What to say when someone is grieving | Cruse Bereavement Care

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At the best of times we can feel uncomfortable about what to say when someone you know has been bereaved. But in these unprecedented times it matters more than ever that you reach out to those who are suffering after someone dies, while they are likely to be more isolated than ever.

Many more people are going to be bereaved because of Covid-19 and even more people are not going to grieve in the way they would expect during more normal times. Many people will be on their own dealing with grief, unable to even have a hug from a friend. Many will not attend a funeral and some will have multiple bereavements. 

Many friends and family who want to support people can feel overwhelmed by these situations. It is normal to feel worried about saying the wrong thing. It is normal to feel helpless, or trapped in your own fears. But if you find yourself unable to reach out, or not able to talk about the person who died, it can result in the bereaved person feeling even more isolated. They might also start to feel like a burden or even push down their grief to try and not make others feel uncomfortable. 

If you are finding it very difficult (perhaps because you have been bereaved yourself) we have some suggestions below which might help. Acknowledge your worries and fears, but try not to let them stop you supporting your friend or family member. There is a lot you can do to make them feel less alone, more loved and supported.

What can you say?  

Be honest. Acknowledge the news by sharing your condolences, saying how sorry you are that their friend or relative has died. Share your thoughts about the person who died (if appropriate), tell your friend or relative how much the person will be missed and that you are thinking of them. Remind them that you are there for them, as much as you can be. Sending a card, text or email can mean the world.

Don’t worry too much about saying exactly the right thing. The feeling will come across and it is more important that you say something than that you find the perfect words. Here are some suggestions if you are finding it difficult.

  • I don’t know what to say but I am so sorry to hear this news.
  • I am so sorry for your loss – you are in my thoughts.
  • I’m so sad to hear this and I’m here if you need to talk.
  • He/she was such a wonderful person/so selfless – full of positivity/kindness [whatever feels appropriate] – they will be hugely missed.
  • He/she will be missed so much – they were so special. You are in my thoughts
  • I am so very sorry to hear this sad news. I cannot imagine how devasted you are.
  • I cannot imagine the hole that she/he will have left. If you need anything, let me know.
  • So very shocked and saddened by this sad news. Hard to believe [name] has gone. I am here when you need me.
  • This is so heartbreaking – I wish I could be there to give you a hug.

After a death it is common for bereaved people to want to go over the events leading up to the death, sometimes many times. They may want to talk about the person and tell you stories, they may cry through these stories or just cry down the phone. Again some people find this really hard to hear but just being there can be a great comfort.

Know that you can’t fix their pain but you can make it a little less lonely by listening or asking more about the person, and what has happened, and allowing them to talk. Many people can find this challenging to do. But just listening, and allowing someone to share their feelings with you, can make a real difference. 

As time goes on you may be able to offer more practical help with the arrangements and practical tasks hat come after someone dies. It can help to offer something specific rather than just saying ‘let me know if there’s anything I can do’. If they are strugglling you could also offer our number or direct them to one of the pages on the website.

Helping yourself

If someone else’s situation is causing you distress then we are here for you too. Confronting someone else’s grief may bring up difficult feelings from your own bereavements and that’s OK and normal.

Even if you haven’t lost anyone close to you, you may be very fearful that it might happen. At the present time there is so much in the news about death and dying, and many of us are feeling anxious. It might help to line up someone you can call yourself, after speaking to your bereaved friend or relative, to share your own feelings. You can also call our helpline and talk to someone about how it’s affected you.

How we can help

Cruse is continuing to offer as much support as possible. While we have had to stop offering our face-to-face support, we do have 5000 bereavement trained volunteers in our network who are here to support you or someone you know. 

  • You can call our helpline. Our National Freephone Helpline offers emotional help and signposting – call 0808 808 1677. Opening hours.
  • You can like our facebook page, which has lots of tips on coping with bereavement. 
  • Our Local Services can also offer support over the phone at the present time.