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Better Ways To Lend Your Support To The Recently Bereaved.

May 13, 2019 by  
Filed under Health, Money/Business, Weekly Columns

( Benjamin Franklin once said there are two main certainties in life…

Death and taxes.

Both are unavoidable, and we all have to deal with them at various points throughout our lives. This is true to you, and this is true to the people you have around you, be they friends, neighbors, family members, or coworkers. Now, we aren’t going to talk about taxes in this article (you will have to look elsewhere for that), but we are going to talk about death. Specifically, we are going to talk about the way you can respond when somebody you know is faced with bereavement and trying to dealing with the loss. And with reference to our title, we are going to talk about ‘better ways’ to lend your support, because you see, while there are all kinds of ways to ‘help’ somebody, there are some strategies that are better than others.

#1: Don’t avoid the person who has been bereaved

Don’t assume the best way to help somebody is to give them space. Don’t assume the best way to help the person is to avoid talking about the subject. Sure, they might well need some alone time, and they might want to talk about anything but the death they have experienced, but then again, they might need somebody to both support and listen to them. Therefore, be tactful. When you see the person in the street, don’t avoid eye contact because you’re not sure as to what you might say. And in the same way, don’t avoid texting or calling them on your phone. You don’t have to say very much at all, other than “I’m here for you if you need me,” as that one promise could make all the difference to them as we will see in the next point.

#2: Offer practical help

There isn’t a lot of time to rest just after a person dies. For family members particularly, there are funeral arrangements to consider, including the need to let people know where and when the funeral is happening. There might be legal proceedings to think about where the last will and testament is concerned, sometimes including probate alternatives that need to be taken into consideration. And there might be all manner of other things to consider too. For the bereaved person, they might feel overwhelmed with the to-do list they have to contend with, alongside the pressures of grief and everyday living.

Therefore, don’t assume you shouldn’t get involved. While you might think the best thing to do is to give the person time and space to do what needs to be done, the better thing to do is offer your time and assistance. You could attend funeral and legal meetings with the bereaved, for example. Or if that wasn’t appropriate, you could offer to help in other ways, such as taking the family dogs for a walk or cleaning up the late person’s home. At the very least, ask those three important words, ‘can I help?’, because even the smallest responsibility you take on could offer the bereaved person a little bit of respite from the challenges they will be dealing with.

#3: Be with the person

Sometimes, you don’t have to do or say anything specific. You don’t have to have all of the answers to support the person in their time of need. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is simply be there with them. Hold their hands when they are crying. Hug them when they are in despair. Go for a walk with them or sit beside them on the sofa. You don’t have to do much at all, but by having you close by, the bereaved person might feel comfort by your presence. So, don’t be afraid to ‘just be.’ A comforting arm and a listening ear might be just what the person needs to cope during their time of sorrow.

#4: Be careful what you say

As suggested above, you don’t have to say much at all. In fact, sometimes, saying not very much is the best course of action. This will prevent you from saying the wrong things. As examples, you shouldn’t say “I know exactly how you feel,” because even though you may have experienced grief, it’s important to know that we can all experience grief differently. Share your experiences by all means, but don’t assume the way you dealt with it will be the same way the bereaved person does. And don’t say “you’ll feel better soon,” because how do you know that will be the case? Grief has no time limit; it’s different for all of us. Care needs to be taken, so when expressing sympathy and advice, think before you speak. These suggestions might be helpful to you.

#5: Suggest bereavement counselling and/or support meetings

In many ways, your support will mean the world to the bereaved person. However, you can’t be with them 24/7. You won’t always know the best course forward in their particular situation. And there might be times when you are worried about their health, especially when grief takes its toll on them. Therefore, don’t be afraid to bring up the subject of bereavement counselling. Do your research beforehand, look at what is available, and collect the relevant contact numbers for counselling in your area. Then talk to the bereaved person about it, and from your research, explain why you think it will be helpful to them. Hopefully, they will then take up the opportunities presented to them, even if you have to make the appointments on their behalf.  And the same applies to support group meetings, many of which run in community halls and libraries. If you can encourage the bereaved person to attend, they will have another avenue of much-needed support. Therefore, don’t assume all responsibility lies with you, or with other close family members of friends. Explore professional avenues, and recommend them when appropriate.


Death is an unavoidable reality, but by being there for each other, the pain and trauma of grief can be minimized in both small and large degrees. We hope this advice has been useful, but let us know what you think. If you have experienced bereavement, how did the support of others help you? And if you have been that person of support, what did you to help another? Share your thoughts for the benefit of our readers.

Take care, and thanks for reading.

Staff Writer; Brad Shaw

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