Supporting others

Showing someone you care can be as simple as sending a card, checking in, or asking how someone is today.

Dying Matters came up with some helpful Do’s and Don’t’s when supporting a grieving friend.

Do

  • Be sure to mention the loss the first time you see someone. This can pave the way for future conversations and lets the individual know you are open to talking.
  • Be transparent about how you feel, if you feel lost for words say so but let that person know you will do your best to be helpful.
  • People often ask if there is anything that they can do, in the acute phase of grief this is a lot for someone to think about and places the responsibility on them. Be practical. Offer to bring them meals or do household chores, or look after their children.
  • Make a special effect to be in regular contact in the months after the funeral, this can be a very difficult and lonely time in which many others will reduce their contact with the bereaved.
  • Birthdays, anniversaries of the death, Christmas and New Year are often especially difficult. Sending a text or giving someone a call is often really appreciated.
  • Unless your grieving friend has said they don’t want to talk make sure you mention their lost loved one in conversation. It is nice to know that others still think about them.
  • Phone people and invite them to join in social activities. Be understanding if they don’t want to join you, but continue to offer as at some stage they may be really grateful that you asked. This is especially true around 4-5 months when invitations tend to dry up.
  • Silence can be uncomfortable but be patient and try not to fill it. Sometimes it may just take a bit of time for someone to open up.

Don’t

  • Don’t offer the meaningless platitudes such as “everything happens for a reason” or “time can be a great healer.” Phrases like this can make it seem as though you are trivializing the loss.
  • Don’t avoid the bereaved person, it is always better to say something rather than nothing even if you are not sure about the “right” thing to say.
  • Avoid saying you know how they feel even if you have been bereaved yourself. Each person’s loss is unique to them. You really don’t know how they feel.
  • If you have a faith, be mindful about how you express it to other people. They might not find it comforting or helpful to be told, for example, that ‘he or she is in a better place.’
  • Acknowledging how much you miss the person who died or how much you thought of them can be nice to hear but avoid making the conversation all about you and how difficult you’re finding it.
  • Grieving individuals are often very good at appearing to cope but don’t assume that they don’t need your help.
  • Don’t say anything that suggests the bereaved person is grieving incorrectly – such as telling them to pull themselves together or that they should be over it by now, or more or less upset.

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