2024 is the 30th anniversary of Child Bereavement UK. To mark this milestone, we asked thirty young people supported by Child Bereavement UK to each share a tip on how best to support a bereaved friend, based on their own experience. 

    Tell your friend you’re sorry to hear their special person has died

    If you know someone who is bereaved, tell them you’re sorry to hear that their special person has died. They will appreciate that you care. 

    Let your friend know you’re thinking about them

    A grieving friend will appreciate knowing that you are thinking of them, even if they don’t feel up to seeing anyone yet.  Sending a note or text can mean a lot.

    Understand that grief can be difficult

    Grieving is really hard, and your friend will be coping with lots of difficult feelings. It’s important to remember that while you can’t make things better, by being a good friend you might make things easier. 

    Give your friend space to grieve when they need it

    Sometimes a grieving friend may need time and space to grieve on their own. Letting them know that you’re there for them when they want to talk can be a helpful thing to do. 

    Remember their important dates

    If you know someone who is bereaved, remembering an anniversary or other occasions connected to their special person who has died can mean a lot to them. Sending a card, or just saying that you remember, may be very much appreciated.

    Let your friend grieve in their own way

    No two people grieve in the same way and the way someone grieves can change from day to day. If you’ve been bereaved yourself, your friend may not grieve as you did. Try not to have any expectations of your friend but let them grieve in a way that is right for them.

    Don’t be worried about suggesting to your friend that you do something fun together

    Having something to look forward to can help when you’re struggling with difficult feelings. Even if your friend doesn’t feel ready to go out, they will appreciate that you thought about them.

    Don’t be afraid to mention your friend’s special person

    Sometimes friends are so worried about mentioning the person who has died, that it can seem as if they don’t care. Your friend is likely to be thinking about their special person and it can be supportive to let them know that you are too.

    Go for a walk or watch a film together

    Walking can be a nice way to help reduce stress and improve wellbeing. It can also be a good way to open conversations, as  people often find it easier to talk side by side than face to face. Watching a film together can be another great way to relax and may be a welcome distraction if they don’t feel like talking.

    Share happy memories

    If you know someone who is bereaved, don’t be afraid to share a happy memory of their special person. Sharing your memories shows you care and can help your friend feel a connection to the person who has died.

    Don’t be worried if your friend cries – it’s normal to feel sad sometimes

    If your friend cries, don’t try and stop them, or feel that you have to try to ‘cheer them up’. Strong emotions are a normal part of grieving and your friend will appreciate your acceptance and understanding.

    Send your friend a supportive message

    When someone dies, people are often very supportive in the first few weeks but can forget that their friend may still be grieving later on. Sending a supportive message every now and then shows that you’re still thinking of your friend and lets them know they can reach out to you if they need support.

    Offer your friend a hug, if they would like one

    Some people find having a hug really helpful. Hugs can make us feel relaxed and less anxious, but ask first! If you don’t want to hug or to be hugged, that’s OK too!

    Be a good friend

    Your friend has chosen you as a friend. Don’t stop doing all the brilliant things that made you a good friend in the first place just because your friend is bereaved.

    Include them in arrangement with other friends – even if they don’t want to join it’s kinder to invite them

    Try to include your bereaved friend in any social arrangements, without any pressure. Sometimes they might not feel up to it, but they will appreciate that you thought of them and may be ready to join you at another time.

    Sit quietly and listen when your friend wants to talk

    If your friend is grieving, acknowledge their feelings or just listen. Listening is a very powerful gift.

    Don’t make the conversation about you, even if you have also lost someone

    Everyone’s experience of bereavement is different. Avoid saying ‘I know how you feel’ or making assumptions, instead try to listen and be understanding and supportive.

    Don’t cross the road to avoid your friend

    Sometimes when people feel awkward about talking to a grieving friend they avoid them, even crossing the road if they see them in the distance. They may think their friend hasn’t noticed, but often they have noticed and can feel hurt and really alone.

    Support your friend at school, work or socially

    At school, work or in a social situation, try to support your friend. It can help to ask them in advance if there is anything you can do to make the situation easier for them. 

    Understand that your friend’s emotions may change quickly

    Many bereaved people move back and forth between being really deep in their grief and then being involved in activities – this is normal. There's no neat pattern or timeline to this, we're all different and find our own way.

    Understand if your friend wants to take a break from social media

    Social media can be fun and a great way to find out what your friends and family are up to. But sometimes it can be overwhelming, especially when you’re dealing with difficult emotions. It’s OK if your friend exits social media or takes a break now and then.

    Offer to spend time with your friend

    Grief can be very isolating. It can be really supportive to suggest to your friend that you spend some time together. Ask them what they’d like to do and with whom. 

    Don’t change the subject if your friend wants to talk about the person who died

    If your friend wants to talk about their special person who has died, don’t shut down the conversation – just listening and being there for your friend can be very supportive.

    Don't take it personally if your friend doesn't respond to messages

    Grief can be very tiring, and it may be that your friend doesn’t have the energy to respond to messages, even if they are well meant. Don’t take it personally and don’t stop contacting your friend now and then so they can respond to you in their own time..

    Understand when your friend wants to be alone

    Grief is exhausting. Understand that your grieving friend may need some quiet time to recharge their batteries so that they can cope better with their grief.  Just let them know you’re there for them when they’re ready.

    Ask your friend what helps them

    If a friend is bereaved, ask how you can help them. Practical help may be welcomed, but sometimes they may just need someone to listen or to do something - or nothing - with.

    Send a card or letter

    Sending a letter or card through the post might seem ‘old-fashioned’ but it can be a really thoughtful and special way to let someone know you’re thinking about them.

    Understand that you might get it wrong sometimes but if you’re trying to help, your friend will appreciate it

    You might be worried about saying the ‘wrong’ thing to your bereaved friend, but simply saying ‘I don’t know what to say’ is much better than saying nothing at all.

    Do something silly or creative together

    Doing something silly or creative together is a great way to reduce stress and have fun. Creative activities can also help with expressing difficult feelings without the pressure of talking. 

    Remember your friend is still the same person, even though they’re grieving

    Your friend may be behaving differently because they're grieving, but they're still the same person. It's important to be kind  and to acknowledge their loss, but don’t treat them differently to how you did before.

    Visit our page: How we can support you for more on our services.

    You can also call our Helpline 0800 02 888 40, email [email protected], or use Live Chat on our website.

    Flick through our A to Z of bereavement support tips for more ideas on things that can help you when you’re grieving.

    Or download as a PDF

    A to Z of Bereavement Support Tips