What to do or say when someone is bereaved and grieving
It can be really difficult to know what to do or say when a family member, friend or neighbour is grieving and sometimes the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing stops us from offering support.
Just as there is no right or wrong way to grieve there is no right way to offer support. The most important thing is that you let them know you are available. Some people feel more comfortable with offering practical help so jump in and ask. Do they need help with arrangements, errands, shopping, their pet, funeral arrangements, sorting paperwork or making phone calls?
Very often people have support up to the funeral and then this drops away afterwards so by telling someone you are still there to listen, talk, laugh or cry with them is really important. Read up on the grieving process so you know a bit more about what to expect [ but don’t be tempted to tell someone what they should be doing or feeling] just be there.
The bereaved need to feel that their loss is acknowledged, it’s not too terrible to talk about, and their loved one won’t be forgotten. One day they may want to cry on your shoulder, on another day they may want to vent, or sit in silence, or share memories. Simply being there and listening to them can be a huge source of comfort and healing. People who are grieving may need to tell the story over and over again, sometimes in minute detail. Be patient. Repeating the story is a way of processing and accepting the death. With each retelling, the pain lessens. By listening patiently and compassionately, you’re helping your loved one heal.
Avoid saying things such as ‘they are in a better place now’ or ‘you have so much to be grateful for’ as these do not help, nor does ‘ I know how you feel’ as you cannot, everyone feels and processes grief differently.
They will continue grieving long after the funeral is over and the cards and flowers have stopped. The length of the grieving process varies from person to person, but often lasts much longer than most of us expect. Your bereaved friend or family member may need your support for months or even years. Stay in touch - checking in, dropping by or sending letters or cards.
Holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries often reawaken grief so be aware of these and make a note to give them a call.