than you”
” you’re making too big a deal out of this ”
These insensitive and even cruel comments can push a grieving person into more isolation and depression.
Thank you for this video.
This is so true…it’s been my experience esp by the people I’m related to
Agree entirely with all of this, being listened to helps so much, someone comes to mind who may comment- “Is that so?” shows he was listening and empathising, not minimising, just attempting to understand. Not treating someone’s difficulty as a problem to be fixed is good. One person commenting- “I thought you’d dealt with that” certainly wasn’t helpful.
very good and helpful. It’s like learning a new language, the language to just be and to acknowledge. I can see it goes both ways too, the person grieving has to learn how to just be and acknowledge their feelings too.
diana hershey says
As a hospice nurse for more then 20 years I will say that this is right on the mark. To sit and “be” with someone in their pain. Silently opening your heart to theirs and letting them speak the truth of their loss and hurt. Then accepting this as their truth, and acknowledging their pain without trying to compare it to yours or anyone else’s. Our earnest efforts in this regard are like trying to make it better by put a bandaid on a gaping bleeding wound. Just be in the presence of their pain with them. This makes them feel less alone with the enormity of it. Be love. Be a listening ear attached to a big ole soft and non-judging heart.
Thank you for making this video. I lost my fiancé unexpectedly 3 years ago. He was 36 years old. It has been such a struggle, not just forging a new path in life but just grieving in general. It’s not very common to lose your life partner when you’re 30 years old. Friends and family often left me feeling defensive and misunderstood, just as the video said, and because of this I became very isolated. When he died, my mom made me move home and I needed the support of my family. Unfortunately, I got the opposite. My family wouldn’t even acknowledge me if I said anything that had to do with my fiance. The conversation would grow quiet and eventually my mom would jump in and change the subject. It’s like they wanted to brush it all under the rug and pretend it never happened for their comfort. “It was the polite thing to do for the group.” I began to feel ashamed of my pain and wondered if there was something wrong with me. I was certainly being treated like there was. I tried to express my feelings to them in a long email. It was from the heart but I made sure to make it a kind letter, not blaming anyone, simply asking for their support. Not a single person even responded to it. I remained close with my late fiancé’s mother and both she and my psychiatrist told me that what I was experiencing was emotional abuse. had no one to talk to and eventually mustered the strength to go back to work so I could move out on my own and get away from it all. It’s so sad to say but My relationships with them will never be the same.
I’m so sorry you went through this. I’m experiencing something similar with infertility. I’ve sent my family links, expressed to them how I feel and want to talk about my experiences. I either don’t get a response, or silence (in person), or “it’ll be alright – you’ll have a kid one day or adopt”. I feel like I’ve added a new grief – loss of intimacy with my family. I don’t think I should have kept my feelings a secret, but now that I’ve shared them, I’ve lost some of the closeness with my family because they weren’t willing to empathize.
This is beautifully done. Thank you. If there’s one thing I would love to see changed or edited is when you say tragic events and you list them and you say “infant death” . I hear that listed on many experts advice but rarely do I see or hear “Chikd loss”. It can hurt a little because loosing a child at any age is impossibly painful. My son was 20 and I knew every hope, dream and even worry he carried. I lost with him all the milestones that were right ahead and I also lost a friend because he was at the age where the parent/child dynamic was maturing. But the point that I make is please don’t Spotlight only one catagory of child loss. It feels at times that experts think loosing a baby is harder than loosing a grown child.
Thank you for this video helping dispel the “quick-fix method” for overcoming trauma that people try to put forward. The problem with this is that trauma can take years and sometimes lifetimes to overcome. From experience, I have found just having an unconditional, listening ear can be the best method for getting through some of the many trials that can come with trauma. Thank you
Thank you so much for creating this perfect video. People as a whole seem well-intentioned, just uninformed, and this presentation can certainly change that. Hoping to see two important things addressed in the future, if possible, is the isolation one feels when best friends just vanish after a trauma, and how to deal with the anger that can come with grief, particularly what to do with anger you cannot express because there is no one to hear it.
Topher Clauson says
This is so awesome: it’s perfect in its intent, and I thank you so much for creating it. Someone in my Facebook support group, Elastic Hearts, posted it and I hope you don’t mind if I post it there 💚 If you do, or would like further acknowledgement, please get in touch with me so that I can accommodate. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing This INVALUABLE resource!
Love, Topher and all of us at Elastic Hearts: A Safe Place to Share Your Grief.
Gilda Somia says
Judy Huang says
I love this video. Is it OK if I translate it and re-upload it to my YouTube channel with Chinese subtitles? If the feature to “Add Translations” is turned on on YouTube (click the three dots under this video on the right hand corner), I’d love to upload the translated subtitles once they are done. Thank you !
thanks Judy! I’d love to see the chinese subtitles – that’s wonderful. I’ll turn on the add translations tab. I’d rather you share the video from its original oct, rather than re-uploading it to yours. Thanks!
I am sharing your video at a class (estimated 2-4 audience members attending) and wanted to alert you per your youtube site, but I didn’t see an email address to let you know, but I am sharing with FULL attribution, a thank you slide, and you are credited correctly as Megan Devine at Refuge in Grief and I am linking your website for participants!
