Watching a friend or relative grieve can be heart-breaking, especially if you don’t know how to support them. People often feel worried they will say or do the wrong thing.
Here are some simple things you can do:
- Give them time
Understand that everyone grieves differently and for different amounts of time.
- Reach out
Don’t let your fears about doing or saying the wrong thing stop you from reaching out. Invite them for coffee, help around the house in practical ways or cook them a meal. Try not to just say ‘I’m here if you need me’ which transfers the burden of reaching out on to the person who is grieving. Instead, say something like ‘I’m doing the shopping later… what do you need?’ Phrasing your offer like this can make it easier for someone to accept help.
- After the funeral
Reach out after the funeral. Offers of support tend to fade away after the funeral and a couple of months after the death and the bereaved person can feel like everyone has forgotten. Check in or send flowers. It will mean a lot.
- Say their name
Don’t be afraid to mention their loved one’s name. Talk about memories if you have them. You may feel talking about their loved one will upset them, it may bring tears but it will bring them a great amount of comfort knowing they are not alone in their thoughts about the person they miss.
- How are you… today
Don’t ask ‘How are you?’ as this is a greeting you would ask anyone and doesn’t acknowledge their loss. Instead, try ‘How are you feeling today?’
- Don’t try to ‘fix’ things
Understand you cannot fix their hurt. The best thing you can do is listen without offering advice.
- Don’t be a stranger
Never avoid someone who has been bereaved because you don’t know what to say. Pop round, send a card, letter or text. Even just saying ‘I have no words’ or ‘I’m sorry’ is enough.
- Share your experiences
Sharing similar bereavement stories can be helpful to someone who is grieving. Knowing that someone else has been there and what they are feeling is normal is incredibly helpful.