Anne Arundel County Chapter of
The Bereaved Parents of the USA

Tips for Dealing with Bereaved Parents

How to Help Grieving People

Relatives, friends and neighbors are supportive at the time of a death, during the wake and funeral. Food, flowers and their presence are among the many thoughtful expressions. After the funeral, many grieving people wonder what happened to their friends. They need support and caring from their friends even more when the reality begins to hit and the long process of grief begins. Their friends' help is essential, since immediate family members have their hands full of grief and may find it difficult to give support to one another, or may not live nearby.

Your help and understanding can make a significant difference in the healing of your friend's grief. Unresolved grief can lead to physical or mental illness, suicide or premature death. A grieving person needs friends who are willing: to listen; to cry with them; to sit with them; to reminisce; to care; to have creative ideas for coping; to be honest; to help them feel loved and needed; and to believe that they will make it through their grief.

Ways of helping grieving people are as limitless as your imagination.

  1. All that is necessary is a squeeze of the hand, a kiss, a hug, your presence. If you want to say something, say, "I'm sorry" or "I care."
  2. Offer to help with practical matters: e.g., errands, fixing food, caring for children. Say, "I'm going to the store. Do you need bread, milk, etc.? I'll get the." It is not helpful to say, "Call me if there is anything I can do."
  3. Don't be afraid to cry openly if you were close to the deceased. Often the bereaved find themselves comforting you, but at the same time they understand your t4ears and don't feel so alone in their grief.
  4. It is not necessary to ask questions about how the death happened. Let the bereaved tell you as much as they want when they are ready. A helpful question might be, "Would you like to talk? I'll listen."
  5. Don't say, "I know just how you feel."
  6. The bereaved may ask "Why?!" It is often a cry of pain rather than a question. It is not necessary to answer, but if you do, you may reply, "I don't know why."
  7. Don't use platitudes like "Life is for the living," or "It's God's will." Explanations rarely console. It is better to say nothing.
  8. Recognize that the bereaved may be angry. They may be angry at God, the person who died, the clergy, doctors, rescue teams, other family members, etc. Encourage their anger and to find healthy ways of handling it.
  9. Be available to listen frequently. Most bereaved want to talk about the person who has died. Encourage them to talk about the deceased. Do not change the conversation or avoid mentioning the person's name.
  10. Read about the various phases of grief so you can understand and help the bereaved to understand.
  11. Be patient. Don't say, "You will get over it in time." Mourning may take a long time. The bereaved need you to stand by them for as long as necessary. Encourage them to be patient with themselves as there is no timetable for grief.
  12. Accept whatever feelings are expressed. Do not say, "You shouldn't feel like that." This attitude puts pressure on the bereaved to push down their feelings. Encourage them to express their feelings — cry, hit a pillow, scream, etc.
  13. Be aware that a bereaved person's self-esteem may be very low.

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