The support bereaved people say is most helpful

There are lots of ways you can support a bereaved person. These are things people have told us they found most helpful after their loved one died.

1. Being able to talk freely about what they were feeling 

The biggest thing you can do for someone who is grieving is often simply to give them a chance to talk about how they feel. They could be going through a whole range of emotions – including shock, sadness, pain, anger, guilt and anxiety – or they may simply feel numb. 

Listen to them, be open to however they are feeling, and don’t try to fix things. They may still need to talk about their grief months or years later, so make sure they know you’ll be there if they need it. 

2. Having help with practical arrangements

People who have been bereaved say that support with things like organising the funeral can really help. That could mean helping to plan the service, letting people know the time and place, running errands, getting things set up on the day, assisting with food afterwards, or helping to clear up.  

Sometimes people feel overwhelmed by the amount that needs to be done, so it can help if you think of something specific and offer to do that. If you commit to something, make sure you do it. 

3. Receiving letters or cards from friends and family

Getting messages in writing from friends and family can provide comfort to someone who is bereaved. Let them know how sorry you are for their loss, and that you are there if they want to talk. If you knew the person who has died, you could share a positive story, photo or memory of them. If you didn’t, you might just say, ‘I know how much they meant to you’.  

4. Being invited to do things with friends or family

People generally really appreciate being asked to do things with friends or family, even if they may not always feel up to it. You could invite them to go on a walk, come round for a meal, or go to an event. If they don’t want to socialise you could suggest an exercise class, or going to the cinema. Even if they are not ready to do things at first, keep checking in with them because their feelings may change over time. 

5. Having a homemade meal cooked for them

After someone has died, those who were close to them may not feel like cooking, or may be too busy to think about it. Giving them home-cooked food can help make sure they continue to eat and look after themselves. Be aware of any dietary requirements and choose a dish that they can freeze for later if they need to. If you’re bringing food to their house, let the person know when you will be coming.

6. Getting help with housework 

Doing jobs around the house, such as cleaning, laundry or gardening, can be a great support to someone who is grieving. They may not feel able to do all the things they usually would, or there may be tasks their loved one used to do that they need help with. Offer to do something specific and agree a time to come round so it definitely gets done. 

7. Receiving gifts, such as flowers

Sending a gift to a bereaved person can help to show you are thinking of them. It is traditional to send flowers, but they may receive a lot of them. You could consider sending something else to help them feel cared for and supported, like a plant, a food hamper or some homemade cakes. 

If you’re thinking of sending flowers to the funeral, check with the family first. Some families ask for donations to charity instead, and different religions may have different funeral etiquette.

View further advice on supporting someone who is bereaved

Two hands holding and showing support

Visit our dedicated section on coping with grief and bereavement.