Things you can try that may help

There are things you can do that might help as you adjust to the death of your relative or friend. Different people will find different types of support helpful.

Some things you can try are:

  • talking to the person who has died
  • talking to family and friends
  • support groups
  • religious and faith groups
  • writing down your feelings.

You may be supporting someone who is grieving. It can sometimes be difficult to know what to do and say. Everyone will experience and express grief in their own way. One of the most helpful things you can do is to simply be there and listen. You don’t need to feel that you have to provide all the answers.

It may also be helpful to:

  • encourage them to talk and express their feelings
  • allow the person to grieve in their own time
  • contact them at difficult times
  • offer practical help.

If you are concerned that the person you are supporting is not making any progress, or if they are not looking after themselves properly, try to encourage them to speak to their GP.

Types of support

There is no one type of support that will suit everyone. Just as different people have many different emotions, they will find different types of support helpful.


Talking to the person who has died

Even though your relative or friend has died, you may find it comforting to talk to them. Some people like to go to a special place to do this, for example the crematorium or graveyard. Others find it helpful to do this at home as they go about their day-to-day business.

If you find it difficult to talk to them, you may prefer to write a letter or set up a memorialised account on a social media site.


Talking to family and friends

Some people find it helpful to talk to family and friends about how they are feeling. You may talk regularly or just occasionally.

Sometimes it may be difficult and painful – you may cry or shout and scream. But at other times you may find you can share stories about your relative or friend and be able to smile at happy memories. As time goes on, it often gets easier to talk about times you shared together.

Try to remember that how you are feeling is normal, and sharing your feelings with family and friends can be helpful.


Support groups

You may find it difficult to share your thoughts and feelings with family and friends. They may also be grieving, and you may feel you need to support them. Or you may not have any close family or friends, or just want to keep your feelings to yourself.

People often say that only others who have experienced the death of a relative or friend can really understand how they are feeling.

There are a number of organisations that offer support and can put you in touch with other people who are grieving. They may offer one-to-one or group support. Some organisations also offer telephone support. You can find details of these in our organisations database.

Your local hospice or hospital may run a bereavement support group, or have details of a local one.

Macmillan has two bereavement groups on its Online Community, which many people find very helpful. Search for bereavement under ‘groups’.

You can also phone the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 for information and support.

After we lost Betty, our Macmillan nurse Tony used to pop in to see how we were coping. And I know he’s always at the end of a phone if I need him. Without Macmillan, it would have been one hell of a bad journey.

Bill


Religious and faith groups

If you have a particular religion or faith, you may find this comforting following the death of your relative or friend. Or you may find that their death challenges your faith or beliefs. Some people find meaning in a faith or belief they have not previously had.

Faith leaders are always happy to talk to people about their feelings and beliefs. They won’t mind you crying or being angry. They may be able to tell you about other sources of support in their faith communities. You don’t have to have a particular faith to get support from a faith leader.


Writing down your feelings

Some people find that it helps to write down how they feel. Keeping a diary, journal or online blog can be a way of expressing your feelings without having to talk them through.

If you want to write down how you’re feeling but are not sure where to start, try using our table. You can use this to write down how you feel and what makes this feeling worse or better. We have written one feeling as an example.


Supporting someone who is grieving

If you are supporting someone who is grieving, it can sometimes be difficult to know what to do and say.

We have information that may help you understand some of the thoughts and feelings the person may have. It’s important to remember that everyone will experience and express grief in their own way. One of the most helpful things you can do is to simply be there and listen.

The following things may also be helpful:

  • Encourage them to talk and express their feelings. Don’t worry if they cry or get angry. These are normal emotions after the death of a relative or friend. Remember they may need to do this on many occasions over a long period of time.
  • Don’t feel you have to provide answers or solutions. Just listening is really important and helpful.
  • Allow the person to grieve in their own time. Some people will need a short time, while others will need many months and sometimes years.
  • Contact them at difficult times. This might be on special anniversaries and birthdays.
  • Offer practical help. This could be with things like cooking, shopping, gardening or cleaning. Ask the person if there is anything in particular they would like you to do.

If you are concerned that the person you are supporting is not making any progress, or if they are not looking after themselves properly, try to encourage them to speak to their GP. They may need some extra help.

You can find information about supporting someone who is grieving at Dying Matters and Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief.

Back to Coping with bereavement

Grief

Grief is a word for how we may feel after the death of someone close to us.

Symptoms of grief

You may experience a range of emotional and physical symptoms after your relative or friend has died.

Your feelings

People describe having many different feelings after someone close to them has died.

Moving on

While life will never be quite the same, most people find that as time passes they begin to adjust.

Prolonged grief

If you continue to be overwhelmed by your feelings of grief, it is important to get help and support.