Bereavement is not a problem to be solved; it is a life experience that has to be lived through. Most people don’t need ‘bereavement counselling’. It is usually enough to have other people they can talk to. But many people feel awkward, or unsure as to the best approach.

You may feel you don’t know what to say or that you may say the wrong thing; you may think talking about the deceased will make the bereaved person feel sad or cry, and you may be tempted to act as if nothing had changed.

Here are some practical ways that we can best help people:

Do

  • reach out with a friendly smile and a willingness to be with the person. This can make a huge difference. It helps the person to feel they are still connected to those around them and that their world really hasn’t come to an end, as they may be tempted to think – contact that matters;
  • say something again when you actually see the person. Try “I’m sorry” if you can’t think of anything else;
  • talk about the person who has died. A bereaved person will very likely want to talk and avoiding the subject or worse avoiding the person will probably leave them feeling isolated and alone;
  • share memories of the person who has died they will be most welcome as, once someone has gone, there are no new memories unless someone shares theirs with you.

 

Don’t

  • ​​​​​​​​​​let fear hold you back. Mentioning the dead person may make them cry – they are already sad; but it might help them express their sadness;
  • stop someone crying. It’s okay to sit quietly while someone cries. Tears help the body deal with stress;
  • worry if the person doesn’t cry; everyone processes grief differently;
  • say things like: “She’s in a better place now” or “He was a good age” or “It’s always too young to lose someone you love”. Such things are not helpful;
  • compare the loss of a significant loved one to the loss of a pet.
  • tell someone how they’re feeling, because grief is incredibly individual.
  • be afraid to make the bereaved person laugh. Talking about your day can help them feel connected to their friends and be momentarily distracting.