How to Help Someone Who’s Grieving, Based on Their Personality Type

Last week we talked about how different individuals respond to grief, based on their personality type. This week, as promised, we’re going to give some tips for helping people who are grieving. During times of grief, it’s extremely hard to know what the right words are to say or how to be encouraging. I hope this article will provide some help!

Not sure what your personality type is? Take our new personality questionnaire here. Or you can take the official MBTI® here.

Find ways to help someone who is grieving, based on their #personality type. #MBTI #myersbriggs #personalitytype #INFJ #INTJ #INFP #INTP #ENFP #ENTP #ENFJ #ENTJ #ISTJ #ISFJ

Here are some general rules to follow for ANY personality type:

#1 – Grief is Personal. It’s Not About You

Don’t say any “should’s”, don’t compare your story to theirs (unless it’s very similar), and don’t overwhelm them with talk. Listen.

#2 – Forgive Critical or Cold Behavior

Grief affects everyone differently. Forgive out-of-character or irrational behavior.

#3 – Don’t Try to Put a Positive Spin On Things

Be with the grieving person in the present moment. Don’t try to make things seem happier or more uplifting than they are. Grieving people need others to accept where they are right now.

#4 – Acknowledge Their Pain

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

#5 – Don’t Avoid Them

Don’t pretend you didn’t see them at the store. Don’t act distracted when the grieving person is in your vicinity. You may not know what to say, but avoiding them will only cause them more pain.

#6 – Don’t pressure them to heal quickly

Grief has its own timeline and can’t be rushed.

#7 – Ask How They Are Doing Right Now

People grieving don’t often know how to answer the question, “how are you doing?”. Obviously they will be struggling, so having to think of a “polite” or “appropriate” answer to the question can be hard. We don’t live in a society where many people answer “how are you?” honestly. Asking how they are doing right now seems to provide room for more open communication.

How to Help a Grieving ISTJ

ISTJs are very private about their grief. They usually don’t want to cry in front of people or bare their souls to anyone. They need plenty of time and space to work through the grieving process on their own. This doesn’t mean you should ignore them, however.

Here are some tips for helping a grieving ISTJ:

– Bring them a home-cooked meal. Don’t loiter around when you drop it off unless they seem anxious for the company. Simply offer it to them and let them know you’re there if they need you.

– Don’t wait for them to ask for help. Help them in concrete, tangible ways without being over-bearing. If there’s a chore that needs doing, like shoveling the snow, mowing the lawn, or taking the dog for a walk, offer to do it, but don’t wait for them to ask.

– Listen. Acknowledge their pain. Don’t try to talk about how things will get better someday. Allow yourself to be with them in their pain and take a hint if they seem like they want alone time.

– Don’t push them to talk about their emotions. Give them personal space if you’re not especially close to them.

– Don’t ignore what they are going through. Tell them you’re sorry for their loss, and if they seem like they want to change the subject, then go along with it.

Related: Can Childhood Trauma Impact Your Personality Type?

How to Help a Grieving ISFJ

ISFJs are initially very private about their grief. They can struggle with talking about their pain initially, and they tend to put on a brave face for the world for a while. They can get caught up in supporting other people who are grieving and forget to tend to their own emotions. They need people who will reach out to them and be with them long enough to give them the chance to express how they are feeling. They also don’t want to be pressured to talk about how they are feeling.

Here are some other tips for helping ISFJs:

– Acknowledge their loss. Don’t ignore it. Tell them you are sorry they are going through this process and listen attentively if they talk.

– Don’t pressure them to talk if they seem like they want to change the subject. You can end the conversation with, “If you ever need someone to talk to I’m here, anytime at all.” This lets them know that you care even if they aren’t ready to talk yet.

– Don’t ask them to call you if they need anything. Just take the initiative and do something. Whether it’s delivering a home-cooked meal, buying some groceries for them, or raking their lawn. Just be careful that you don’t do something that might impede their personal space.

– Be present with them in their pain. Don’t talk about how it will be better someday, or how “at least so-and-so lived a long time” or anything like that. Focus on how they are feeling now and validate those feelings.

