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Advice For Family & Friends

Talk to Them

Social support from family and friends is crucial to helping someone deal with the death of a loved one.  You can start by saying that you are available if they need to talk with you or spend time with you. 

Help them 

Offer to help your friend with any practical tasks. During this time, they may have to help cover costs of the funeral, clean out their child’s room , go through items, and deal with other financial and legal concerns.  You can offer your help and support if you feel comfortable.

Offer practical help

Practical offers of help are often more useful than general ones. Be honest about the fact you want to help but are unsure how. Ask them what they need.  Cleaning the bathroom and making sure there's enough toilet paper can be very helpful if there is a gathering after the funeral at your relative or friend's home. 

Feed them

One of the things that really helps after losing a child is friends bringing food.  After a loss people can often neglect eating and preparing food.  Good food ideas could include home-made lasagna, a casserole and soup.  Try to prepare dishes that can be put in the microwave or oven easily. Provide simple instructions on a post-it note if needed.

Be with them

Spend time with the family where you can. Just being there can help them feel supported and give them an avenue to talk or listen in a way that helps them. Don’t be afraid to text and offer to come over.  They may not feel up to it, so don't press the issue; say something like, "I completely understand. I’m here in the future if you need me.  Can I bring anything over?”

Be open to just sitting around and letting them be sad.  You  don’t need to try and cheer them up.  Just being there can be a massive help

Listen to them

Express empathy and listen actively. Many grieving individuals report a need to talk about their grief and loss with others. If they want to talk about their grief or the loss of their child, try and listen. Do not immediately change the subject in order to try to make yourself or them feel better.  Focus on their personal values and beliefs. For example, avoid saying generalized things like, “they are in a better place now” to people who are not religious or do not believe in an afterlife.

Give them time

It can take a long time to grieve.  Your friends may not  to bounce back immediately.  We all grieve differently.  Some people cry and can’t get out of bed for days, while others go back to work immediately. 

Keep them involved in other things in life

Keep inviting them to social activities.  Even if they say no they will at least feel involved and part of a community, which can be a key aspect of moving on.

Encourage them to seek support

If you feel like they are really struggling encourage them to seek professional support.  Get them to talk to their GP about the options that may be available to the.  In one study, a third of grieving individuals reported a need for professional assistance or health services during the grief process.  Some symptoms of bereavement can include; difficulty organizing thoughts, dysphoria (dissatisfaction with life), health problems, and lowered social and occupational functioning.  These symptoms can last several months to years.  A bereavement support group can also be a helpful and relieving option because it can give people the sense that others share their pain.

Other sources of help

This advice was compiled with reference to these excellent sources of information:

Bereavement Advice Centre 

Child Bereavement UK 

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