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Eight Immediate Needs of the Bereaved

Updated on June 26, 2018
MsDora profile image

MsDora, Certified Christian Counselor, helps grieving persons by sharing practical suggestions and by her personal expressions of grief.

The immediate reaction of people who lose loved ones may be temporary stupor, especially if the death occurred suddenly. They feel helpless, frightened, confused and hurt. At such times, they rely on friends to help them in their grief.

Especially after the funeral, the sense of loss is intensified, and even well-meaning friends are unsure of what the bereaved needs most.

The following suggestions highlight areas in which they need practical help, as soon as possible.

(1) Eating and Sleeping

Photo by Ed Yourdon
Photo by Ed Yourdon | Source

It is not unusual for people in grief to neglect their health, which could cause their immune system to weaken. Here are ways to help:

  • Inquire about their appetite and hours of sleep.
  • Offer to prepare meals and make healthy drinks when they do not feel like eating.
  • Encourage them to take their vitamins and food supplements.
  • Without nagging them, make food available and offer to dine with them.

“There are several reasons that sleep is so important,” writes Dr. Linda J. Schupp in False Comforters.

“During the sleep process, anti-depression hormones are released into the system every two hours. Sufferers need the benefit of those hormones. They also need the advantage of the cortisol surge, which is an energizing awakening process that occurs in an average person after seven hours of sleep.”

(2) Physical Exercise

Many people in grief rely on antidepressants to help relieve their pain and stabilize their moods. The brands suggested by the National Institute of Mental Health include Prozac, Celexa, Zoloft, Paxil and Lexapro which are known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Some of these drugs have adverse side effects including high blood pressure and sleep disturbance.

According to Michael Carrera, MSc. and Natasha Vani, MSc., ATCP on Truestar Health, prolonged exercise increases both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Seratonin regulates emotions while Norepinephrine helps regulate physical activity like appetite and sleep.

(3) Listeners, Not Talkers

Allow mourners the freedom to express anger, confusion or whatever they feel. Pay attention and affirm their feelings. If they do not care to speak, just share their silence. If their tears make you cry, they know that your sympathy is sincere.

There may be an occasion when telling your own story of dealing with grief is appropriate. Ask their permission to share. Do not monopolize the conversation. Remember that you are telling the story for their benefit.

(4) Regular Short Visits

Photo by Bandman175
Photo by Bandman175 | Source

The bereaved needs to rest, so they do not need visitors all day every day. They also need quiet times in which to sort and assess their emotions. Visits are more effective when they are short and frequent rather than lengthy.

For the person who lives nearby and can make a short morning visit, it may be all right to make a telephone call in the afternoon. If the distance of travel dictates a weekly visit, send a text message like “I’m thinking of you.” For the visitor who can only visit once, schedule weekly contact time. For example, plan to call or email every Tuesday. The grieving will be less prone to sadness while they are expecting a call.

Remember that the youth also grieve. They also can benefit from visits from their peers.

(5) Encouragement During the Next Holiday

Departed loved ones are missed most acutely during the holiday season. The bereaved might welcome the opportunity to observe the first Christmas and New Year after the loss in a different place or with different people. Extend an invitation to your home, or offer to join them at theirs. Do not turn the occasion into a memorial by focusing on the loss, but be sensitive because it hurts to be among friends who are not aware of your pain.

It would help for friends to mark the date and plan to send an encouragement card, or spend some time with the bereaved on the anniversary date of the loved one’s passing. Feelings of sadness, anxiety, and sometimes anger return and may last for weeks. Keep contact information for crisis hotlines handy, in the event that the bereaved becomes severely depressed and talk of joining the deceased.

(6) Pet Therapy

Sometimes, the grieving person may accept attention and comfort from a pet more easily than from other humans. Listed in Healthy Reasons To Have A Pet are the following:

  • better psychological well-being
  • preventative and therapeutic measures against everyday stress
  • decreased feelings of loneliness and isolation
  • increase in family happiness and fun
  • and especially for the children, help in adjusting to the serious illness and death of a parent.

Offer to do the research for the mourner who is willing to obtain a pet for comfort. Locate the pet and get answers for the questions the new owner might want to ask. Most people prefer dogs, but a child may want a parakeet or gold fish. Whatever the choice, the pet helps the grievers to focus less on their own sorrow.

(7) Chores and Errands

Even folding the laundry can feel like a major chore for the grieving.
Even folding the laundry can feel like a major chore for the grieving. | Source

During grief, there is loss of physical and mental energy. Everyday chores are neglected and some are completely forgotten. Because the bereaved may feel embarrassed to ask for help, offer. “Call whenever you need me.” does not sound as genuine as “I’ll come over for two hours every Friday,” or “I’ll stop by to see you for fifteen minutes on my way from work.” Sufferers feel better when they do not have to call.

Here are some ways in which you can help:

  • For homes with children, offer to get their clothes ready for school
  • Help them pack lunches.
  • Help do the laundry including folding and putting away.
  • Offer to help keep the bills paid and sort through mail dealing with financial transactions.
  • Run errands to pick up prescriptions for family members.
  • Drive them to doctor’s visits and keep note of the doctor’s instructions.

