BEING THERE – what to do or say when someone has been bereaved


Almost half of Britons (47%) say they would feel uncomfortable talking to someone who has been recently bereaved, and many bereaved people have experienced negative reactions to their grief, including people avoiding them and the loss of friendships, according to a new study released by the Dying Matters Coalition.

This is a finding of a special report commissioned by Dying Matters to coincide with the launch of a new campaign designed to support people with what to say and do after a friend or family member has been bereaved. The BEING THERE initiative comes at a particularly poignant time for many bereaved families – this is the lead up to Christmas, a time when, as in our case, the absence of a loved one is more keenly felt. BT1BEING THERE is addressed to people who like many of our friends have naturally moved on their lives and away from the intense pain that we feel. This is normal but it is also very hurtful – the affect upon the bereaved is to suffer not just one loss but many … with death being such a taboo subject in our culture, grief too becomes a feared emotion and all too often our friends and family shy away from a state of mind they see as uncomfortable, disruptive and avoidable.

So the BEING THERE campaign is a really good starting point for all those wanting to know what to say and do as well as what not to say when a friend or family member has been bereaved.   Here is a link to the Dying Matters press release :

Brits struggle to support bereaved people

Dying Matters is a coalition of a number of organisations from across the country set up to promote public awareness of dying, death and bereavement.   The Coalition’s Mission is to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life. This, they say,  will involve a fundamental change in society in which dying, death and bereavement will be seen and accepted as the natural part of everybody’s life cycle.

Josh_BM_042Josh’s mum Jane is on their advisory committee and contributed to the launch of BEING THERE  with a number of radio interviews across the UK including BBC Radio 5 LIve, Radio Scotland, Gloucestershire and London and the West Midlands .   This is what she had to say about her conversations around Josh… “We discovered that whenever we talked about our son Josh to friends and family there were awkward silences and people just didn’t know what to say or do for the best or even avoided us altogether. The first Christmas after Josh’s death was particularly upsetting, especially when we received Christmas cards that didn’t even acknowledge his death. However, talking about our loss, remembering Josh’s life and being allowed to say his name really helped us, as did the kindness and support from those people who went the extra mile to be there for us.”

You can download Dying Matters’ ‘Being There’ leaflet free here : Download ‘Being There’ or order hard copies here: Order ‘Being There’

Thanks for reading


December 2014

Click on the image below to hear Jane’s interview with Anna King of BBC Radio Gloucestershire


ComRes: download the full Dying Matters report on British People’s Attitude to Bereavement

The Compassionate Friends, the charity which supports parents following the death of a child of any age, has launched a guide to getting through Christmas when someone so important is missing: Coping with Christmas

Annie Broadbent is the author of new book ‘We Need to Talk About Grief’, which gives first-hand advice on supporting someone who is grieving: visit Annie’s website

Kate Ibbeson has written a blog about feeling unsupported at Christmas following the deaths of her parents: Read Kate’s blog

Cruse Bereavement Care offers a helpline for bereaved people all year round, including throughout the festive season: Cruse Bereavement Care

Silverline provides information, friendship and advice to older people who may feel alone; the free helpline is open throughout Christmas: Silverline


7 Responses

  1. 4 long learning years since Josh died. A turning point for me. And so many heartwarming cards received this Christmas and on January 16th (his death day) mentioning Josh’s name or simply acknowledging the significance of the dates. Thanks to everyone for taking on board the idea that they can make a difference by overcoming their fear and discomfort around child loss and taking the risk to acknowledge the reality that bereaved parents don’t get over the death of their child. You learn to live with it and can even be strengthened by it. In many ways I am so grateful I had 22 years with Josh. Just wish it could have been longer. You have taught me so much Josh!

  2. From a very old friend called B:

    Dear Jane
    Imagine my surprise when I realised I was listening to your voice on the radio the other night. I thought how incredibly articulate you were about your feelings with regard to Josh’s death and the way you feel now. Speaking on national radio about something so personal cannot have been an easy thing to do and you came across well.
    It also made me realise that what you were saying applied to me (don’t know what to say so end up not saying anything at all) and you were observing a very common human failing. So i wanted to send you Jimmy and Rosa verbal hugs for this Xmas period when i know Josh will be in your thoughts as much as he always is.
    I hope your film will have been a cathartic experience and will give strength and comfort to many others who are struggling to come to terms with the unbearably painful and sad experience of losing a child.
    All my love

    1. Dearest B.
      Your message is heartwarming and so much appreciated. Thanks for having the courage to send it. It means so much to us and yes your words are music to our ears! X

  3. this is an email message from our friend Sarah

    Dear Jane,
    I have just listened to your talk on-line and I was very touched by your compassion for people like me who don’t know what to say and are terrified of saying the wrong thing. We are nervous of ‘bringing a tear to your eye’ but I realise now that the worst thing for you is when people don’t mention Josh at all because, as you say, ‘his name is music to my ear’.
    I keep remembering other things you said. It was a beautiful talk. Thank you.
    Love, Sarah

    1. Thankyou Sarah. What you said was simply perfect. So thoughtful and much very much appreciated. Thanks for daring. I know how hard it can be. Jane x

  4. Bless you Jane. Jimmy, Joe, Josh and Rosa. You have shown such courage, and wisdom in sharing, remembering and celebrating Josh’s life/death story. We have learned so much and our lives are richer for hearing you talk about your experience since Josh died. Sending you much love and deep gratitude. xx

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