Here are seven practical suggestions if your friend or relative has recently been bereaved
It may be tempting to keep away, especially as you probably do not know what to say, but visits and telephone calls are essential.
Try not to steer the conversation yourself but let the bereaved person talk about what they want. Allow even encourage, him or her to talk about the person who has died and listen attentively. This may be difficult for both of you but it will help your friend come to terms with the death. Do not mind if your friend cries, or even if you cry yourself – it is perfectly natural.
All bereavements are different. Do not assume that your friend will feel the same as you did when you were bereaved, and do not say “I know how you feel”. Encourage your friend to express his or her feelings, whatever they are, and try to accept that they are valid. For example a bereaved person might feel worried, angry, guilty or even relieved. Try to understand your friend’s feelings and do not say that they are wrong.
Bereaved people often feel isolated and it may help to put your arm around them, touch their shoulder or elbow, or hold hands or shake hands. Clearly you need to use your discretion but touch can be a very effective way of affirming friendship.
If you see that your friend needs help then offer to help, or suggest where help can be obtained – do not wait to be asked. It is better to suggest a specific job or jobs. However, be prepared to accept that your offer of help may be declined – you can always offer to help in some other way or at another time. Be careful not to take over – your friend should stay in control at all times.
If you notice a serious problem which seems to be persisting longer than it should , e g over use of alcohol or drugs, serious self neglect, malnutrition, total inertia or violent mood swings, you should express your worries to your friend’s doctor or, if they belong to a religious group, their minister priest etc. They will listen, and may be able to help, but remember that they have a duty of confidentiality to your friend.
Grieving is a process which changes over the weeks, months and years, but your support will be valuable. Anniversaries such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries and the anniversary of the death any be particularly difficult for the bereaved person- it will help if you are aware of them.