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A Friend In Grief: Simple Ways to Help


Product Description

by Ginny Callaway

What in the world are you going to say when: our best friend’s child dies; your neighbor’s husband has a fatal heart attack; your co-worker’s father dies after years of suffering? You could find yourself in a similar situation and what are you going to say?

We feel ill-equipped and awkward when faced with a friend’s grief. We want to be supportive, but we just don’t know how. And just as importantly, we are afraid of saying the wrong thing and making matters worse.

The good news is that there are proven ways to help your friend experience healthy healing. A Friend in Grief: Simple Ways to Help comes from Ginny's experiences as a grieving mother and from the suggestions of more than 100 people she interviewed who have first-hand experience with the death of a loved one.  Those of us who have lived through grief know  what comforts and what hurts.

This book gives you the words, the actions and the confidence to connect and “be there” when your friend grieves and needs you the most.

A Friend in Grief includes:

  • What NOT to say and why
  • Small things that you can do to make a big difference
  • How to support a colleague at work
  • Suggested wording for writing a note
  • How to provide support when you live far away

Table of Contents

Note to the Reader

Introduction    My Story

My daughter Sara Jane died in a car accident when she was 10 years old. This is my story.

Chapter 1        How This Book Will Help You

“What in the world am I going to say?” Being supportive is much easier than you think.

Chapter 2        Immediately After a Death: What to Do

When a death occurs, whether it is anticipated or unexpected, friends need immediate help. Here are practical suggestions and checklists.

Chapter 3 Planning a Reception: One of the few “rituals” we have in our culture is the practice of friends gathering together before or after a funeral or memorial service. Help your friend with the details.

Chapter 4        “I’m Sorry”What to Say that Is Kind and Helpful

Saying something that is compassionate, kind, and caring is much simpler than you might imagine.

Chapter 5     “Aren’t You Over This Yet?” What Not to Say: Words, Actions, and Attitudes that Hurt

Here is a list of things not to say, and why they can be hurtful, along with true-life stories that drive home the importance of being sensitive.

Chapter 6        What Most People Don’t Know About Grief

The grieving process is very complicated and consuming. The more a caring friend understands, the more compassionate and helpful he will be.

Chapter 7      The Medical Community

Caregivers are often the first people to talk to someone after a loved one dies. Take the time to set the tone for healthy healing. 

Chapter 8        The Workplace

Here are ways employers can support an employee through the tough transition back to work. Included are ways co-workers can help lighten the load and show they care, too.

Chapter 9        Writing Cards and Letters

Sometimes the first words are the hardest to write. The suggested wording for writing a note can make taking that first step easier.

Chapter 10      Caring From a Distance

Even if you live in another town, state, or country, your caring can still be felt and is still needed.

Chapter 11       The First Year: A Year of Firsts

The first year after the death of a loved one is the hardest because it is a year of firsts. How can you help make these firsts more manageable for your friend?

Chapter 12      In the Future: Holidays and Anniversary Dates

Anniversaries of the death date, birthdays, and holidays are all especially painful times for those who have experienced a loss. Reaching out to your friend months, even years later on these special days lets her know you remember, too.

Chapter 13      Something’s Not Right

Each person grieves differently, but there can be warning signs if the healing process has taken a wrong turn. When is it appropriate or essential to intervene?

Chapter 14      Road Map for the Grieving

My husband David Holt shares his insights about handling grief.

AfterwordMust we experience tragedy firsthand to change our life’s priorities? My personal thoughts



Ginny Callaway was moved to write A Friend in Grief: Simple Ways to Help after her ten-year-old daughter, Sara Jane, died in an auto accident. Meeting with other grieving people in support groups, Ginny heard upsetting stories of insensitive, hurtful comments made by well-meaning friends, family members, co-workers and others. This inspired her to write a guide to help friends navigate these difficult times with more understanding and thoughtfulness.

Although this is her first book, Ginny’s career has been in communication. She is the founder of High Windy Audio, an independent record label featuring children’s music, storytelling, and traditional folk music. Her proudest professional achievement is receiving a Grammy Award winning as producer for Stellaluna.

Ginny and her husband David Holt, a multi-Grammy Award winning musician, television host and entertainer, live halfway up a mountain near Asheville, North Carolina with two black cats, the BoogieWoogie Twins and a neighborhood family of black bears. The couple’s son Zeb Holt lives in New York City.


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