Tips for Offering Support for Those Who Have Suffered a Loss

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Though grief is a natural reaction to the loss of a loved one, it can be devastating to the grieving person. Bereavement encompasses a range of powerful emotions that are constantly changing. One person's response may differ from another person's, but for most people the loss of a loved one can be an intensely painful experience that leaves them feeling depleted and even debilitated. Here are some tips on helping someone you know cope with the loss of a loved one.


If someone you know loses a loved one, do not wait until they make the first move. The person may be in a state of shock that leaves them unable to reach out. As such, you may need to initiate the communication.

When you talk to them, do not try to cover up what happened. Mention the deceased by name and be open about the fact that they died. If you are also grieving, express your emotions. If the person is in a mood to talk, listen to what they have to say without judgment, and resist the temptation to offer advice.

Sometimes grieving people express anger at those who are close by, but do not take it personally or respond in kind. Be patient and wait until they cool down. Understand that a bereaved person's feelings might change from day to day like an emotional roller coaster. Do not just visit once, but continue to follow up with phone calls, emails and personal visits, even if you seem to get little response. Just dropping by to hang out is extremely comforting.

Help Out Around the Home

Bereaved people often find it difficult to cope with day to day tasks, but do not ask for help. Volunteer to help with chores such as cleaning up, doing laundry, cooking, shopping, babysitting, yard work, driving, and post-funeral communications and legalities. If you do offer help, be sure to keep your promises, as otherwise they may feel abandoned.

Be Especially Sensitive During Holidays

Because holidays hold special memories of time spend with loved ones, bereavement can be intense during these times. Some people who are grieving choose to honor family traditions, while others want to break away and do something different. Be sensitive and supportive. Offer to help with special cooking, decorating or shopping. Invite the bereaved person to join you for a holiday meal or event. Be sure to let them know you care through cards, phone calls and visits.

Watch for Signs of Complicated Grief or Depression

When bereavement is overwhelming it sometimes manifests itself in complicated grief or depression. Complicated grief is when someone seems stuck in a state of mourning. Symptoms include denial of the death, searching for the loved one in familiar places, imagining the person is still alive, and avoiding anything that might provoke memories of the deceased person. Though grief involves ups and downs of emotion, depression is a constant feeling of hopelessness and despair. It sometimes manifests itself in overuse of drugs or alcohol, or in suicidal tendencies. If you recognize symptoms of complicated grief or depression, encourage the bereaved person to seek professional help.

The most important thing you can offer a bereaved person is your presence. Even if you do not know the right words to say, just being there offers support and consolation.