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ADVAS / Natural Supports  / Tip Sheet: Being Helpful


Tip Sheet: Being Helpful

You, as a natural support, provide emotional and instrumental/practical support to people and help them cope with the bereavement and healing process. Many people feel unsure of how to respond, or worry about saying or doing the wrong thing. If you feel that way, it’s OK. It is normal, and good, to care so much about doing what’s right. Your job as a strong support is to face your fear and be as helpful as possible.

Positive Aspects What to Do

  • You provide instrumental and practical help, such as providing meals, offering transportation, helping to make funeral/celebration of life arrangements, and caregiving for children.
  • You give the person a sense of control back by supporting them in their own choices and decision-making. You are sensitive about offering and providing help to people.
  • You express that you don’t know what to say or to do – and you are simply there by being physically present. You allow and are comfortable with silence. You let the person know that you can talk or meet at any time.
  • You show care, compassion and empathy. You have a genuine concern for the person.
  • You have some level of understanding of trauma, crisis, loss and the grieving process.
  • You are respectful and trustworthy and keep what is shared with you in confidence.

Unconstructive or Harmful Aspects What Not to Do

  • You give advice or your personal opinion on how to manage the grief or how to deal with the situation.
  • You take over, make decisions for the person, and leave them with a sense of loss of control.
  • You don’t know what to say or to do, therefore you don’t get involved or engaged and avoid the person or the topic.
  • You show no empathy and show a lack of emotional support to people – you don’t care.
  • You are judgemental, such as criticism, embarrassment, or blaming the person.
  • You pry for information and share what was said with others, or even engage in gossip.

Helping in a Safe Space

Creating a safe space for conversations and support is providing an atmosphere free of bias, criticism, or judgement by supporting the person in their thoughts, emotions, or topic of discussion. A safe space is considered a place of allowing a person to feel understood, a place for learning, and most importantly, a space for a person to feel connected and supported. The person feels emotionally safe. You allowing this space provides an opportunity for the person to experience a sense of balance and deeper meaning of self.