Helping others cope with grief - sharing grief is a great comfort to the bereaved

Helping others cope with grief isn't so difficult. For the bereaved sharing grief with a close friend or family member can be a great comfort.

A dear friend always said, “If you put everyone’s troubles in the middle of the street, you would soon take yours back again.”

Somehow our own troubles are easier to cope with, than someone else’s imagined pain. But don’t be frightened that what someone else is dealing with is too difficult for you to help them with. Someone who has suffered a loss doesn’t need an expert, or someone to pity them, or tell them how awful they must be feeling.

What they want is someone who treats them normally. Just be practical. If you don’t know what to say, just tell them you don’t know what to say. Just give them a hug. Just make a cup of tea. But don’t desert them.  As they say - "A grief shared is a grief halved".  

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How to give emotional help for the bereaved . . . 

Everyone grieves in a different way. Some people are numb and in shock. They can't cry for months, and then the floodgates open. Others cry constantly. Be prepared for numbness, or non-stop talking, or mood swings, tears or anger. It's a roller coaster of emotions.

Some people may seem to be coping very well and not show any emotion. Don't imagine that they are grieving any less. They need just as much support.

Don't be afraid to tell the bereaved you are sorry and talk about the deceased. Anecdotes from friends about experiences they shared with the loved one can be a great comfort. So many people are afraid to even mention their names. Share the grief, talk, help and share some tears.

Tips for supporting the grieving with practicalities

“If you want to help, bring me food, otherwise go away” is how Stephanie Ericcson felt when she was grieving. Sometimes people won't want to talk, but need practical help. Just be there to do the shopping, some cleaning, answer the door, cook the food, and listen if the bereaved do want to talk.

Sometimes during early bereavement, when people are in shock, they may look normal, and say they are fine. They will be numb and not at the stage where they are feeling the full force of their grief. You need to consider what they might need. Are they fit to drive? You can help by taking them to appointments, doing some shopping or cooking.

Often people who are grieving lose confidence and become anxious about things they were quite capable of doing before. They might need help with banking, driving, even simple tasks like shopping. They may find it hard to concentrate on things. So the help of friends during this time is essential.

So don't worry if you don't know what to say, actions speak louder than words.

  • Send: cards, flowers, messages, cooked meals, cakes, hampers etc. These are all lovely. It helps to know that people are thinking of you and that the loved one was appreciated by others too.
  • Offer: to do shopping, give lifts, take your friend on outings, to do odd jobs 
  • Help: to pack up the deceased belongings if needed. Take them to the charity shop if your friend can't face it.
  • Encourage: your friend to go back to work, to join groups, to keep active. 
  • Suggest: a visit to the doctor or counsellor if you suspect they are getting depressed.

Don't know what to write on a card?  Check out our book. 


Sharing grief helps others to cope . . . 

  • Talk: about the deceased. Don't pussy foot around and be scared of upsetting the bereaved. They need and want to talk about them. This is especially true of children who need a lot of help to understand and process what has happened. If it causes tears, that is a good thing. Tears are nature’s way of healing our emotional wounds. It releases tension and lowers the blood pressure.
  • Be: a shoulder to cry on if they get upset. It's all part of the process.
  • Cry too: share the sadness and don't forget to grieve yourself.
  • Laugh: and joke too. Be cheerful company.
  • Ring: to chat often, make sure they are not lonely living alone, that they are eating and getting out.

Be Understanding of New Friendships or Partners

Approve of new friendships.  Don't be critical if the friendship is with the opposite sex, it may well be platonic and in any case, any new friendship is a good thing. Many bereaved re-marry in the first year of their loss. This is a compliment to the deceased. It often means their marriages were so happy they want to re-create it with a new partner.

Please support the new relationship, attend the wedding, and wish your friend or family member well. The deceased would not have wanted them to be miserable for good. Just because they re-marry does not mean they loved the deceased less or will ever forget them. This is a new chapter in their life and is truly deserved after the sad loss of a loved one. It's amazing how new partners can split up families who think it's too soon or in someway disrespectful. Why is that? 

Life is precious to all of us and we should grasp happiness where we can.

Share in their pleasure.

Related Pages:

How to Write Words of Sympathy

Sympathy Gift Etiquette

Sympathy Gift Ideas

Best Books on Grief

> > Helping Others Cope with Grief


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Self-Help Hypnosis Downloads

Try a gentle hypnotherapy track to relax the mind and help you cope with your grief. We recommend Hypnosis Downloads which have been created especially for those who are grieving by qualified specialists in medical hypnotherapy.

Choose from this list of grief and loss tracks for your specific type of loss.  


Memorial Magnolia Tree

The Magnolia is one of the earth's oldest plants, with a spectacular flower which dates back 95 million years.  What a beautiful specimen to commemorate a life. 

These trees are grown by the foremost magnolia nursery in the country and they will send a variety most suited to the recipient's climate. 

The flowers in spring will bring joy to the bereaved and help to heal their heart.


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