A mental health professional says that even if it's awkward, there are ways you can help a friend who is grieving a recent loss. 

"Talking about death and grieving is often uncomfortable, it is hard to know what to say and at times it can feel awkward," says Terry Warburton, the Clinical Director at Recovery of Hope in Winnipeg. 

Warburton shares that this skill isn't something we're born with or are even taught, in school or elsewhere, so it's natural to be confused as to how to best help someone grieving. 

"One of the first things is just to pay attention to how we're being impacted individually. It can trigger things in us, perhaps our own losses. It's good to pay attention to that so we can get ourselves out of the way so we can try to meet the needs of this friend," says Warburton.

It's been a bigger challenge as of late with the provincial restrictions telling people not to touch one another due to the pandemic. 

"It's one of the main ways we communicate that we care. We put a hand on a shoulder or we give someone a hug and those things bring significant comfort to people."

While we may not be able to physically embrace those grieving, Warburton says that we can use the power of words to comfort. 

"Whether that's words in a card, words can tell a story or memory of that person. Words can be expressed through a phone call or text. We shouldn't underestimate the power of our intention of communicating that we care," she says.

While it can be hard to know what to say, it isn't as much about the specific words we use.

"We might stumble over our words or get it wrong. If I really care and have an intention to support another person, I have to be willing for it to be awkward. I'd rather do something awkwardly with a good intention than to not do it or say it at all."

Showing up with some food is another way that you can show people you care during their grieving process, without asking first, as Warburton shares they may not know or get back to you. The action will speak louder than words at times. 

"The journey of grief is really different for everyone and I know that from personal experience, but also through clients. It's best to not have any expectation of what that might look like," says Warburton.

She says that grief can come in waves. That is one aspect that is important to remember for someone going through grief is that just as a wave crashes and tosses things around, the wave of intense emotion may throw people for a loop but it will end. 

"There is a wide range of normal in terms of what grief can look like. One of our challenges is to give our loved ones and friends that invitation just to do it their way."

For people who get stuck in grief and feel like they cannot continue on with regular life, Warburton suggests reaching out to a counsellor, a pastor or a trusted friend to talk through that.