Stress and Dealing with Loss

Dealing with loss of a loved one can be difficult, but what about the friends, family members, and co-workers who are trying to offer help and support? The stress that can come from helping someone through the grief process can be overwhelming at times and often we just don’t know what to say or do to help.

Lori Pederson is the creator of (I did not know what to say) and specializes in helping those who are supporting someone else through the loss of a loved one and through the grieving process.

Lori was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions to help us learn how to deal with loss from the perspective of the caring and concerned friend, family member, or co-worker to help relieve some of the stress that comes with helping those who are experiencing great loss.

dealing with loss

Helping a friend, family member, or co-worker dealing with loss can be stressful. What encouragement or insight do you have for those who are stressed by the difficulty of finding the best way to help their friend/family member grieve?

Lori Pederson:

First, recognize that your friend or colleague may not know what they need in the first few weeks after they have experienced a loss. Offer your support by listening and assisting them with the daily tasks of living-grocery shopping, cleaning house, taking children to school, etc.

Know your limits. If you start feeling overwhelmed with assisting your friend with the heavy emotions that can come with grief, try to assist them in finding a grief support group. You may want to offer to attend a grief support group with them to give them emotional support.

Do you find that friends and family members of people who are grieving experience higher levels of stress during that time?

Lori Pederson:

The grieving process can be stressful for everyone. Friends and family often don’t know what to say or do for someone that is going through deep emotional pain. We often want to try to “fix” the person and not being able to take the pain away can be stressful.

I remember when my aunt passed away, my uncle would go through periods of deep sobbing. It was so difficult to watch, not only because I was dealing with my own feelings of loss but I felt helpless and unable to “fix” his pain. After watching him go through his deep emotional pain, I found that it was so important for him to go through the deep feelings to get to the other side of his grief.

Remember that you do not have to “fix” the person and that it is ok to allow them to go through the necessary stages of grief. Knowing that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel helps ease some of the stress.

What are your suggestions for those who experience stress when dealing with a friend or family member who is grieving?

Lori Pederson:

Know your limits. If the stress of dealing with your friend or family member becomes too much for you, be honest and try to find a support group for yourself as well as your loved one.

Take a time out. Dealing with someone in grief 24-7 can be very stressful. Know that it is ok to take time for you.

Try to incorporate fun and exercise into your day. It is ok to try to incorporate fun into your life and the life of those grieving. Find ways that bring joy back into your friend’s life. What do they enjoy doing? What is a great adventure you can take them on? Exercise is also a wonderful way to relieve stress. Take them for a walk; get them out of the house. This will help both of you.

I’ve found that some people can experience anger when grieving, which can be stressful on those around them, especially if the person who is grieving doesn't want any help or support. How do you suggest friends and family members deal with someone who is grieving “angrily”?

Lori Pederson:

Don’t take it personally. I know this is very difficult to do. You first need to understand that the person is projecting their fears and deep sadness onto those around them. Anger is also one of the many stages of grief.

In 1993 I lost my mother to ovarian cancer, two weeks later my aunt was killed in a car accident and one of my mentors also passed away from ovarian cancer. I was trying very hard to keep myself together. I had just returned to work and during a meeting a colleague of mine was acting inappropriately. After the meeting I found myself extremely angry and I started yelling at her and could not stop (not my finest moment). What happened next was truly a gift. Instead of becoming angry and taking it personally or even yelling back at me, she just came up to me and gave me a hug. To this day I am extremely grateful that my friend chose to show support and compassion instead of greeting me with more anger.

Many people consider their pets to be part of their family, I certainly do. When someone is grieving over the loss of a pet, do the same "rules" apply for helping them grieve, or is there something different/special you suggest people do to help with that type of grief?

Lori Pederson:

Pets provide unconditional love and companionship. Many people are insensitive when it comes to the loss of a pet. They figure you can just get another one. For people that love their pets, it is not that simple. The loss of a pet can cause a great void in the life of their owner.

Understanding, thoughtfulness and support are wonderful gifts you can give your loved one when they have lost a pet.

We have also found some wonderful Pet Sympathy gifts and have listed them on our site at:

What do you want readers of to know about you and/or your website?

Lori Pederson:

I created I Did Not Know What To Say in April 2009 as a platform to inspire and provide resources to people that wanted to help their friends and family through the grieving process.

dealing with loss

My expertise comes from those experiences that only life can provide. Over the past twenty years, I have lost many family members, including my mother to ovarian cancer, as well as many friends, colleagues and pets.

Throughout my life I have been blessed with many friends and relatives that were there for me as I experienced these great losses. I understand that although people want to help, they often don't know where to start. I Did Not Know What To was created out of my desire to assist people find the words when they don't know what to say or do.

I would like to thank Lori for taking the time to share her knowledge with us!

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