Helping the Bereaved

Sometimes it can be difficult to know how you can help someone who has experienced the death of someone dear to them. There are things that you can do. The simplest of these are to give

·         a good ear

·         time to really listen

·         a hug where appropriate

·         continuing contact

What can help bereaved persons

Beyond that, there are other things that can help, for example:

·         Contact the person as soon as you hear of the death. Tell them you are sorry to hear of their loss, or send a card or flowers.

·         Maintain contact personally or by telephone, notes, cards. Visits need not be long.

·         LISTEN: This is possibly the most important thing you can do.

·         Talk about the person who has died.

·         Accept their behaviour i.e. crying, screaming, being quiet, laughing. Allow expressions of anger, guilt, and blame.

·         Offer practical help, such as bringing in a cooked meal, taking care of the children, cutting the grass, shopping.

·         Indicate that grief takes time.

·         Include children in the grieving process.

·         Be sensitive about dates that might be upsetting or significant for the bereaved person, such as Christmas, anniversaries, birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc.

What may not be helpful to bereaved persons

There are also things that bereaved persons have told us are not helpful. These include:

        Avoiding talking about the person who died unless the bereaved person does so.

        Inhibiting them by offering advice.

        Stopping contact with the person if the going gets too heavy.

        Lectures or reasoning.

        Expecting or judging how it should be.

        Using clichés.

        False reassurance.

        Saying “I know how you feel”.

        Trying to do everything for them.

        Comparing one loss to another.

        Describing the theory of grief.

        Taking the focus away from what they are saying.

        Equating a loss you have experienced to your friend’s loss.

        Giving details of your grief, unless the bereaved person finds this relevant to their situation.

The most important thing you can do is to really try to understand and accept the person in their time of grief. Everyone is different.

Page last updated 21st July, 2017