Basic Needs of the Bereaved

  1. Companionship and Privacy--a balance between the two. They need time to reflect on their feelings, as well as time to share their feelings.

  2. Opportunity for the expression of grief without embarrassment. A comfortable environment is needed where the bereaved can be open and express their feelings.

  3. Recognition of the many symptoms that may occur as a result of intense grieving. These symptoms often occur during or after a serious illness and may include...
    • Loss of sleep
    • Loss of appetite
    • Loss of strength
    • Loss of motivation
    • Inconsistencies in behavior

  4. Support and assistance in becoming socially reactivated. They need someone upon whom they can depend and trust to help them in a variety of social situations.

  5. A firm focus placed on the crisis or loss, without being made to feel that they have a physical or mental illness.

  6. Special assistance regarding business affairs and legal matters. They need someone to help them think clearly to settle important issues and plan for the future.

  7. Above all, they need the opportunity to re-tell their experience of loss. An active listener can dramatically facilitate the healing process. Be patient and nonjudgmental. Help them discover their own conclusions to the issues they need to resolve.


What NOT To Do When Helping Someone Grieve

While there are many things you can do to help people through the pain of their grief, there are also things that don't help at all--and that could even be hurtful. Here are some thoughts on things it's best not to do.

  • Don't try to "fix" things, or make it all better for the person suffering the loss--no one can ever do that.

  • Don't use cliches, or tell people that time heals all wounds. The wound of loss will never really heal, but they will learn to live with the loss over time.

  • Don't compare one griever's loss or experience of grief to another's. Comparisons seem to minimize the loss or to force grievers to behave the "right way" instead of the way they are reacting--and this can retard the healing process.

  • Don't encourage grieving people to make major changes, such as moving, changing jobs, etc. Extreme grief clouds judgment, and the people may later regret their decision.

  • Don't attempt to cheer them up--just be there for them, and be as supportive as you can.

  • Don't scold, give advice, lecture, etc. Let the grief run its course--and remember that everyone heals at a different pace.

  • Don't suggest the person can replace the one they've lost ("You can have another baby," or "you'll find someone else"). This can be alienating and excruciating for grieving people to hear--it seems to minimize their loss, even though that's not your intent.