Helping the Bereaved


  • A good ear
  • Time to really listen
  • A hug where appropriate
  • Continuing contact

What can help bereaved persons

  • 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.
  • Really try to understand and accept the person. Everyone is different.
  • 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, Father’s Day, etc.

What may not be helpful to bereaved persons

  • 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 cliches.
  • 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.