Whether you’re helping your daughter as she grieves the after placing her child for adoption, helping your friend grieve the loss of a failed adoption, or wanting to soothe your partner who is grieving the lost hopes and dreams for a child who was miscarried, there are certain universal actions that can help.

Remember that how a person feels is their own reality. You might see great hope for the immediate future of the person you’re supporting, yet if they are in the midst of grieving, that hope may not be real to them. Their reality is sadness, loneliness, heartbreak, and hurt. Your job as a friend or family member isn’t to help them snap out of their grief—it is to allow them to truly feel it and to work through it. Working through it does not involve ignoring it or sweeping it under the rug. Working through it is truly feeling it.

Grieve with them. Whether you, personally, feel the loss (as in, if you have also lost that child) or not, you can grieve for their loss with them. There is nothing like crying with a person to help one feel comforted. Although you can’t know exactly how another person feels, you can express your own sadness, your sense of loss, your hope for their healing, and more.

Offer help. This is sometimes one of the hardest ways to assist one in their grief. They may not want food, so bringing in a meal might not really help; or they might not always respond to a distraction. So try thinking outside the box. Consider:

  • Offering your home as a place of respite for a few hours if they just need to get away

  • Giving a gift card to a spa so they can be pampered and be among strangers so there’s no need for conversation

  • Dropping off a journal and nice pen – a way for them to release their feelings in the safety of paper rather than a person.

Try to think of times when you’ve experienced grief for any reason. Did you want to be alone? Offer to take their children for a few hours. Did you need someone to talk to? Invite them over. Was an escape just what you needed? See if an overnight hotel stay would be welcome. Helping someone grieve is an individual matter. It’s very personal. As you consider your own difficult circumstances throughout your life, you’ll be inspired with ideas that might be exactly what your grieving friend needs.