Things that might help

There are things you can do that might help after the death of a relative or friend. 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
  • talking to health professionals 
  • 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. One of the most helpful things you can do is to simply be there and listen. Don’t feel that you need 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.

You may be concerned that the person you are supporting is not making any progress or not looking after themselves. Try to encourage them to speak to their GP.

Things that may help

There is no one type of support that will suit everyone. Just as 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. This could be the cemetery or a place that has special memories. 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 when you feel ready.

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

Try to remember that the way you are feeling is normal, and that sharing your feelings with family and friends can help.


Health professionals

Sometimes, it is easier to talk to someone who is not part of your family or friendship group. There is support available to you after someone dies. It is important to ask for help or talk to your GP if you feel you are not coping. They may refer you to a counsellor or therapist who can help.

You can call our cancer support specialists for free on 0808 808 00 00. They can tell you more about counselling and about services in your area.


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. You may not have any close family or friends, or you may just want to keep your feelings to yourself.

You may feel that only others who have experienced the death of a relative or friend can really understand how you are feeling.

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

Macmillan has bereavement groups on its Online Community, which many people find very helpful. We have pages for spouses and partners as well as family and friends.

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

After we lost Betty, our Macmillan nurse used to pop in to see how we were coping. Without Macmillan, it would have been one hell of a bad journey.

Bill


Religious and faith groups

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

Faith leaders are often available to listen and to offer support. They will not mind you crying or being angry. They may be able to tell you about other sources of support in their faith communities. Many faith leaders will offer support even if you have different beliefs or no beliefs.


Writing down your feelings

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

If you 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.

Reading this page may help you understand some of the thoughts and feelings they may have. It is important to remember that everyone will experience grief in their own way. Often the most helpful thing you can do is to just be there and listen.

The following things may also be helpful:

  • Encourage them to talk and show their feelings. Do not 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 give answers or solutions. Just listening is often very helpful.
  • Allow the person to grieve in their own time. Some people will need a short time, while others will need months or even years.
  • Contact them at difficult times. Or ask the person to tell you when they think they will need support. 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 they would like you to do, or offer them suggestions.

You may be concerned that the person you are supporting is not coping. Or they may not be 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 dyingmatters.org and goodlifedeathgrief.org.uk

Back to Coping with bereavement

Grief

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

How grief can affect you

You may have many different 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.

Starting to move on

While life will change, most people find that they begin to adjust as time passes.

Prolonged grief

If you continue to find life difficult after a bereavement, it is important to get help and support.