How To Offer Help When Someone Experiences a Loss

The instinct to offer help is very common when someone has experienced a death, but there are more and less helpful ways of offering your support.

Offering specific help

In general, it is better to offer specific help than general help; that is, it’s more helpful to the bereaved person for you to choose a way to help than it is to offer your help and let him or her decide how to follow up. At a time when the person may be overwhelmed with decision-making and emotional stress, suggesting a specific thing you can do to help—and letting the person off the hook for further decision-making—can be a help in itself.

In general, the most important thing you can do to help the bereaved is to be present, to stay in touch with the bereaved, and to let the bereaved know that you are available to be supportive in the ways you can.

When to offer help

There are many times in the days, weeks, and months following a death that you can offer your help. The helpful things you can do for the bereaved vary depending on the bereaved’s unique situation and needs, as well as the amount of time that has passed since the death.

For advice on how to help before the funeral or memorial service, see our article How You Can Help a Grieving Person Before the Funeral.

For advice on how to help during the funeral or memorial service, see our article How You Can Help During a Funeral.

For advice on how to help after the funeral or memorial serivce, see our article Show Support Beyond the Funeral.

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