My Grief Care

Relationships After Loss

5 Episodes

Episode 3 : How to Tell Others What You Need in Your Grief


Episode Notes

The Grief Letter

This episode is also found in Foundations Series but we wanted to add it here as well.

When you’re grieving, people around you may not know what to do or say. There is a great solution to this problem: tell them what you need. Learn how to write a letter letting people in on how you’re doing, what’s going on with you and what they can expect.

People may avoid or disappoint you by their lack of support. The things they do or don’t say may hurt you. There is a great solution to this problem: tell them what you need!  If you don’t tell people what you need, you risk not being cared for and/or receiving unwanted help.

Most people around you want to help you and be supportive, but they are at a loss for what to do. They also may have unrealistic expectations for how you should be behaving because they don’t understand grief. Until you have been there, it’s hard to relate. My view of how to grieve changed dramatically after my husband died. I realized I had many misconceptions and probably hurt my friends who had lost loved ones by the things I did and didn’t do and my expectations for them.

We have the ability to help people help us!  What I am about to share with you can really make a difference because those around you want to know what to do.

Introducing The Grief Letter

The best time to communicate is before you end up in an uncomfortable situation.

One way to accomplish this is by writing a letter letting people in on how you’re doing, what’s going on with you and what they can expect. While this may feel awkward, it really will ease your interactions with people and take stress off you. I was deeply wounded by people not responding the way I wanted them to and I soon realized that it wasn’t their fault. They had no idea what I wanted because I NEVER told them. I just assumed they should know and I was so wrong. Once I told them, they eagerly responded. It was actually a relief for them. The people who receive the letter will appreciate knowing how they can better help you, and you will have less stress and more appropriate help suited to your unique grieving style. Give this letter to everyone you know.

In my How to Get Through The Holidays workshop, I encourage people to write a grief letter in their holiday card. But it is great to do it anytime. You can write it and mail it, email it, put it in a social media post or even include it in the memorial service, funeral handout or program.

Your letter will be unique to you and it can be as long or as short as you like. Here are some ideas on what to include and if you don’t have the energy to write, ask someone to help. We have a worksheet posted in the text of this episode.

What to include in your grief letter:  

  1. Briefly describe your experience and your feelings.
  2. Let people know what they can expect from you in your current state.
  3. Give your friends instructions on what they can do to help during this time. Let them know what is needed and when it is needed. Tell them what they can do and say that you’d find comforting, and what’s not comforting to you.
  4.  List specific, practical needs they can help with.
  5.  Briefly describe your experience and your feelings.

Share only your immediate needs. As your needs change, you can send or share a new letter.  People won’t be offended if you tell them exactly how to help you. They will appreciate your clear instructions. It takes the guesswork out of serving you.

Here’s an example:

Dear Friends,  

Losing Mark has been devastating to me. There is a huge hole in my heart. I know you are uncomfortable as you don’t like to see me sad and are not sure what to say to me or how to approach me, so I hope I can make it easier by sharing a few things. I am taking this time to help you to help me. 

  • I love to talk about Mark.
  • I love to hear any of your memories or stories about Mark
  • I can be happy one minute and crying the next. It just happens. Don’t be alarmed.
  • There is nothing you can do to fix this, so please don’t try.
  • Sometimes I want to and plan to attend an event, but then at the last minute, my emotions change, and I am not up to it or I may suddenly leave an event as the emotions may overwhelm me. Please don’t take it personally.
  •  I appreciate your patience and understanding if I let you down or don’t meet your expectations. I have to do what is best for me.
  •  I may not always answer texts, emails or voicemails but I do see them and appreciate them. Sometimes, I am just not up to talking.
  •  If you aren’t sure what to do or say, please ask me.
  •  Please reach out to my son. He is hurting so badly and missing his dad.

Thank you for caring. I appreciate you!



Here’s another example:

Dear Friends, here is how you can help me with my grief.  I know it is uncomfortable to see me hurting and I hope this makes it easier to be with me and understand me.

  • Remember: The greatest gift is sharing memories
  • Let me know when you are hurting or missing them too.  The worst is thinking I am alone in my grief.
  • Help me to honor them in some meaningful way.
  • Allow me to cry, laugh or leave when I need to.
  • Allow traditions to change to accommodate the missing space.
  • Allow me to say no to invitations.
  • Allow me to change my mind often.
  • Allow me to grieve longer than you think I should.
  • You can’t fix it so please don’t try.

There is a worksheet to help you in the download section of this episode.


  1. Make a list of the things you think your friends and family need to know that could help them understand you. (Use the downloadable worksheet)
  2. What would be the best way you could share this – email, Facebook, text, letter.
  3. Write it in a kind way and make sure it is not too long and to the point. Lists are good!


You hold the key to getting the support and understanding you want.  Kindly tell people what you need – because, they have no idea, just like many of us before we lost our loved ones.