Help and resources if you are helping a friend who's been bereaved

Someone who has been bereaved, recently or a while ago, can struggle to cope in different ways.   If they have experienced a bereavement a while ago, maybe years, the impact of the death is likely to still have an impact. 

This may be especially so around anniversary of the death, birthdays or special events in their life such as graduation.  Sometimes day to day life can bring reminders which also means it can be hard to cope with their loss.

For friends who have suffered a recent bereavement, depending on the nature of the death, they may struggle to understand what has happened, why it is has happened as well as a range of emotions from anger, sadness and a struggle to accept what has happened.

It can feel scary or overwhelming to reach out to someone who has been bereaved, here are a few things that can help you:-

  • Saying you are sorry to hear about their loss and that you don’t know what to say – is perfectly good enough.  Don’t worry about finding the right words, trying to do something to ‘make it better’ or feel you have to offer a distraction.  The honesty of not knowing what to say can be helpful.
  • Be there to listen, you don’t need to find solutions or ‘make them feel better’ – listening without judgement about how they are feeling is important.
  • Let them feel how they do – everyone grieves differently.  Some people can be very sad one moment and feeling ok the next – this is normal.  Allow them to have their feelings without feeling you ‘have to move them on to being happy again’.

Being there as a friend will help.  it is also important to know that you are not responsible for how they feel, for making things better or to watch over them if they start to struggle with their mental health.  It is important that you look after yourself as well.

Support available

There is a range of different support that can help you and your bereaved friend, neither of you have to deal with things on your own.  Here are some sources of support that can be useful for you as them.

  • Child Bereavement UK offer guidance and support to anyone who has experienced a bereavement or is supporting someone who has been bereaved.  
  • The Student Grief Network helps to connect students who have experienced a bereavement.  They also have blogs and video’s that can help for you to have a look at and share with your friend if you feel ok to do so.
  • The Student Space has support and short videos on grief and loss that can help understand some of the emotions and challenges your friend may be experiencing.
  • Student Counselling and Wellbeing team offer daily drop in appointments, which may help you to deal with the impact of supporting your friend, as well as your friend getting in touch if it would be helpful to talk.

Concerns that your friend may be in Crisis or Serious Distress

  • If you have concerns that your friends life is in immediate risk call 999.
  • If your friend has shared suicidal thoughts and say they have a plan to act, contact Leeds Crisis team on 0300 3001485 (this service is available 24 hours)
  • If your friend has shared suicidal thoughts and there is no plan or immediate risk email the Duty Pathway team to talk through your concerns and access support -