When somebody you know has suffered the loss of a loved one, they may need help readjusting to life after their loss. There are many ways you can support them through this difficult time. Here are 10 practical ways to help the bereaved:
1 – Be there for them when they need you
Death is not something we as a society like to talk about. As uncomfortable as it may be for you, it may be beneficial for the bereaved to express themselves and share their feelings with you. When they talk about their experience coping with grief, try to create a comfortable environment and listen to what they have to say.
Understand that they don’t need someone to cheer them up or make them feel better. When they choose to share their feelings, they need someone to listen without passing judgment. Even sitting together in silence can comfort them.
2 – Attend the funeral
Unless it is a private family funeral, you should always try to attend the funeral or memorial service.
It is normal to feel uncomfortable or anxious attending a funeral, but it can be upsetting for bereaved families if few people attend their loved one’s send-off. This can make them feel that their loved one was not as appreciated as they deserved to be. If you decide not to attend a funeral, sending a condolence message or funeral excuse letter can ressure them that you do sympathise with their loss.
If you’re attending a religious funeral service, it is a good idea to consider the customs and etiquette, especially if it is in a different faith or belief system from your own.
3 – Communicate and listen
Whether in a letter, an e-mail, a text message, a card, or face-to-face, try to communicate with the bereaved and let them know that you care about them. Try to avoid sending sympathy cards with generic poems printed inside, as they can sometimes be perceived as impersonal.
If you’re unsure of what to write to the bereaved, simply communicate that you are thinking of them and are willing to support them during this difficult time.
4 – Help with everyday tasks
Offering to take care of everyday tasks gives the bereaved more time to cope with grief and tend to their loved one’s personal affairs. Even small tasks like washing the dishes, walking the dog or doing their laundry are great ways to provide support.
Keep in mind that if you offer to do something for the bereaved, make sure you follow through with your promise. This is not the time to let them down.
5 – Offer to drive them places
Arranging a funeral and ensuring all the correct documentation is in place can be very stressful when coping with grief. In most cases, this will require the bereaved to visit a number of locations. Offering to drive them to some of these locations may alleviate some of their stress. Driving to places together is also an unobtrusive way to spend time with the bereaved and keep them company.
6 – Offer to cook
It is common for people going through the early stages of grief to stop eating due to a loss of appetite. Offering to prepare meals for them ensures that they eat regularly and gives them more time for grieving.
7 – Use your experience
Depending on your line of work or personal experience of loss, your expertise may be beneficial to the bereaved, especially when dealing with the funeral arrangements or the estate of their loved one.
8 – Don't judge them
There is no right or wrong way to act when you lose a loved one. Everyone's grief is unique. Try to remember that if the bereaved behave differently to how you would expect them to act, or if they behave differently to how you acted when you lost a loved one.
9 – Help them find bereavement support
If you feel that they're struggling to cope with their grief, it may be beneficial for them to talk to a bereavement support professional.
Before suggesting professional bereavement support, however, consider how you should approach the subject. Finding the right moment and being prepared with the appropriate information may help them take action.
There are many bereavement support organisations that provide grief counselling and other advise and resources for people who have suffered many different types of loss.
10 – Help create a memory book or leave a memory
It's not uncommon for the bereaved to want to create a memory book to remember the loss of a loved one. Helping them create a keepsake can prove very therapeutic during the grieving process.
Alternatively, if your bereaved friend or relative set up an online obituary, leaving a memory or photo of their loved on the page can be comforting for the bereaved before and after the funeral.