There are varying types of support that can be provided during this time, both practical and emotional.
Remember that this type of bereavement is long-term and you will not be able to 'fix' it or make it go away. People need assistance and support, usually for a long period of time, as they come to terms with what has happened.
Try to help attend to the things that might get left behind during this difficult period. For example, help look after children or cook meals occasionally.
Offer to do something specific, for example, “I could come and mow the lawn”, “I could look after the pets for a while” or just bring some food or a meal. Many bereaved people will find it difficult to ask for assistance and they may also have difficulty making decisions or identifying ways you can assist. Be proactive and simply offer assistance.
Be aware that the person is having a really hard time. Respect their right to grieve and accept the intensity of the grief. Allow them to grieve in the way that is most natural and comfortable for them and provide support that is helpful. There is no one right way to grieve.
Some other ways you can provide support:
- Contact the person when you hear of the death. Tell them you are sorry to hear of their loss, or send a card or flowers. If you don’t know what to say, you can just write ‘thinking of you’.
- Maintain contact personally or by telephone, text, notes, cards. Visits need not be long.
- Listen: This is possibly the most important thing you can do.
- Invite them to talk about the person who has died, mention the person's name, ask to see photos, share stories.
- Accept their behaviour – crying, being quiet, laughing. Allow expressions of anger, guilt and blame.
- Offer specific practical help, such as bringing in a cooked meal, taking care of the children, cutting the grass, shopping.
- Really try to understand and accept the person. Everyone is different and a range of responses are normal.
- Be patient. People may need to tell their story over and over again without interruption or judgment. This helps them to come to terms with, and make sense of, what has happened.
- Include children and young people in the grieving process and be aware that they may have particular need for support.
- Be aware of and acknowledge special times that might be significant, and particularly difficult, for the bereaved person such as Christmas, anniversaries, birthdays, Father's Day, Mother's Day.
- Realise your feelings of awkwardness and helplessness are normal. Just listening and 'being with' the person who is grieving can be a powerful support.
- Look after yourself. Set limits as you need. To support a grieving person you need to maintain your own wellbeing.