– Support them. ISFJs can take on the supporter role for everyone else all too quickly. If you notice them getting burned out, ask them what their chores and responsibilities are and offer to take a few of them off their hands.

Related: The Biggest Misconceptions About Every Personality Type

How to Help a Grieving ESTJ

ESTJs who are grieving tend to get caught up in being responsible, taking care of business, and tending to practical matters. They don’t like to dwell on their grief, especially publicly, and will feel frustrated if people pry into their feelings or get especially emotional around them  (unless they also are struggling with grief). They tend to postpone dealing with their grief until everyone else has moved on and they can stop feeling overwhelmed with work.

Here are some things that you can do to help an ESTJ who is grieving:

– Acknowledge their loss and listen if they need to talk. Chances are, they won’t express their feelings to you unless you are especially close. Don’t pry or go into your own experience unless it’s exactly the same.

– Don’t try to preach to them or share the “deeper meaning” behind life and death.

– Don’t ask them to call you if they need help. Just help. Bring a hot meal, offer to babysit their kids if they need it, find something specific you can offer to do that week.

– Don’t judge them if they lose their temper more often or go through bouts of uncharacteristic emotion. Try to just be there for them without criticizing or over-analyzing their behavior.

How to Help a Grieving ESFJ

ESFJs are one of the few types who tend to want closeness with others during the grieving process. They don’t want to feel alone in their grief, but because they spend so much time taking care of other people they can get stuck in the “supporter” mode and forget to process their own emotions adequately.

Here are some ways you can help ESFJs:

– ESFJs more than most other types actually want affection when they are grieving. Of course, you should always think about the individual you are working with because everyone is different regardless of type. But when I spoke with ESFJs about their needs during the grieving process, each one emphatically mentioned hugs.

– Do something practical to help them. While ESFJs tend to be people who have all their ducks in a row, things might get more chaotic when they are grieving. Offer to take their dog for walks, do some yard work, wash their car.

– Bring over a hot meal!

– Listen. Acknowledge their feelings. Let them know you are there for them.

– Send little texts or emails letting them know you are thinking of them.

– Don’t try to put a positive spin on what they are going through. Be with them in the present moment with their pain, even if it’s uncomfortable sometimes.

– Forgive out-of-character behavior. ESFJs who are extremely stressed and anxious can become uncharacteristically critical. Don’t judge them for it or draw attention to it.

How to Help a Grieving ISTP

The important thing to remember with ISTPs is that even if they don’t look like they are grieving, they most certainly are. They may not know how to emotionally process the grief right away, and it may come in bouts of intensity followed by numbness. They tend to appear less emotional than most types and will try to just take care of practical matters or else “cut loose” and move on. Sitting and dwelling on their emotions tends to be difficult for them. Because they can struggle with processing their emotions, they might bubble up and erupt later on. It’s important to be supportive to ISTPs even if they don’t seem as pained outwardly as other types do.

– Acknowledge their loss, but don’t be pushy or prying. If they seem like they want to talk, listen attentively. If they seem like they don’t want to talk about it, don’t pressure them or make any judgments about how they may or may not be feeling.

– Don’t be overly weepy or emotional around them if you aren’t also grieving. This will make them uncomfortable.

– Don’t invade their personal space.

– Do something to show them you care. Do they have a video game they’ve always wanted? You could get it for them, wrap it, and leave it at their house. Do they like a particular type of coffee or homemade cookies? Surprise them with some feel-good gifts.

– If you are giving gifts, be as casual about it as possible. For example, if they work with you, put the gift on their desk,  say you were thinking of them, and walk away. Don’t meander or hang around hoping they’ll give you some kind of expressive reaction. This can stress them out or make them feel awkward.

How to Help a Grieving ISFP

ISFPs tend to feel emotionally drained and weary when they are grieving. Some ISFPs show their emotions and want a lot of in-person support, while others hide their emotions and seek solitude and privacy. They tend to feel a loss of energy and will feel like sleeping more often than usual.  While some types have a lot of the same “symptoms” of grief, ISFPs tend to have varying symptoms from person-to-person.

