What to Say and Do When Someone Dies

Lots of people truly want to help a friend who has suffered a bereavement, we are however sometimes lost for words. When helping a friend through grief trying to think of the right thing to say. Don’t be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, this can result in us saying/doing nothing, which is an option, but not really a good one.

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There are no perfect ways to support someone you care about, but here are few pointers:

Grief Belongs to The Griever

You must remember that you are there to support your friend and are not the central role in their grief.  Much of the advice, help and suggestions given to the griever tells them they should be doing things differently or feel different from they do.  Grief is very personal, whilst you may believe that you would do (or have done) things different, this grief belongs to your friend and you should follow their lead.

Stay Present and State Truth

We are often tempted to make statements about the past and the future, such as “life was good” this is no consolation for the pain they are presently suffering.  We don’t know what the future holds for any of us so it may or may not be “better later”.

Making general statements, in order to soothe your friend, such as their loved one “is in a better place” or “they were finished their work here” aren’t helpful.  Stick to the truth, ”it hurts”, “am here for you” and “I love you”.

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Don’t try to fix what is unfixable

Your friend’s loss cannot be fixed or repaired, the pain itself can’t be made better.  Don’t say anything in an attempt to fix what cannot be fixed.

Be Willing to Witness Unbearable Pain

This can be extremely difficult situation to be in bearing in mind you cannot fix things. You, as a friend just need to be there.

This is Not About You – Remember, you’re helping a friend through grief

It’s not easy being with someone in pain.  Your feelings will likely get hurt as things come up.  You may feel ignored or unappreciated at this time, however, you friend is not best placed to play their part in your relationship.  Don’t take it personally and please don’t take it out on them.  It is important for you to also be supported whilst giving support to your grieving friend at this time look to your other friends/family for support.

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Anticipate, Don’t Ask

Don’t say “call me if you need anything”, your friend won’t call you.  This is not because they don’t need you, it is more to do with the fact they are just coping one day at a time and dealing with situations as they arise and not thinking too far ahead.
When helping a friend through grief, you need to make concrete offers, like you will be over first thing to put the bins out or that you will call in after work to walk the dog.  Whatever the offer, make sure to be reliable.

Deal with the Everyday Tasks

As we have covered, grieving is something you can’t do for your friend, you can however, lessen the burden of the normal day to day life such as taking/collecting kids to/from school or clubs, take them shopping.  Being supportive in these small, ordinary ways are showing evidence of your love.

Please try not to do anything that is irreversible, like washing clothes or housework, unless you check with your friend first.  The dirty jumper that you are putting in the washing machine might be the last thing that smells of the deceased or the empty bottle may be placed exactly where the deceased always left it.  These small things become very precious, so to be safe, ask first.

Tackle “To do List” Together

Depending on circumstances, there may be a lot of difficult tasks needing doing, things like arranging the funeral or emptying a home.  Offer your assistance and always follow through with your offers.  Follow your friend’s lead in the tasks, sometimes just being there with them is the important thing.

Be the “Go To” Friend

When helping a friend through grief, remember, a newly bereaved friend may find the influx of people wanting to show their support totally overwhelming and at this extremely personal and private time feel like they are living in a fish bowl.
You can shield your friend by being the designated “go to” friend, you can relay information to others and organise well-wishers.

Above all, be there and be willing to do whatever you can.

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