Help Someone who is Bereaved
If you have a friend or relative who is grieving, it can be hard to know how to console him or her. If it seems that nothing you can do or say helps, don’t give up. You can’t take the pain away, but your presence is more important than it seems. Accept that you can’t fix the situation or make your friend or relative feel better.
Instead just be present and offer hope and a positive outlook toward the future. Accept that the person’s grieving will be a gradual process. They may want to talk about the person who has died. One of the most helpful things you can do is simply listen, and give them time and space to grieve. Offering specific practical help, not vague general offers, can also be very helpful.
It is sometimes difficult to know what to say to a bereaved person. If you find yourself tongue-tied or uncertain of what to do in the face of someone’s loss, here are some steps you might try.
Below are are some suggestions of what to say and do.
Sometimes when I say I’m OK, I want someone to look me in the eyes,
HUG me tight and say “I know you’re not”
- Be there for the person who is grieving - pick up the phone, write a letter or an email, call by or arrange to visit.
- Accept that everyone grieves in their own way, there is no ‘normal’ way.
- Encourage the person to talk.
- Listen to the person.
- Create an environment in which the bereaved person can be themselves and show their feelings, rather than having to put on a front.
- Be aware that grief can take a long time.
- Contact the person at difficult times such as special anniversaries and birthdays.
- Mention useful support agencies such as Cruse.
- Offer useful practical help.
- Avoid someone who has been bereaved.
- Use clichés such as ‘I understand how you feel’; ‘You’ll get over it ; ‘Time heals’.
- Tell them it’s time to move on, they should be over it – how long a person needs to grieve is entirely individual.
- Be alarmed if the bereaved person doesn’t want to talk or demonstrates anger.
- Underestimate how emotionally draining it can be when supporting a grieving person. Make sure you take care of yourself too.