It can be difficult to know what to do when someone is grieving for a loved one who has died. Is it appropriate to offer to help someone who’s been bereaved by cooking or doing errands for them? Or is it best to leave them alone in the rawest stages of their grief?
These were some of the questions that Caroline Lloyd faced when she decided to train as a volunteer bereavement counsellor. Finding the answers to those questions led to her writing Grief Demystified, a practical, highly accessible guide on how to communicate with grievers and support them to tell their story.
“It’s the book I wanted and needed when I was training,” says Caroline.
Originally written to help people such as the police, funeral directors and nurses to support people who have been bereaved, the book contains such useful information that it’s now recommended reading for anyone who’s lost a loved one.
“People need to make sense of the death of their loved one and every death is different,” says Caroline, who began exploring how people cope with bereavement, during her a journey through grief of her own.
What can I say when someone is grieving for a loved one who has died?
Caroline addresses difficult topics, such as what to say when somebody has died.
“Avoid platitudes like ‘you’ll get over it’ and ‘are you over it yet?’” she says.
“They’ll only make the person feel guilty if they’re not,’ she says.
More helpful phrases include ‘Take your time,’ or ‘I’m here when you need to talk.’ Or you could even say: ‘I’m thinking of you - what can I do to help?’
We all approach death in different ways. Caroline has explored why this is so and how an awareness could help a good friend to offer someone the kind of support they need.
“People tend to grieve the way they expressed themselves prior to the death,” she explains.
“Quiet introvert types will often find it hard to express their feelings. Offer practical support, like cooking or doing their shopping and respect their need to be alone.
“More outgoing extrovert types, on the other hand, will usually want to be with people when they’re dealing with a loss,” adds Caroline.
“They’ll express themselves freely, seek support from family and friends and blog about their feelings on social media.”
What support can give to someone who is grieving for a loved one who has died?
Caroline says that good friends can be a valuable support by simply bearing witness to someone’s grief. Actively listen to what they have to say, she advises, and allow them to reminisce without interruption.
“Always remember: it’s not your story, it is their story,’ she adds.
“Grief has no hard and fast rules and schedules; we all process loss in our own way and in our own time.
“Empathy, compassion and creating a safe space to express their feelings are far more helpful than telling someone they’ll get over it.”
Grief Demystified by Caroline Lloyd is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.