Here are some things that help ISFPs:

– Acknowledge their loss without prying into their feelings. Listen attentively.

– Don’t try to put a positive spin on their situation. Just be present with them in their pain and validate their feelings.

– Don’t preach to them or use their grief as an opportunity to talk about your religious beliefs. If you have the same shared beliefs you can say something supportive, like “I’m praying for you” or “God is with you”, but don’t push it if you have different beliefs.

– Send them occasional texts or emails to let them know you are thinking of them.

– Accept mood swings. Grief is often described as a roller coaster. Some days the ISFP might feel like getting out in the world and enjoying life again, and some days they might want to curl up in bed and never get out. Don’t judge them if the way they grieve is different from the way you do it.

– Accept out-of-character behavior. ISFPs who are extremely stressed and anxious may have bouts of abnormal critical behavior and anger. Try not to be judgmental or rationalize how they are behaving to them. Try to be patient and forgiving.

– Do something practical to help them. Don’t wait for them to ask. Bring them a home-cooked meal, some groceries, offer to mow their lawn or babysit the kids.

– Don’t get offended if they need a lot of personal space and privacy.

How to Help a Grieving ESTP

ESTPs who are grieving tend to appear much calmer on the outside than they feel on the inside. More than many other types, ESTPs try to move past the pain as quickly as possible. They don’t like to dwell on their feelings, and usually avoid showing emotion publicly. It can be easy to dismiss their pain if you don’t see it, but that’s never a wise choice. Here are some things that can help, and some things to keep in mind:

– Acknowledge what happened. Let them know you are there for them, but don’t pry into their feelings or get nosy about anything.

– Look for signs that they are taking on too many practical responsibilities. They tend to focus on “fixing” things rather than processing their emotions. If they have too much going on, try to excuse them from some of their normal responsibilities so they don’t burn themselves out.

– Don’t judge them if their reactions seem less emotional than you are expecting. ESTPs are more likely to grieve in private or maybe with an extremely trusted friend or family member. Just because you don’t see their pain doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

– Give them a gift of something they enjoy. Whether it’s freshly-baked cookies, their favorite mocha latte, or a video game they’ve been waiting for. Give them something that brings joy or pleasure to their life.

– Be loyal. Send an occasional text or email letting them know you’re there if they need to talk. Invite them to do something fun, but don’t give them a hard time if they need more space than usual.

How to Help a Grieving ESFP

ESFPs, for all their enthusiasm and energy, are actually very private about their own emotions most of the time. Many of them process their grief internally before seeking outside support. They may seem more practical and reserved about their grief than loved ones are expecting, and it’s important for others not to underestimate their pain based on their outer behavior. Here are some other tips:

– Listen attentively. Be thoughtful and patient. Don’t interject your thoughts, interrupt, or put a positive spin on things. Just allow yourself to be there for them and empathize with them.

– Don’t say anything that might make them feel like they need to “fix” their attitude for you. It can be painful being with someone who is grieving, but ESFPs need someone to stick around anyway.

– Understand that they  might need more privacy than usual when they first experience grief. After a period of solitude they will usually seek support from others, but not always.

– Forgive uncharacteristic behavior. Everyone can be unlike their normal selves when they are stressed or grieving. For ESFPs, they can become more depressed, gloomy, and focused on negative possibilities. This can be surprising to friends who are used to seeing them as more jovial and optimistic.

– Do something practical for them to give them some relief. Do they have a lot of kids? Maybe you could babysit. Do they have to get back to work right away? Perhaps some pre-made meals would make their life easier.  Don’t wait for them to ask for help, because that’s just giving them something else to do and they may not know if you really want to help.

How to Help a Grieving INTJ

INTJs experiencing grief need space and time to heal and recover. Many INTJs take a responsible role and work on managing the practical matters (funeral arrangements, legal details, etc,.). Other INTJs analyze the situation logically and try to rationalize it. Some INTJs seem to drop off the face of the planet and become reclusive so that they can deal with everything privately. They may delete their social media accounts and ignore text messages and phone calls.

