How you can help?
Seven practical suggestions if your friend or relative has recently been bereaved.
1) Make a special effort to keep in contact after the funeral
It may be tempting to distance yourself from them, especially as you often don’t know what to say. But visits and telephone calls are essential.
2) Be a good listener
Try not to steer conversations, but let the bereaved person talk about what they want to. Allow, and encourage, him or her to talk about the person who has died and listen attentively. This may be difficult, but will help the person come to terms with the death. If the person cries, or even if you cry yourself – it’s perfectly natural.
3) Remember the importance of touch
Bereaved people often feel isolated and it may help to put your arm around them, touch their shoulder, hold or shake hands. It is very important you use your discretion, but this can be an effective in comforting the bereaved person.
4) Avoid making assumptions
All bereavements are different. Do not assume that the bereaved person will feel the same as you did when you were bereaved, and try to avoid phrases like “I know how you feel”. Encourage expression of feelings, whatever they are, for example they may feel worried, angry, guilty or perhaps relieved. Try to understand their feelings and do not say they are wrong.
5) Offer practical help
If you see that the bereaved person is in need then offer to help, or suggest where help can be obtained – try not to wait to be asked. It is always best to suggest specific jobs you can assist with. However, be prepared for your offer to be declined -n you can always offer to help in another way or at a different time. Be careful not to take over.
6) Refer to professionals if necessary
If you notice a serious problem persisting longer that it should, for example over-use of alcohol, drugs serious self-neglect, malnutrition or violet mood swings you could express your worries to their doctor, or minister/priest if they belong to a religious group. They will listen to your concerns and might be able to help, but always remember your have a duty of confidentiality to the bereaved person.
7) Allow time
The grieving process changes over days, weeks, months and years, but your support is invaluable. Special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas, wedding anniversaries and the anniversary of the persons death can all be particularly difficult for the bereaved person – please try to be aware of these special dates if possible.