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Helping a Newly Bereaved Person…

Excerpts and very useful tips from an article by John Kennedy Saynor, Genenis Bereavement Resources


Avoiding the bereaved

It may seem obvious that if you want to help, you don’t avoid. People use all sorts of excuses: “I don’t know what to say”, “I didn’t know them that well” or “I may upset them if I break down”.  Meanwhile the bereaved are saying, “Where are all the people I thought were going to help?”

Being afraid to shed tears with the bereaved

Oddly enough, this gives the bereaved an opportunity to comfort someone and it helps them realize they are not alone in their grief.

Offering platitudes

There are many timeless platitudes you are familiar with; “I know how you feel”, “She is better off”, “It’s God’s will” or “Or he had a good long life”.  These are designed to help the bereaved feel better but often don’t!

Rushing the bereaved

Many of us genuinely want our friends to move past the extreme pain of grief and move on to the next chapter of their life.  But this takes time – months or at times, years. Don’t rush the bereaved. Be patient with the process.

Not talking about the one who died

People are often afraid to mention the person who has died for fear of upsetting the survivors.  The fact is that many bereaved people have told me that they are upset because nobody talks about the one who has died!


Your presence

Probably the overriding emotion that most bereaved people feel is that of loneliness.  There are all kinds of ways you can be present to a grieving person: grocery shopping, a quick lunch, drop in for a quick visit, a drive to church or just to go for a walk.  Begin contact, if possible, soon after the funeral.  In the first week, make a call, or pay a short visit just to touch base and keep the lines of communication open.

Understand the symptoms of grief

Most people experience, to some degree, an intense loneliness, anxiety about the future, a deep sadness, a debilitating anger, and mental confusion.  Knowing these and other symptoms will enable you reassure your friend that these feelings are normal, healthy symptoms of grief and will pass with time.

Remember weekends, holidays and evenings are the most difficult

Try to include the bereaved in activities during these difficult hours. Eating alone on Saturday evening when you are used to socializing is very difficult.

Be willing to listen

Even a good professional counsellor knows that the best counsellor is one who listens.  When you give a friend a chance to talk, you are giving them a chance to tell their story.  This is an important aspect of grieving.  You do not have to be a “fixer”, just a “listener”

Give a grieving person space and time to be alone

Although these times may be painful for a bereaved person, it is during times alones that important aspects of grief work is done.  For instance, a person begins to understand at a deep level that their loved one is truly not coming back.  It is during times alone that one begins to put things into perspective and develop a new vision for living.


  1. Liam  December 11, 2015

    Beautiful words Bev. Seven years vanishes so qluckiy .I remember when one of the earlier interviews about a sister losing a sister was published and I admitted that the very thought of losing my only sibling scares me to death. She is the other half of me.Ill dance with you the next time I see you x


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