Here are some ways that you can help INTJs who are grieving:

– Acknowledge what happened and offer support, but don’t demand to support them. Chances are, they will want some privacy.

– Don’t assume that if they don’t share their emotions or seem visibly sad that they aren’t suffering.

– Offer to take care of some practical needs for them so that they can have time and space to heal. Bring them a hot meal, pick up some groceries for them, see if they need help with funeral arrangements. Don’t meander at their house if you’re doing them a favor or dropping something off unless they make it clear they want you to be there.

– Send occasional texts or emails letting them know you are thinking of them.

– Don’t get especially emotional and weepy with them unless you too are grieving.

– Excuse them from some responsibilities so they can have time to process what is happening.

– If you are around them, keep noise and interruptions minimal.

– Don’t use their grief as an opportunity to preach to them. This will likely turn them off unless they share the same religious views as you do.

–  Don’t judge uncharacteristic behavior. INTJs who are especially stressed or anxious can become unusually focused on sensory experience. This can involve eating too much, watching a lot of TV, or exercising every spare minute. Try  not to direct them or tell them what they shouldn’t do unless they are at risk of harming themselves.

Related: When INTJs Loop – Understanding the Ni-Fi Loop

How to Help a Grieving INFJ

INFJs experiencing grief tend to do one of two things: Either they get stuck in the “supporter” role and try to take care of everyone else who is grieving, or they want to just escape from the world. They tend to do things like shut off their phones and social media accounts, stay locked up in their room, and deal with the grief privately. They typically don’t want to talk to anyone right away, but will seek support after a period of alone time to process.

Here are some ways you can help an INFJ experiencing grief:

– Acknowledge what happened and give them your condolences. Ask them if they’d like to talk, but don’t pressure them to talk.

– Don’t be sensationalist about what happened. Try not to act eager for details.

– Don’t gossip or tell other people about what happened unless expressly asked to.

– Be understanding if your INFJ friend needs to disappear for a while. It’s not personal.

– Send an occasional text or email letting them know you are thinking of them.

– Are there any tedious chores that they hate to do? Volunteer to do them that week.

– Don’t ask them to call you if they need anything. Most INFJs never do because they don’t want to be a burden. Just volunteer to do something and do it, unless of course, they just want to be left alone.

– Don’t judge them for uncharacteristic behavior. INFJs experiencing great deals of stress and anxiety can become unusually indulgent and focused on the sensory world. They may overeat, watch too much TV, exercise excessively, or become focused on cleaning to an extreme degree. Don’t call attention to it or scold them. If they seem like they could harm themselves then step in to see if you can arrange counseling or help for them.

Related: 10 Things You Should Never Say to an INFJ

How to Help a Grieving ENTJ

ENTJs have varying responses to grief. Many will only let out their emotions privately or around a very trusted friend. They will usually put on a “get it done” face and try to help out with practical matters, planning, arranging a funeral, etc,. They try to rationalize what happened and explain it to themselves in a logical way so that they can move on. Sometimes this helps, but often they repress their emotions only to have them bubble up later, resulting in increased sorrow and anger.

Here are some ways you can help an ENTJ experiencing grief:

– Ask them what you can do to help RIGHT NOW. Don’t use the “call me if you  need me” line…ask what you can do in the present moment.

– Are there any responsibilities they hate? Try to help them with some of their least-favorite chores.

– Don’t get overly emotional or weepy around them, unless you are also grieving and can’t help it.

– Don’t pry into their business or get nosy or ask for a lot of details. Let them tell you what they want to tell you when they are ready.

– Acknowledge what happened and let them know you are there anytime they want to talk. Don’t pressure them, though.

– Let them be irrational or out-of-character if they need to be. ENTJs who are experiencing prolonged stress and grief can become uncharacteristically emotional and reclusive. They may bounce back and forth between being calm and in-charge to isolated and sensitive. This is normal for this type and the last thing they need is someone calling attention to it judging them for it.