(8) Random Acts of Kindness

Comforting the bereaved lasts more than a day or a week. Gestures of love and concern are helpful for months after the incident—just so they know that they are not left to struggle alone. An occasional gift item is appropriate, not necessarily expensive, but thoughtful. Appropriate gifts are an invitation to dinner, a scheduled day or night out together, or a ticket to a concert. Dr. Schupp warns that bouquets of flowers could remind the bereaved of the funeral flowers, so unless they express love for a certain kind of flower, friends may want to select other gifts.

But gifts are not substitutes for love and attention. Give of yourself in genuine interest and companionship or in care calls. Look for ways to show your concern, and make the grieving know that the loved one who passed was only one in the number of people who love them.

Suggest A Support Group

© 2012 Dora Weithers


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    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Flourish, blessings to you, also. Thanks for your kind input. Almost everyone we know has needed, presently need or will at sometime need these suggestions.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      2 years ago from USA

      This is such a kind, helpful hub. All of us have or will go through this situation of losing a loved one, and hopefully there are others who can be there to support and encourage us in practical ways as we grieve. Many people don't quite know what to do, but you provide excellent suggestions. As a psychologist, I would add that some of the medications may carry with them the increased risk of depression, suicidal thoughts or actions, problems with sleep, agitation, etc. (Check with the prescriber or pharmacist.) It's extra reason to be a source of social support -- to help them keep themselves in a healing frame of mind. Bless you, sweet lady.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Elle, I appreciate your kind sentiments. Your feedback is very important. Thank you.

    • elle64 profile image


      2 years ago from Scandinavia

      Wery touching and clever hub,thankyou.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      True, Audrey. We have to be interested enough to recognize what the mourners need, and be sensitive enough to discover how we can help meet that need. Thanks for your input.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      2 years ago from California

      This is so important--so many times we leave the bereaved alone thinking that they want to be alone--but I don't always think that is the case

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Patricia. True, the tendency is to talk and sometimes tell our own story when it is the bereaved who should be be given the opportunity to express his or her grief.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Nell, good observation that people deal with their grief in their "own order and pace." No two mourners follow the same grieving pattern. Supporters have to be sensitive in their effort to find out what the immediate need is.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      2 years ago from sunny Florida

      Ms. are so right...listening is a huge element for those who have suffered a loss. And those who are in that situation want to talk, (many do some do not of course)...and being that listening ear can make all of the difference.

      Well said.

      Hoping all is good with you and yours .

      Angels are once again on the way ps

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      2 years ago from England

      Great tips and ideas, and people are so different they will do things in their own order and pace, but yes you are so right, wonderful advice Dora, nell

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks Rajan, for reading and commenting.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      2 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      These are excellent tips and ideas. Thanks for sharing.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      You're welcome, Ebonny. Happy when a reader finds my hub helpful.

    • Ebonny profile image


      6 years ago from UK

      I will bookmark this for future reference. Many thanks for sharing.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Support Med., I'm thrilled that you consider my hub worthy of an award. More people would be exposed to these practical ways of helping the bereaved. Anyway,I hope that all who read find them useful. Thank you so much for your encouragement.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Sorry about your brother, Denise. Grief for a loved one never goes away completely. We are talking about a permanent loss with permanent effect. Forever after, it's about coping, and occasional tears say that we still feel. Thanks for your input.

    • Support Med. profile image

      Support Med. 

      6 years ago from Michigan

      You have written an award winning hub here. Very insightful, wise, friendly and professional (such as bereavement counseling) - voted and rated.

    • Support Med. profile image

      Support Med. 

      6 years ago from Michigan

      Extremely well done - these suggestions are wise, friendly and professional (such as bereavement counseling). You have written a very award winning hub here. Very insightful. voted and rated.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Just today, I was thinking about the death of my brother, and it brought tears to my eyes, and that was over 30 years ago! It is amazing how death affects a person. Grief is experienced very personally and is different for each one. Thanks for the suggestions!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for your input, RedElf. You said it very well.

    • RedElf profile image


      6 years ago from Canada

      So true, MsDora, it's the concern and affection - the being there without being called - that so welcome and necessary. All too often the bereaved can't or won't reach out as they don't want to be a burden on their friends.

      Thoughtful and insightful!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Chris, your comment is so encouraging. I need to follow through on these suggestions myself, because I know how meaningful such help can be.

    • CMerritt profile image

      Chris Merritt 

      6 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

      You are on it....until you have been through a really difficult time, it may be hard to realize just how nice those suggestions really are.

      Nice hub,


    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Jdzwrdz, glad you were able to find help when you needed it. Some bereaved do not know that help is available. I heard about "Tuesdays With Morrie" by watching an interview with the author. I should put it on my "to do" list, now that I have your testimony. Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Informative and compassionate. Great Hub. There's a great book out there too on the subject called "Tuesdays With Morrie" It helped me a lot.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      So glad you found it helpful. Thanks for letting me know.

    • Mezo profile image


      6 years ago from Egypt

      This was helpful, thanks for sharing :)


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