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Tips for friends of the recently bereaved

  • Allow the bereaved to talk about the deceased; they are working through their grief
  • Remember to interact with the bereaved as much (or more if possible) as you did prior to the death
  • Remember important dates: birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas among others, will have poignancy about them and may be more difficult for the bereaved than other days. Let the bereaved know that you are thinking of them on such days; that you are remembering the one they have lost
  • Don’t be afraid to bring up the subject in the future; to ask the bereaved how they are coping. They may be reluctant to burden you, but be in need of someone to talk to
  • Be honest about the deceased, without being unkind. A dead person had failings just as much as they did when they were alive
  • Don’t tell the recently bereaved that you know how they feel; you probably don’t. Even if you do, their bereavement is unique to them and they may feel their experience is demeaned if it is common to the experience of others
Tips for friends to help someone who has recently been bereaved
Tips for friends to help someone who has recently been bereaved
  • Don’t tell the recently bereaved how time is a great healer. It is not so much that time heals, it is more that the bereaved have learned how to live without the deceased; that the deceased is relocated into memory rather than the present
  • Don’t assume the death of someone very old and frail is less acute to the bereaved than it might otherwise be. ‘Name was a good age’ and ‘it is a release’ are clichés that may not be welcomed. The death of someone particularly old and frail may even be more acute to the bereaved if they had been the carer for sometime prior to death, leaving a larger gap in their lives than there otherwise might be
  • If you suspect the bereaved are struggling with something in particular, for instance clearing the deceased’s belongings, offer to help them; but don’t push it
  • Bereavement and grief are perfectly normal human conditions. They are unwelcome visitors into our lives and painful while they stay. They are a consequence of the family and social relationships that are essential to normal life
  • Respect the bereaved person's position with religion; don’t try to impose yours on to them unless they ask for it
  • Remember that bereavement may last for a very long time, sometimes for life. There may be peaks and troughs. The bereaved may appear to have resolved their grief only to dip down again
  • Above all, be a friend. We all need friends and when we are at low points in our lives, we need them more than usual. One day we all may have a similar need ourselves!