How can we help someone who has been bereaved?

This page covers topics of bereavement including what to say, what to do, dementia, and when death and bereavement are hard to understand.

What to say

Many of us don’t have a personal experience of bereavement until we are quite old. We may find that we struggle to know what to say to someone who has been bereaved. We may worry that we may say the wrong thing and add to someone’s distress. But saying something like “I’m sorry and I don’t know what to say” is far more comforting than saying nothing or avoiding someone.

So if you know someone who has been bereaved try to:

Acknowledge the death

Use the name of the person who has died

Say “I’m so sorry” or maybe send a card that says this

Listen if the person wants to talk

Be honest and sympathetic.

Bereavement Kindness Toolkit


Our new Bereavement Kindness Toolkit has been developed to create awareness of how to help someone who has been bereaved. It shares essential tips which can help all of us become confident in supporting someone. Please click here to see it.

For more detailed information on how to support a work colleague who has been bereaved see the video below from Marie Curie.

What to do

The simplest practical tasks can seem overwhelming in the early days of grief. A simple offer of practical support may be really appreciated. Specific offers of help with shopping, hanging out washing, help with chores, bringing a dish that can be frozen if not used immediately, making a cake, dropping in for a chat, or making a phone call can all be helpful.

You might offer to meet up, perhaps go for a walk together and aim to keep in touch on a regular basis.

Grief can be exhausting so it’s good to encourage the person to look after themselves as well as they can. This might include encouraging them to rest and to sleep and to eat as well and as healthily as they can. Sharing information on following the 5 Ways to Wellbeing may be helpful.


More help on supporting someone who has been bereaved can be found here.


The death of someone we love is never easy, but it can be even more challenging when someone in the family has dementia. It can be hard to know how and when to tell the person with dementia about the death of someone they love. This can become even harder when the person with dementia doesn’t hold onto the memory that a loved one has died. Suggestions include giving the news of a death as soon as possible, using short simple sentences. Pathways provide more help on supporting those with dementia who are grieving.

When death and bereavement are hard to understand

For those with a learning disability or who are caring for someone with a learning disability, help to break bad news is available.

As every person is unique the top ten tips and the ten guiding questions from Breaking Bad News allow you to adapt the approach you take to help your special person.

Extra support is also available for anyone who finds pictures easier to understand than words. Beyond Words provides books and ebooks to help anyone who finds communication difficult. These include books on bereavement.

More specialist support is also available from your community nurse (if you have one). Or ask your GP if a referral to the Community Learning Disability Specialist Health Services at The Ridge Hill Centre might be beneficial.