Supporting a Bereaved Person through Traumatic Loss

In the wake of a sudden, unexpected or otherwise traumatic loss, effectively supporting a bereaved person can seem difficult or even impossible. People who lose a loved one in such a profoundly tragic way experience grief differently than those whose loved one dies a more natural death. The bereaved person may be dazed, in disbelief or inconsolable.

Depending on your relationship with this person, how involved you feel you can be in supporting them through grief may vary. However, rest assured that despite your connection to the bereaved person, you can help support them through this impossible time.

If the bereaved is an acquaintance

  • Get involved on social media. Post comments or send messages that are simple but show you’re thinking of them. Examples of such messages may include:
    • I am so sorry for your loss.
    • My family and I are thinking of you during this trying time.
    • (Their loved one) was a wonderful person. I was lucky to know them.
  • If the obituary lists a charity, consider making a donation in their loved one’s name. Even a gift as small as $10 or $20 makes an impact to a bereaved person.

If the bereaved is a friend

  • Reach out via text or phone call to check in on the person. Engage them in conversation without pressuring them for details. Following are some talking points:
    • How are you coping right now?
    • Are there any errands that I can run for you to take some pressure off (laundry, shopping, etc.)?
    • Can I bring you some dinner?
    • I know what you’re going through is incredibly difficult. I am here for you.
  • Consider attending the funeral for their loved one. The best way to help your friend is by showing support, even if you weren’t close to the person they lost.
  • Typically, the bereaved person will have a close friend or family member step into a role of caregiving immediately after the loss. Consider coordinating your efforts to help through that caregiver, as they are likely to know what is needed most.
  • Remember that the most difficult things for a bereaved person in the wake of a traumatic loss are often the simple, mundane tasks, such as cleaning, cooking, driving, showering and eating. Find ways to support your friend in establishing a healthy routine while they process their grief.
  • In the wake of a traumatic loss, the bereaved person may not want to be left alone. Consider enlisting other close friends and family in creating a visiting schedule, so that there is the comforting consistency of a familiar, loving presence for your friend.

If you or someone you know has recently suffered a traumatic loss, please contact HPCG’s Counseling and Education Center at 336.621.2500 to learn more about support groups and bereavement counseling.