Supporting Bereaved People

Helping bereaved people when death occurs

Some professionals may have little experience in bereavement and may be quite unprepared for the intensity of the reaction. Others will be experienced in the care of dying and bereaved people and will be able to guide colleagues with less experience. Many people find it difficult to talk to or be with someone who has experienced a recent bereavement; they feel unsure of how to respond to his or her loss.

  • Often people simply want to talk and for someone to listen, so “being there” for the person is perhaps the best thing you can  do.
  • Little things can make all the difference; small acts of kindness such as offering tea, helping with phone calls, making a private room available – these things are usually greatly appreciated.
  • Bereaved people need time to understand and accept the situation. They may need to be given information more than once, as shock can prevent people from taking in what has happened and everything they have been told.
  • It is useful to provide written information that people can take away with them and read at a later stage.

Ongoing support

Levels of Bereavement Care

Levels of Bereavement Care

The majority of bereaved people will manage their grief with the support of family, friends and the community of which they are part. This support continues after the contact they had with the individuals and organisations who cared for them and provided them with information around the time of death, has ceased. (Level 1 support).

For some people, in addition to the care described as level one, support from trained bereavement volunteers may be helpful. (Level 2 support)

A smaller number of people (approx 5-10%) may require specialist help from medical, therapeutic or counselling professionals. This can be due to experiencing a traumatic loss, for example, death by homicide, suicide, the death of a child; or when circumstances have diminished the resilience of a bereaved person, for example, the death of their care-giver, a number of significant losses within a short space of time or mental ill-health. (Level 3 support)

Used with kind permission from the Irish Hospice Foundation (

See also: Understanding Grief and Theories of Grief