Do’s and Don’ts when helping

Your help is valuable, however small. These tips help you to help, better.


  • Do expect a range of reactions, as described in Help for bereaved adults. This is okay, as long as people are kept safe.
  • Do ask open-ended questions relating to someone’s health and safety and to inform help you provide. “Who is helping you/ talking to you this week?” “What help have you been given so far?” “What shopping do you need?” “When would you like me to call you?” etc.
  • Do listen patiently to a bereavement story, respecting diversity. Tell someone “You matter”. Let them talk, if they want.

Encourage them to contact their Sudden case worker, who is waiting to help.


  • Do not talk about your own bereavements. This is not active listening.
  • Do not say “you will feel better soon”. This can infer bereavement is trivial.
  • Do not expect to make things better, soon. All bereavements take time. The task is to keep people safe and feeling supported.
  • Do not ignore signs someone may be at risk. For example, from suicide, or being unable to look after themselves, or being harmed by someone else. If immediate risk, dial 999. If not immediate, contact Sudden for advice.

Always prioritise your own welfare.

It is possible to be traumatised by other people’s experiences or be psychologically damaged by thinking you did or said something wrong.

Take time out for yourself. Eat, sleep, relax and do exercise. Get support from colleagues, family, and friends.

Go to our advice on looking after yourself.