Blog Post

From Pain to Purpose: How to Help the Helper in Their Grief Journey

By Rebecca Ann Duffy, LPC, Clinical Director

We will all feel grief at some point in our lives, yet we’re never fully prepared when it hits.

Nothing could have prepared me for the grief of losing my father in February. The wave of shock, pain, and fear of letting go have shaken me to my core, but one thing remains unchanged: I am a natural caretaker.

Between my six-year-old daughter, my family in Seattle, my friends here in Phoenix, and my colleagues at evolvedMD, I often put the needs of others before my own. It’s what I do as a clinician, and it’s woven into my philosophy of sharing in the human experience: through genuine connection we can support each other and find strength in our shared struggles.

But when my father passed, the roles were suddenly reversed, and I realized how hard it is to let others help me. Don’t get me wrong, I am forever grateful for their love and support, but for me, receiving is harder than giving. I’m not the only one either; caretakers everywhere struggle with receiving, too.

So how do you help the helper? See my tips and insights below:

Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About It

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As caretakers navigate loss and grief, people may assume silence is the best approach for supporting their journey. They don’t want to bother, burden, or feel responsible for surfacing painful memories when checking in on the griever.

When helping the helper, though, this hesitance can make things worse. If people feel awkward about asking the caretaker how they’re handling grief, the caretaker may feel responsible to ensure they are not uncomfortable.

In your unwavering commitment to support others, I challenge you to speak up. Even better, instead of asking how the caretaker in your life is doing, ask about their favorite memories. This will foster a genuine connection and create a comforting space to share their cherished memories while empowering the caretaker to be their authentic self.

In short, you can help the helper by initiating hard conversations to create an environment of understanding, compassion, and connection.

Be Ready to Hear the Truth

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Embracing the raw, unfiltered truth can help caretakers like me. So, when you ask a caretaker how they’re doing, expect them to be their true selves. They can’t—and shouldn’t have to—mask their true feelings.

My raw, unfiltered truth? Some days are great, and some days my world is crumbling. Either way, I will not hide the pain I feel in the moment. It may be uncomfortable to hear, but it’s my truth, and the best way to support a natural caretaker is leaning into their uncomfortable truth. Acknowledge and validate the helper’s lived experiences and meet them where they are in their most vulnerable moments.

In short, you can help the helper by embracing the truth with an open mind and an empathetic ear.

Don’t Ask, Just Do

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One of the most powerful acts of compassion is showing up. It may seem simple, but people are understandably conditioned to not do something without asking first.

For caretakers, it’s far more meaningful to just show up. It doesn’t have to be some big spectacle either. For example, my coworker Evan will bring me a Sprite Zero unprompted. A month ago, my friend said she’d show up to my house at dinner time and knock. It was completely in my power to answer the door or not depending on how I felt in the moment, but the fact she took a chance unsolicited meant the world and showed she truly cared about me. The power of “don’t ask, just do” removes the responsibility of the caretaker to make a decision, as a caretaker naturally considers all perspectives when making a choice. This can be burdensome in a time of grief. Thus, supporters can anticipate and fulfill the needs of others without waiting for the caretaker to ask.

In short, you can help the helper by simply doing. It speaks volumes and lifts the heavy burden of decision-making from the caretaker’s shoulders.

Be Comfortable With Not Knowing What to Say

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Sometimes, not knowing what to say can deeply resonate with caretakers. It’s okay to honestly admit, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m here to listen.”

Honesty is more helpful than offering cliches such as, “What you’re feeling is totally normal and valid.” This openness and transparency fosters an authentic connection that help caretakers feel genuinely seen and heard. By creating a safe space where caretakers can express their feelings, your presence and willingness to listen is an invaluable gift.

In short, you can help the helper by listening. That’s it.

The Importance of Creating a Supportive Culture

Up to this point, we’ve talked about how to support natural caretakers in your personal life. But what about in the work environment, where we spend a large portion of our days? A support system in the workplace can serve as a lifeline, too.

When I lost my father, I was fortunate to receive immense support from my colleagues at evolvedMD. Their collective warmth and willingness to help were truly remarkable – I can honestly say I’ve never experienced anything like it in my career. What sets them apart from other organizations is its unwavering commitment to ensuring everyone—including leaders—feels heard and accepted. As Clinical Director, I’ve felt embraced while navigating my grief journey and could show up as my true self without fear of negative consequences. My hope in not shielding my experience is to create safety for the next person in my workplace to navigate their grief journey.

If you’re a leader reading this, you likely have many caretakers on staff in need of a similarly supportive culture. I challenge you to encourage open communication and active listening, promote empathy and understanding, celebrate authenticity, and empower your people to share their experiences as they navigate their own journeys. This helps build a resilient, compassionate organization that truly supports its people through life’s greatest challenges.


Throughout my life I’ve served as a bedrock of support for others, selflessly offering compassion during times of need. Although challenging, I understand that I deserve the reciprocity of support as well. By consistently checking in with the caretakers in your life, lending a helping hand, and nurturing supportive environments, we can ensure they feel valued and appreciated.


If you’re grieving, take the first step in your healing journey and connect with your PCP or therapist.

If you know someone who’s grieving, support their healing journey with my tips above.


Rebecca Ann Duffy, LPC, Clinical Director


Hailing from Washington State, Rebecca Duffy came to sunny Arizona to get her Master’s degree in Clinical Counseling at the University of Phoenix. Since graduation, Rebecca has enjoyed a rewarding career in wellness coaching, substance use disorder treatment, trauma therapy, and more. Prior to joining evolvedMD as Clinical Manager, she served as the Vice President of Clinical Integration at Open Hearts Family Wellness where she supervised all clinical aspects of the agency. She’s passionate about helping people and enjoys baking, listening to music, and hanging out with her daughter.

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