At times, even with good intentions, everyone of us has been both the bear and the rabbit. I can’t think of any friend, counselor, clergy or myself that hasn’t said the wrong thing at one time or another. Most of the time we know to just be with one who is hurting. For the times we don’t get it right, we can forgive ourselves. For the times when others didn’t get it right, we can remember that maybe they are hurting also. We can appreciate their attempt at caring. This video is a good reminder.
My lover , my best friend and soulmate died in my arms five months ago after a short illness.
Almost everyone has been so kind but the ones who have helped me most is my ex Husband and my daughter his daughter . They have instinctively let me BE and ACT as I NEED to .
I had never suffered grief before and had no idea how devastating it is and all it’s many guises.
I used to say Chin up what a pointless remark .
Barbara Kelley says
Your animated video about how to be supportive of a friend grieving was meant for me to see. I have a very dear friend who lost her son to suicide a couple of years ago, and she has been grieving ever since. I have not known exactly the right way to support her except to just “be there” for her. I sent her your website and then I ordered your book so I can become educated on how to best support her, and anybody else that may cross my path as my future unfolds, whom I can be the kind of friend to in their time of grieving. Thank you for your personal sharing an all that you do to help others!
Siyla Hannant says
As a counsellor, psychology graduate and former bereavement supporter, I wholeheartedly endorse this. It is worth remembering, too, that grief is a response to other deeply-felt losses, not just death. Serious illness, broken relationship, etc – the loss of potential, hope and a normal future.
Michael Kelly says
Finally, someone who came up with this, and some like minded people who actually get it…
Hopefully this film can bring some understanding to people who opt for the “tea and sympathy approach”.
Thanks to all the people involved in the making of this, it’s really more helpful than i can express.
Thank you R, you’re a true friend. X
Michael Kelly says
P.s., i’d just like to thank all the people who were involved in the making of this film, and also all the people who posted (or even didn’t post, but are living with it) regardless of who or what they are grieving for. Pain isn’t subjective, none the less, it needs to be understood, and this film goes a long way to doing so.
Thank you again
I’m sharing this video with friends who are trying to cheer me up. I hope they understand what I need.
The message in this beautifully simple animation is so potent, including to remind me as a trainee psychotherapist the key things that my clients need, that is to be able to tolerate their intolerable with them.
Robyn Welsh says
Thank you so very much!
This is the most powerful message I have ever heard in my life in trying to heal.
I’m overwhelmed at this moment, knowing that someone has articulated so beautifully what so many feel❤
Thank you, thank you, thank you❤
Amy Winters says
Thanks for pointing out that you shouldn’t try to cheer up a grieving friend by giving them advice or telling them to cheer up. One of my best friends recently had a death in the family, and she’s really been struggling to deal with the grief. Instead of trying to offer advice maybe I’ll suggest she find the help she needs through a grief counseling service.
Karen Bradley says
Hi, I am developing a training for work to give employees an idea of how to help colleagues dealing with the death of a loved one. Could I include this video in my presentation, obviously using relevant referencing?
yes, as long as you keep it intact (don’t remove any of the information or edit/shorten it in any way), and give full attribution to: Megan Devine and Refuge in Grief.
Marilyn Davis says
I’m a facilitator of the program “Healing the Wounds of Trauma” (thi.americanbible.org) and want to share the video on my Facebook now, as well as possibly use it in training classes in the future. This program strongly emphasizes the importance of listening and your video reinforces what we teach. I haven’t decided yet exactly when/where.
doug dusthimer says
Thank you for producing this video! I am a High School social worker and find myself showing this to students in my office multiple times a week. I have incorporated it as well, into a health class presentation my colleague and I give each semester. I have not seen this message given in a better way than your video. Awesome job!
glad to hear it’s reaching students. Thanks, Doug!
Kate Sargent says
Ms. Divine, I want to add my personal thanks to all these heartfelt and poignant remarks which grateful readers have left here. The art created for your message is gentle and simple, just right for someone with no bandwidth left or no design for how to help. The narrator’s voice is engaging, approachable, non-judgmental. Your content, as referenced many times in these remarks, is wise and pitch-perfect. What a gift.
Thank You. Kate Sargent, The Changewalk Partnership
Jurgen Schwing says
Dear Megan, thanks for this excellent video on witnessing/acknowledging instead of trying to fix. I have shared this with my students who are learning become spiritual counselors in a hospital.
I’m writing this during corona, so it’s kind of hard to help my friend. She didn’t lose a family member, she lost a dog. But to her, there’s no difference. I feel the same way. She loves animals a lot, and her dog Seargent is dying of kidney failure. I really wish I could be there to say bye to him, he was such a sweet dog. I have done what I could over texting, but this definitely helped. Thank you ❤️
Thank you for this video. We lost our 4 month old in December and this video was so helpful to share with our family and friends.
Katie Cooper says
Good evening. I shared your video to my page and only after saw your note about giving the credit due. I’d like to learn how to do that properly as I found so much value in your video. Could you please instruct me how to do that.
I stumbled across this video a couple of years on and WISHED I had had it in my early stages of grief. So if you are grieving hard right now and think it would be helpful send your people over to refugeingrief.com to get them to understand in a gentle way what you need more than platitudes and ‘cheering up’/distracting. Your video is beautiful and simple and short and I loved it, thank you Megan for making this. I have shared this on my Mum’s tribute website and have referenced the website so people can go on over and know that it is from you and also in a free Grief class I help at, Growing through Grief. Hopefully I’ve done it right? THANK YOU!