Seeking Advice on How to Help a Friend Through a Tragedy.

Updated on August 21, 2008
A.G. asks from Ross, CA
7 answers


I am writing because I need advice on what I can do to help my friend who has suffered two massive tragedies in the last year.

10 months ago her ex-husband accidentally ran over their three year old son and he died. She also has a 5 year old and a 1 year old. Needless to say, she was devastated and if not for her other children I don't think she would have been able to go on. She is still very much grieving the loss of her little boy.

Last weekend her older sister and only sibling committed suicide. Her sister was her best friend, but my friend saw no signs of her being depressed, much less suicidal.

I have known my friend for 30 years, since we were in kindergarten together, so both of her losses have hit me hard, I cannot imagine how difficult this is for her.

I have offered her a shoulder to cry on and have listened to her and have brought meals to her, but none of this feels like it is enough. I don't know what to do for her. The only deaths I have experienced were those of my elderly grandparents so such horrible deaths at such young ages are foreign to me.

If anyone has any advice on what I can do to help my friend through this horrible time, I would be so grateful.


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answers from San Francisco on

Hi A.,
Thank goodness your friend has such a thoughtful and present person in her life. You are doing all the right things and, no, it will never feel like "enough" because nothing can fill the voids she has experienced. Please don't minimize your efforts because being there for her and listening helps her bear the grief and still feel connected to the world.

It is hard to hold someone else's grief, so be sure and take care of yourself too by having some relaxing/pleasurable outlets for yourself, and encouraging involvement of other friends or family with her.

I am concerned about the children as well. They need to know that their world has not collapsed. They need their questions answered and they also need to be listened to when they talk about their little brother or anything else. Perhaps you can help your friend organize playdates for the kids, or go along on a family outing to the zoo when they are ready.

It can be very helpful for your friend and for the children if they can think of ways to remember those they have lost. Something like planting a small tree for the loved one, or making a memory book together; finding ways to celebrate the loved one's life.

Lastly, you can also help by checking in with your friend to see if she is slipping into depression, or if the kids start having behavioral issues. Sometimes professional support, counseling, or therapy may be called for.

Best wishes, Jessica T.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on


you're a great friend to be this concerned. However, there isn't much more that you can do other than what you are doing. You just have to remain there and be supportive. Offer to take her and her kids places or maybe just her and hire her a sitter... maybe she would like to talk or just cry it out. I can't imagine how she is feeling either.

I would highly recommend her seeking someone to talk to. She does need to be present for her younger surviving children.



answers from San Francisco on


She is so lucky to have you as a friend. I don't think that there is anything more that you can do for her than to be there for her like you have. Maybe just a card that she can pick up and read when she is down and maybe needs a little strength in order to get up and move forward that day. Just let her know what you have already let all of us know, that you are there for her always and that you will always be there for her if she needs to talk or a shoulder to cry on. The most important thing in my opinion is to simply let her know this. Maybe a few words telling her how strong she is to be able to go through something like this and how it is amazing that she has kept herself together the way she has.

She is one of the stronger souls that we can all look up to. A lot of people do not even have that kind of strength, to get up each day and take care of their other children and their family. Let her know too that she is someone that others can admire and look up to for her strength.



answers from San Francisco on

Hi A.,

How aweful the tragities your friend has gone through.

Time will heal all wounds. The only thing you can do is support her and make sure she pampers herself to massages, getting her nails done and getting her hair done so she does not keep the focus on her losses.

Just be the best friend that you are and give her lots of love.

Many blessings to you and your friend.

N. Marie



answers from San Francisco on


Your friend has suffered the worst tragedy I could imagine. Loosing a child. The loss of her sister on top of the first loss makes it imperative that she work with a very good therapist and also join a group that deals with grieving. You can offer to take care of the other children while she sees the therapist and/or attends group.

She needs to grieve but also be present for them. Don't tell her things will be alright. Just hold her and let her get her feelings out. Therapy will be a big step forward. She will never stop grieving but with time it will be able to focus on the other kids. And understand her sisters death with out feeling she should have known she was depressed and been able to do something.

You sound like a wonderful friend. Take care of yourself.
C. C


answers from San Francisco on

Hi A.,

What a horrible story. Just know that there is absolutely nothing you can do to make her pain go away. In fact, there is nothing that anyone in this world can do to stop her from hurting. All you can do is to continue to invite her places with you, shopping, coffee, the gym, the movies, a day spa, etc, in order to help her feel that she is still included.

Oftentimes, people tend to back away from others when they are dealing with unimiginable tragedies such as these, because they don't know what to say, are overcome with sadness themselves, or are afraid of saying the wrong thing. The worst thing you could possibly do now is to exclude her from your life and activities because you think she needs "space to grieve". If she wants to talk about the baby, let her. The same goes with her sister's death, let her talk anytime she needs to. But your focus now should just be to continue to include her in your activities and events, even if she continuously tells you no. It is dangerous for her to sink into a state of depression, especially since she has two young children who need her. That's why it's important for her to have as many "normal" outlets as possible for her energy.

You are a great friend. Continue to be one as she will begin losing others who start to shy away from her at this critical time.

May God bless you both,



answers from San Francisco on

Hi A., I read about your friend and my heart goes out to her. Very few of us can even fathom what it must be like to lose a sibling so tragically, much less to put our little baby to rest. Goodness gracious. This kind of hurt does not go away with time. She needs healing of a kind that is not available by human hands. Go to and click on the left side where it says "Leave a Prayer Request" under the Inner Healing box. There are people worldwide who will 'lift her up' and be praying for her for 2 months straight. Calendar it, and after 2 months, put her on there again, and continue this until you see that she truly has been healed.
I have seen God work in truly miraculous ways in response to these holy intercessors. You can tell her - or not - depending on what her faith journey might be. Might be best not to tell her so that she will not develop any resistance. Then stand by her and watch how a loving God who is very real, reaches down to comfort his child.
The world can be a difficult place, and terrible things accidents, disease, depression, and the like. But she can rest in the assurance that she is loved by the One who made her. Blessings from G.

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