Everyone Needs a Grief Friend

5 Qualities to Consider


“Why would I tell you deep things when I don’t know you?”

As a counselor and narrative therapist, I engage people who don’t know me all the time. And I want them to tell me their deepest worries and struggles.

After hearing a person’s story, I will often ask if they have a good friend.

“You don’t need to keep paying me to listen,” I tell them.  “You don’t need to come every week in order to share your feelings. That will just cost you more money. Find a friend who knows you and ask them to do the following…” I suggest to them. And here are the things I encourage them to look for in a listening friend.

A grief friend…

Shows Up

One of the most important parts of a grief journey is someone to be consistently available every week for you at a specific time and place. When you know that you can count on a person to be available without excuse, there is something inside you that says, “One person really cares about what I am going through and is willing to be there for me each week. That’s huge!”

It’s not helpful to say, “I will give you call sometime and we can get together.” Being specific and consistent is important: “Let’s get together every Friday at 4pm.”

Listens Without Giving Advice

A good friend listens without jumping in and trying solving the problem. Because grief is an ongoing process, a back and forth, a rubber band being stretched in both directions, there is much space and time required.

A grief friend does not start with their own story. It’s not about you. This is about your friend.

Holds Confidences

When you share your journey, it’s a deep and sacred place that needs to be honored and protected. You are asking your friend to be part of something very deep. If your friend yields to temptation by sharing any part of this journey with others, even once, it can be devastating to the grief friend relationship.

A grief friend needs to promise that he or she will always keep the conversation confidential and should remind you of this promise each time you meet.

Asks Permission

There will be times when a grief friend will hear something in the conversation that troubles them – you are reacting to loss because you miss someone very special in your life. It’s not easy. Nevertheless, a grief friend points out in a gentle way that which might be harmful to you and needs further attention.

A grief friend should ask permission to point out things that trouble them. This is a big part of caring and having important, courageous conversations.

Celebrates With You and Cheers You on

A grief friend needs to be on your team and be a cheerleader for you – as you move forward from grief into mourning and attempt to find joy despite your missing. Life will never be the same. It’s a different life. You are just figuring out what this might look like for you.

A grief friend takes time to find the good in a grieving friend’s journey and celebrate with him or her intentionally when you notice positive transitions.






What Are Your Goals?

A New Year’s Resolution to Die For


Why does a New Year’s resolution have to be all about “me”? Lose weight. Reduce debt. Close a big business deal. Develop your personal “SMART” goals. (more…)

4 Last-Minute Christmas Gifts That Won’t Cost You a Dime

(And they’re too big to fit under the Christmas tree)

I’ve learned about these gifts from spending time with people as they are dying.

I’m just wondering why people don’t think about these prior to their last moments of life on earth. What would happen if we chose to share these special gifts this Christmas? These are BIG gifts. (more…)

7 Strategies That Really Work to Help You Meet Your Loved One at Christmas.

Even Though They Have Died


Is Christmas difficult this year because you will be missing a loved one? Are you wondering how to manage without them? Do you feel that Christmas will be too hard to handle without their presence? The following strategies will help you to bring that person whom you are missing a little closer. (more…)

Another First

Why they continue to be important in your grief.


A young father came by the gym at which I was working out. It was Halloween. “So, is your baby daughter going out trick or treating tonight?” I asked.  “Yes, she is getting all dressed up. I’m not sure how long she will last, but it’s fun for us,” he replied. (more…)

Speaking the Same Language Is Impossible When It Comes to Dying

Do You Hear What I hear?


I recently returned from a music camp where my wife Erica was a guest choral conductor.

It was in Quebec. French was the predominate language spoken by the participants. Erica speaks it fluently, but unfortunately, I only speak English. Because of that, I often felt left out of the conversations that were taking place. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, nor was it intentional. I just couldn’t follow the conversation. (more…)

Directing Your Own Story

Why Your Dying Is Your Business


Dying is not a passive event – at least not until you are no longer able to mentally engage with with those around you.

Your life is like a storybook. It’s important to look back on your life and consider what’s been significant. What have been the highlights? The struggles? The surprises? It’s also important to look ahead and consider how your last chapter on earth might unfold in a direction that you prefer. As such, you need to take the author’s pen. (more…)

Boundaries to Die by

… Say What?


When I met my second wife, who is a native Quebecer, I discovered that people don’t really stop at stop signs in Montreal. I had to re-learn how to stop when we’d go out there to visit her family. The “stop” is closer to a “yield” than a full stop there – this is due in part to the fact that there are so many stop signs! At first, I was unsure when to stop and when to go; who was at the stop sign first; and if it was my turn to proceed. I eventually learned and became confident. (more…)

Sugar and Salt

Why we should add both ingredients into our dying


Sugar adds sweetness. Salt adds flavour.

While most people have come to understand that dying is about subtraction – something being taken away – I have come to believe that it has everything to do with addition. Even though we are preparing for our final chapter on earth, we should consider what we would like to leave to our family and friends once we’re gone – something that will continue to “taste good” even after we have died and made our way into our next story.

I watched a humming bird the other morning. It came and took sweet nectar from a flower. And then it flew away. That evening I tasted the wonderful flavours of a restaurant dish I was eating in Montreal. And then we left.

We have much to give to others in our dying. We are not certain how long we will stay. Your “sugar and salt” should be offered freely as gifts to be opened and shared with those who are most important to you.

A spoonful of sugar. A teaspoon of salt.

What might those ingredients look like for you?

Rick Bergh is a best-selling author. His latest book, Looking Ahead: How Your Dying Impacts Those Around You will be released in November.  In it, Rick Shares his 30 years of experience and his personal journey with his first wife Pam and their last three months together prior to her death at 47 years of age.

Connect with him at www.rickbergh.com or www.intentionalgrief.com




Flying Next to Me

Why I Want You Next to Me in My Dying Journey


You can choose the seat number on your flight, but you can’t choose the passenger who ends up sitting next to you. Sometimes it’s a pleasant experience…and sometimes it’s not. (more…)