How to Help a Grieving ENFJ

ENFJs tend to respond to grief by initially feeling a compulsion to “get things done” and help the people involved in the situation. For example, if somebody died, they might take meals to other family members, help with funeral arrangements, and become the ultimate “supporter”. They can be extremely productive when in this stage, but it comes at a cost and they may emotionally burn out and wear down afterward. When they get past this stage, they will usually want one of two things: Some ENFJs will veer towards reclusion and isolation, feeling like they have no energy for the outside world and becoming increasingly critical towards people who get in their space. Other ENFJs will want friends and loved ones to “vent” to and to get affection from.

Here are some ways you can help an ENFJ experiencing grief:

– Acknowledge their loss and ask them if they want to talk about it. Explain that you are there whenever they want to talk.

– If you notice them going into “supporter” mode and taking on too many responsibilities, try to make sure they don’t overburden themselves. Be attentive for signs that they might be burning out.

– Volunteer to do something practical to help them. Don’t ask them to ask you for help, just do something.

– Write an actual note in a sympathy card. Don’t just give them the pre-written blank card with your name signed.

– When/if they do want to vent to you, just listen for as long as possible without interjecting. Acknowledge and validate their feelings. Don’t judge if they seem irrational.

– Don’t judge uncharacteristic behavior. ENFJs who are experiencing prolonged stress and anxiety can become unusually critical and sarcastic with people. This isn’t their normal way of behaving and it can be as frustrating for them as it is for other people. Try not to get angry with them about it.

Related: What ENFJs Do When They’re Really Stressed Out

How to Help a Grieving INTP

INTPs experiencing grief tend to hide their feelings and compartmentalize them as much as possible. They may seem much less affected by the outside world than they really are inside. They are prone to blaming themselves for things that went wrong and feeling increased emotional turmoil inside that they try to hide from others. Eventually, this can all “bubble up” and cause an emotional outburst they aren’t prepared for. You can find out more here.

Here are some ways that you can help an INTP experiencing grief:

– Acknowledge their loss and be open to talking about it with them. Also be prepared for the likelihood that they may not want to talk about it at all. If this is the case, don’t pressure them to talk.

– Don’t act like they don’t care or make statements about them being uncaring just because they aren’t outwardly emotional. Their outer appearance often doesn’t show how they feel inside, and this will only add to their pain.

–  Give them a break from some of their responsibilities if at all possible.

– Do something practical to help them. Show up with a prepared meal so they don’t have to cook, mow their lawn, offer to wash their dishes, etc,.

– Don’t judge out-of-character behavior. INTPs experiencing grief can go through bouts of being stoic and reclusive to having unexpected bursts of emotion and anger. This is just as confusing (if not more so) for them as it is for you.

– Try not to get weepy and emotional around them, unless you also are grieving.

How to Help a Grieving INFP

INFPs experiencing grief tend to withdraw and isolate themselves initially to try to process the emotions they are going through. Over time they will usually seek support from others as well as try to support others who are grieving. Grief is felt especially hard for INFPs, and they are prone to looking inside and blaming themselves for things they could have done differently. It’s very important for them to get encouragement and attentiveness from their closest friends.

Here are some ways that you can help an INFP experiencing grief:

– Acknowledge their loss and offer your support right away. But don’t talk too much. They may be hounded by people offering their support when they really need peace and quiet and time to think.

– Don’t ask them to call you if they  need anything. If you know of some way you can help them, just volunteer to do it. Bring them a hot meal, give them a journal and a nice pen to write down their thoughts, offer to help babysit their kids or take care of an errand that needs running.

– Listen attentively. Don’t interject or try to put a positive spin on how they feel. Especially don’t try to “preach” to them if they don’t share the same religious views as you do.

– Give them space if you aren’t especially close to them. Don’t hound them with phone calls and texts, but still do something to acknowledge what they are going through. A simple hand-written note in the mail letting them know you care is a good idea.

– Don’t judge out-of-character behavior. INFPs experiencing ongoing stress or anxiety can become uncharacteristically critical, sarcastic, and downcast. This is confusing for them and it doesn’t help to have someone get upset with them over it.

