Grief Series: Messages of Support

spinsight Counseling, Dr. Pam Wright, General Psychology ,
grief support can be in person, with a hand-written card or a text message, DM or snap. Grief therapy at The Life Change Group.

Messages to Send for Grief Support

Grief Support from a Distance

Grief support is a tricky subject because every instance is different and there really isn't a guidebook on how to grieve or even how to be a friend to someone who is grieving. Lisa Pahl, a Los Angeles-based hospice and end-of-life social worker, agrees. "Grief is very individualized, and many people don't necessarily go through stages and graduate out of it". Many times, we are supporting those who don't live near us or are difficult to meet face-to-face. In those instances, there are several ways to be supportive. With our increasingly digital world, one of those is messaging. Some people text, others DM or Snap. Whatever your platform of choice, messaging doesn't have to be impersonal. With the fluidity of instant messaging these days, it can be a very effective way to stay in touch and support friends and family dealing with grief. If you can't be there in person, I still think a personal, hand-written card is always the better option, if possible.

Grieving Fluctuations

Depending on the specific situation - the death of a family member, sickness, job loss, financial hardship or whatever - the key message to a grieving friend is not only what you say, but how often you say it. People dealing with grief are very rarely ever on a straight line to recovery. George Bonanno, a psychologist at Columbia University, notes that it's natural to switch between moments of sadness and grieving, and moments of acceptance and joy. “People who cope well with loss usually move in and out of those states. It’s OK to allow yourself to be distracted and entertained, and even to laugh.”

How to Create a Good Grief Support Message

There are a few do's and don'ts when messaging to support a friend or loved one dealing with grief. Given that, we're going to approach this using a "not this…but that" framework so we can understand the better ways to handling texting in these difficult situations. The idea came to me when reading this wonderful article on the same topic from the "Homesteaders Blog".

"Let Me Know if I Can Help"

This is another popular response that can be perceived as a kind of throw-away line. The better response would be to offer help with a specific task or just assume that it's alright to do something and confirm which day would be best to help. Something like "I'm making you dinner one day this week, would Tuesday or Wednesday be better?" This takes the guilt away from the person accepting help. It politely enforces that you're going to do something without a hollow promise that might happen. It also allows the person grieving to focus on dealing with his or her grief while you just take care of that proposed task. Following up with a simple "I'm coming by" can be a massive gesture.

"Everything Happens for a Reason"

Ugh. I'm not a fan of this one for a number of reasons. Depending on the specific situation, this could be downright insensitive. At best this text is more about making the sender feel better than the person dealing with the grief. I love the suggestion from the Homesteaders blog - "Sometimes we don’t know why things happen the way they do, but rest assured that the right people are brought into your life at the right time, and I’m here for you when you need me.” This is a more friendly way to reassure the person that you're going to be there. Its also shows empathy in that you too are unsure about the why of the circumstances, but you're there whenever he or she is ready.

"Just Give it Time"

While this generally holds to be true eventually, this a very sympathetic response that doesn't provide a lot of solace, empathy or compassion. It could open you up to making matters worse if you don't have the complete details about the grief. The authors at have a great alternative if the situation involves a death or losing a loved one. "I feel honored to have known ______." In this instance, this is a great text especially when followed up with a quick story about the impact that the person made on your life. Ask for a good time to come by and talk about stories or share memories of that person or the situation everyone is dealing with. Show compassion and empathize with the grieving person and their family.

Grief is a difficult period of life that everyone faces. The key is to lean in and be very intentional in your messages, follow up calls and other ways you connect. The important part is to reach out and show support instead of just the lip service or quick post comment.

Final Thoughts from Dr. Pam Wright

There are a lot similar text messages that we can send our friends and family when they are grieving. The key is to demonstrate empathy and caring in whatever you say.  I had a friend that used do a lot of hospital visits for sick and ailing community members. I asked him, "you see dozens of families every week - how to know the right thing to say?" This was before texting became so commonplace, but I think the advice still holds true today. He said the key is to "show up and shut up". You don't need to necessarily say anything. Just the act of reaching out and reassuring them that you're there will mean more that whatever eloquent message - text, snap, DM or otherwise - you could deliver.

#GriefSupport #BestTextMessages #ShowUpAndShutUp

Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and mental health expert. She is the founder and owner of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga.Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and a mental health expert. She is the Founder and Director of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga. Her psychology practice is a team of therapists, counselors and psychologists offering a wide range of psychological testing and individual, couples and family counseling. Dr. Wright is also a co-host of the "Middle Age(ish)" podcast and has appeared on NBC in Atlanta.