When words fail,  it’s only natural to want to help those grieving by offering a hug or holding their hand. But how do we offer comfort while upholding responsible physical distancing?

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives, including how we cope with grief and offer physical comfort. But there are ways to support the bereaved while remaining a safe distance apart. Talking is one of them.

Dr Katherine M. Shear, founding director of the Centre for Complicated Grief at Columbia University says giving a grieving person a chance to talk is one of the best ways of helping them.

6 Ways to help the grieving while staying COVID-19 safe

COVID-SAFE ways to stay connected

Try these COVID-safe ways to check-in with bereaved family and friends to get them talking about their grief.

  • Send a ‘thinking of you’ text or email, but remove the pressure to respond. For example, you could type ‘Thinking of you with love during your days of sorrow. No need to respond, but I’m here if you need someone to talk to.’


  • Arrive on the doorstep wearing your mask and carrying a spare. Invite the bereaved to visit your favorite park, lake, or beach and talk a walk. (But first, check with state and local authorities to see if your destination park, lake or beach area is open. Avoid crowded areas and keep 6 feet apart.) As you walk, talk about positive things. Those grieving need regular reprieves from processing their grief.  But be willing to listen without interrupting.
  • Call the bereaved and ask if they feel like chatting. Ask meaningful questions like “What has been the most difficult to deal with today?” or “Who has been helping you so far?”
    Asking questions from the heart will help identify where to focus your comfort and support.


  • Post a beautiful sympathy card offering condolences and messages of hope. In the days following a death, those grieving can find responding to a procession of well-meaning calls and text messages overwhelming. However, reading heartfelt words in a sympathy card can bring much comfort.
  • Set a calendar reminder to ring the bereaved once a week. Regular contact shows you care and reinforces to your grieving loved one they’re not alone dealing with grief. Try to keep the conversation light and share uplifting information. For example, “Hey, it’s me. I’m just checking to make sure you’re okay. Is there anything you need? You’ll never guess what my daughter said today. Are you in the mood to hear something funny?”
  • Organise a video chat. If geographic distance or travel restrictions prevent you from visiting, try video calling.  You can use your phone or computer.  Popular phone apps are Skype, Facebook Messenger, Google Duo, and WhatsApp Messenger.  If you don’t have these apps on your phone, download them from Apple’s App Store or Google Play.  Hearing and seeing a friendly face reinforces to loved ones grieving that they’re not alone.

Reach out to those grieving

Never feel awkward about reaching out to loved ones grieving. You don’t need to have all the answers or offer advice. The most important thing is being there. Your support and caring presence, whether in person, by phone, or video, will provide a path for healthy grief recovery.

Further information on grieving and COVID-19

Mental Health America

Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement

Cruse Bereavement Care (United Kingdom)