Dealing with a Bereavement: Supporting others

Losing a loved one can be an overwhelming experience, even if the death was expected.  It's not uncommon to feel like you're living in a nightmare from which you can't wake up.  Grief is a natural part of life and with the right help, you can move forward.

Supporting someone through bereavement 

Please see our guide from the Retail Trust with ways to support those that are going through a bereavement

Send a letter or card

Many bereaved people say that reading the letters and cards many times throughout the grieving process offers great comfort.  

Be there

You can't fix this and there's nothing you can say that will bring the person's loved one back.  Humans like to solve problems but in the case of death, it's enough just to ask the person how they are and if see if they want to talk.  If they aren't ready to talk let them know that you're here for them, when they're ready.

Make time

If they start a conversation, make time for them.  This isn't something that can or should be rushed.  Let them lead the conversation and validate what they say to you, even if you can't relate to their experience.

Be patient

The bereaved person may tell you the same story about their loved one's death many times.  This is very helpful for them and allows them to process their feelings in a safe, non-judgemental space.

Be aware of the impact of language

Follow the lead of the person who is experiencing grief and allow them to use the language that they feel is appropriate.  If they choose to say 'he passed on', or 'she's in a better place', that's appropriate,  But if they're using stark ways of describing their loss such as 'he's dead', 'she was killed', don't try to soften their language.

Don't worry if you didn't know the deceased person or aren't close to the grieving - reach out anyway

Sometimes, the people we think we can count on the most aren't there when we need them, and instead, someone we only have loose connections with steps in.  The quality of support doesn't rely on how well you know the grieving person.

Don't compare your grief with theirs

It's natural to want to share our own experience in the hope that the bereaved will take heart that we've come to the stage of acceptance.  However, this can take away from their own experiences and may make them feel as if their pain doesn't count.  Every death is different but each one is significant.

Offer practical help as well as emotional support

Offer to mow their lawn, weed their garden, get their shopping, babysit their children, pick up prescriptions and generally do what they might not have the time or energy to do themselves.

Set up a rota to help the bereaved person

If you're part of a friendship group you could create a rota to help support the breaved person.  WhatsApp or email group allows you all to stay in touch and highlight anything that needs doing.  Remember that someone who is grieving may not have the energy to reach out and ask for help so make it as easy on them as possible

Be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot do

Witnessing someone else's pain - especially if we're struggling ourselves - can be difficult.  If you don't feel like you're in the right headspace to support the bereaved person at that particular moment, arrange to speak another time when you feel like you'll be able to give more of yourself without compromising your own wellbeing.

If you use social media, get permission from the grieving family to put up a memorial site, post photos or mention the deceased person

Seeing a photo of a loved one, or reading about them, without expecting to may cause the bereaved unnecessary pain.  Always check that whatever you post is acceptable to the family.

Don't avoid talking about the deceased person

They might not be here physically, but they are alive in their loved one's memory, and always will be.  Make an effort to contact the bereaved on important anniversaries, such as the deceased person's birthday, or anniversary of their death just to acknowledge that you're there and thinking of them.


FREE Sessions with a qualified therapist, advice and personal treatment plans are available when you download the Digicare + AVIVA Workplace App.

Click here to find out more

Content provided by Retail TRUST

As well as supporting others it's important to think about your own Wellbeing during times of grief and bereavement.  Thinking of yourself can sometimes feel selfish but if you take care of yourself, you will be better able to support others.

Click here to learn more about supporting yourself through bereavement.