Related: 10 Things You’ll Relate to If  You’re an INFP

How to Help a Grieving ENTP

ENTPs experiencing grief tend to put on a calm face outwardly, even though inside they feel a lot of emotional turmoil. Many times they try to repress their emotions and move on, finding ways to rationalize the situation or else practical ways to help those involved. They tend to be edgier and more easily angered. This is often caused by repressed emotions that they aren’t ready to deal with right away.  You can find out more about their grieving process here.

Here are some ways that you can help an ENTP experiencing grief:

– Acknowledge what they are going through and ask them how they are doing right now.

– Ask them if there is anything you can help them with today. Don’t wait for them to call you and ask you for help because they probably won’t. If you know they could use a meal, some groceries, or some practical help, just do it.

– Even if a lot of time has elapsed since the event happened, be ready to listen to them. Many times ENTPs process grief later than others.

– Be attentive and listen if they need to talk. Don’t sensationalize things, gossip, or compare stories (unless your story is extremely similar).

– Don’t be overly emotional if the grief isn’t related to you in any way. This can make them uncomfortable.

– Give them space if they need it. Don’t try to pry into their lives or control things for them.

– Don’t judge out-of-character behavior. ENTPs who are experiencing ongoing stress and anxiety can seem very unlike their normal selves. They can become hyper-aware of details, and they can develop “tunnel vision” over projects they want to get done. They can also start to worry obsessively about their health. Don’t be condescending or patronizing to them during this time. Chances are, this is much more frustrating for them than it is for you.

How to Help a Grieving ENFP

ENFPs who are grieving tend to do one of two things: Some retreat from the world and go to a new, unfamiliar place where they can process things without prying eyes. Other ENFPs seek support from their closest friends and family members. Whatever the case and however they choose to grieve, here are some tips for making life easier for them:

– Acknowledge their pain. Don’t ignore it. Tell them you are sorry for their loss and ask them how they are doing right now.

– Don’t compare stories, gossip, or sensationalize what they are going through. Just listen as attentively as you can and offer support.

– ENFPs tend to dislike nitty-gritty practical chores. See if there are some of these you can help with. For example, offer to wash their dishes (or get them disposable dishes), shovel their snow, go grocery shopping for them.

– A small gift can mean a lot. Giving them a beautiful journal to write in, a gift card for a massage or something symbolic and meaningful can be helpful.

– Excuse them from some of their regular responsibilities.

– Don’t judge out-of-character behavior. ENFPs experiencing ongoing stress and anxiety can become uncharacteristically focused on details and tasks. They tend to develop “tunnel vision” and feel an obsessive need to complete a project. They can also “zone out” and watch lots of TV or eat or drink too much. Some become hyper-aware of inner body sensations and worry about their health. This is a confusing time for them and they don’t need anyone being patronizing to them.

Related: What ENFPs Do When They Get Really Stressed Out

What Are Your Thoughts?

How do you like to be helped when you are grieving? Do you have any suggestions that we should add to this article? Let us know!

Find out more about your personality type in our eBook, Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type.

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Find out how to help someone who's grieving, based on their #personality type. #MBTI #myersbriggs #personalitytype #INFJ #INTJ #INFP #INTP #ISTJ #ISFJ #ENTP #ENFP #ENFJ #ENTJ #ISTP #ISFP

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  1. As an INFJ, often I worry too much about others who are grieving, even if I can’t afford to be worrying about others because I have too much to think about already. What can I do to protect myself as well as the other person?

  2. Thanks so much for the wonderful article, Ms. Storm. I’ve found your website to be a great resource, and I’m sure I’ll find many of the tips you listed in this article very helpful in the future. 🙂

    – J. S. (an INFP and MBTI enthusiast)

  3. I’m sorry but almost every section seemed like it included the exact same things for each type with some minor tweaks. Even though the overall message and information are great, there was almost nothing specifically tied to how each type grieves apart from surface-level, stereotypical examples. Providing more specific examples and trying not to be too repetitive would very helpful in the future.

    No hate, just trying to help! -JJ

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