How to be Grief Kind in the new year

Hear from Bianca Neumann, our Head of Bereavement, as she explains how you can be Grief Kind and support someone you love with their grief this new year. We know it can be difficult to know what to say or do, but often the simplest ways to show your support can mean so much. 

For someone who is grieving, the new year can sometimes act as an unwelcome reminder of what has changed in life. It can bring about feelings of sadness, jealousy or anger, and these emotions can often be heightened by the positive outlook pushed by society at the start of the year. 

Life after a bereavement can feel isolating, but our Grief Kind campaign is helping to show that it doesn’t need to be that way. So, the next time you sit down to write out your goals for the weeks ahead, why not use our advice and try to also clude one about how you can be #GriefKind to a family member or friend this month? 

Ask them how they're feeling

When talking to your family member or friend about their grief, try not to make assumptions about their experience of bereavement, or make the conversation about you. Asking "how are you feeling?" can often be a good place to start, as their reply can help you understand how best to support them in a way that’s sensitive to their grief.

For example, if they say that they’re struggling to keep up with the cooking or cleaning, you might be able to offer them more practical support, such as a cooked meal or a helping hand at home. 

Remember not to worry if they don’t want to talk about their grief immediately, or if they insist that they are fine or getting along okay. Often just asking the question is significant in giving them the space to open up about how they’re feeling, if or when they decide they are ready. 

Help them create structure or routine

Structure can be important during grief, as it can help to ease some of the anxiety that comes with the changing future in front of you. If you’re looking for ways to support your family member or friend get back into a bit more of a routine after their bereavement, you might want to suggest: 

  • a daily or weekly phone call or FaceTime
  • a set time in the week where you meet to do the food shop together
  • a weekly gym or swim session 
  • a coffee morning at home or in a café
  • a weekend dog walk. 

Or, if you’re not able to commit as much time, or don’t live close enough to do so, you might want to plan in a few weekends throughout the year where you’re able to meet each other or get away together. 

Throughout any planning, try to remember that grief can be unpredictable, and how someone is feeling can change from one day to the next. Although they may be looking forward to your plans, make sure they know that there’s no pressure if they decide they don’t feel up to it closer to the time. Grief can be exhausting, and it’s important to be understanding of that. 

Encourage a social media switch-off or refresh

From setting weekly goals to yearly resolutions, January often comes with a whirlwind of pressure. Friends are talking about getting fit or eating healthily, family members want to shop less or start a new hobby, and everyone around you suddenly seems to be doing more. 

It can be hard to not compare yourself, especially when your social media feeds are full of people showcasing their ‘new year, new me’ efforts. But sometimes switching off the noise from the outside world can help someone to focus on what’s important.

So, if you’re noticing that your family member or friend seems to be putting unnecessary pressure on themselves this year, you might want to encourage them to take some time away from their phones. This might involve swapping the social scrolling for a new book or a quick mindfulness exercise. Or, it might be about them spending quality time with the people who are there for them instead. 

If a complete switch-off doesn't feel right for them, you could also suggest some new supportive accounts to follow or groups to join. What’s important is that they’re focusing on themselves, and what’s helping them to feel better during their grief.

Be present

Whether it’s a meal delivered to your door, a weekly check-in through text or the annual card sent over the holidays to show that you care - being present is one of the most important ways you can be #GriefKind to someone who has been bereaved. 

And remember, it’s not about big gestures. It’s about consistently showing the person you love that you’re there for them, whether they need you right now or not. The chances are you might get things wrong at times, but it’s better to try than to do or say nothing at all.

Watch our Grief Kind classes

In these five short videos, you'll hear from Sue Ryder bereavement experts as they share more advice about how to support someone you love with their grief.

Join the movement

Whether you use one of the tips above, or decide to be #GriefKind in another way, we’d love to hear what you’re doing to be there for those you care about. Join our national movement to create more kindness around grief and get in touch with us on our Instagram @suerydercharity to share your advice with our community.