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You notice that a bereaved neighbour is struggling. He is not himself. He may begin to tell you about his loss. You may feel that you would like to help him.   Questions immediately arise:

  • Should I offer to help or should I leave it to the church or to a counselling agency?
  • Do I feel like helping him?  Have I the time and energy? What would my family think?
  • Or do I think it my duty?  If so, have I the strength for it?
  • What sort of help would he accept?  What preparation should I make?

Many bereaved people prefer to cope without help; but many welcome a companion who will attend to their needs: someone whom they can trust; someone who is friendly, concerned, accepting, aware and prepared to listen: who will engage with them and possibly provide practical help, but who will not try to impose their own opinions or control their life: someone also who is strong enough to be steady in the presence of high emotion or bitterly sad events.

In most cases, untrained neighbours are able give wonderfully useful support, but they may need to prepare themselves a little beforehand.  This book is an attempt to describe some ways of doing this. It has four parts that are detailed in the Contents:

Part 1 is a reminder of the possible effects of a bereavement on those who remain.

Part 2 encourages the process of listening, your main weapon of assistance; and raises some practical and ethical issues. {3 chapters, ideally to be read before the first contact.}          

Part 3 draws attention to some of the deep-seated forms of distress following a bereavement, and to some recent research recommendations. {4 chapters}

Part 4 is less general; it is for reference where the companion recognizes certain particularities about the death or the grieving. It considers the traumatised, and the depressed; that is, situations which may require professional help and so which need to be clearly recognised.  There is also a chapter on supporting parents who are dealing with grieving children or young people. {3 chapters}

How can all this be managed without training, and without shared beliefs?  Partly by limiting the help being offered; partly by sharpening awareness of the purpose of bereavement support; partly through anticipation and by developing self-awareness; and partly by shifting the emphasis away from psychological or grieving theories towards the need for trust and so for behaviour that leads to trust, i.e. for old familiar virtues such as honesty, concern, fortitude or prudence in giving service.