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Providing Support for the Bereaved

There are many things you can do to help a grieving person. These include:

  • Sending cards or flowers

  • Preparing food

  • Providing childcare

  • Offering to help with tasks like mowing the lawn, cleaning, or shopping

  • Contributing to a cause that is meaningful to the family

  • Offering transportation

Here are some things to think about when giving support:

  • Be available. Sometimes grieving people don't want to talk or listen. And they may not want you to talk or listen. They may just want you to be there for them. Silence is OK if that is what the person wants at the moment.

  • Allow the grieving person the full range of their emotions. This includes anger and bitterness. This may be sometimes expressed against the healthcare providers or God. Or even the loved one who has died.

  • Be patient and understanding, but not patronizing. Don't claim to know how the other person is feeling. Don't force them to talk or share feelings if they don't want to.

  • It's OK to talk about the person who died. Don't worry about saying the deceased person's name. Or sharing a fond memory of the person when you are with the bereaved. They are also thinking about this person. It is acceptable and natural to talk about the person.

  • Remember that grieving takes time. It is a natural human process. You may want to stop the person from hurting. But bereaved┬ápeople must go through the grieving process. Let them grieve. And care for them as they move through the process. Keep offering support even after the early grieving period passes.

  • Watch for depression and complicated grief. The person may develop physical problems, isolate themselves, or neglect their personal hygiene. Or they may start using drugs or alcohol. If any of these occur, encourage them to talk to their healthcare provider or mental health provider. Help is available. If you believe someone is at risk for suicide, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 800-273-TALK (8255). You will be connected to trained mental health crisis services at the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. An online chat choice is also available. This service is free and available 24/7.

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