Why Support Falls Short for the Bereaved

(And Why The Bereaved Should Seek Support Anyway)

When I first began working with the newly bereaved, I was surprised to find how many people who came to a support group would say that, overall, they had a mostly supportive network of family and friends at home.


How could this be? I wondered. Why would anyone seek additional help, or choose to confide in a group of strangers if the support they needed was already in place?

Because it wasn’t enough.

This is an important point worthy of discussion, and something that should be communicated so much more often to family and friends, because frankly this subject just isn’t acknowledged, well, enough.

Probably the hardest thing to explain to the bereaved, and those trying to help them through their loss, is that the support anyone tries to provide will always, in some way, fall short.

The fact is, we want to be everything to the people we care about. We would like to think that our love is strong enough and big enough that it can fill every empty space and cure any ill. And that if someone we care about is hurting after loss (or any time for that matter), that we can fix it and make it better.

It’s not just friends and family trying to help the bereaved. It’s me, and people like me, this website, and organizations like it. It’s the counselors and the therapists.

It’s a community of people at work, at church and in the neighborhood trying to help the bereaved. And the sad truth is that none of it is enough.


Because the bereaved want one thing and one thing only – to have their loved one back. And nothing – no person, no organization, and no amount of kindness, love or support can do that.

All my years of talking and hand-holding and care and offering support to those who are grieving have brought me to this truth, and while it may sound like admitting defeat at the end of a long road of trying to help – I see it as a beginning.

This is where we start. With the understanding that nothing can bring a loved one back.

It’s such a basic, bare-bones approach and it may be the single most important thing for the bereaved and those trying to help them to realize:

There is only one thing that can’t be changed, fixed, or accomplished with kindness, validation, love or support.

But it means that everything else can.

Can a bereaved feel less isolated with love and support? Yes. Can someone who is deep in grief feel more understood with the help of a counselor or support group? Yes. Can a bereaved find hope through a community of those who will show they will not give up on them? Absolutely.

These are the goals of support. This is why it matters. Setting realistic expectations and recognizing that even with so much lost there is still so much to work with is where the road to true and long-lasting healing begins.

Of course in the end, grief is work, and the healing is found with whatever energy a bereaved can muster to put into it.  It’s the balance of reality and optimism – truth and hope, and the difference realistic expectations can make when seen through a hopeful lens.

It’s okay to recognize that the people trying to help will always fall short. No one should have to feel bad about that or apologize for that feeling. The bereaved want something that no one can give them, and that is a very difficult longing to reconcile. But just remember that good support can help and nurture healing in every other way.

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t benefitted from knowing that there is at least one person in this world who understands them. And sometimes, in grief, that may just be enough.


At www.griefincommon.com we offer so many different ways to find support, there is truly something here for everyone.

Looking for group support? Participate in our forums. There is a group for anyone with any type of loss, and our very active community is warm and welcoming, and as eager to give support as they are to get it. Click here for more: FORUMS.

Want to connect one-on-one? You can search for someone to interact with based on the criteria that is important to you. Once you find someone you’d like to connect with, click on their name to send a private message. For more on that, you can find that here: ONE-ON-ONE.

Finally, do you think professional support could make a difference? Grief Coaching is designed to address your specific needs and allows you an opportunity to schedule one hour phone support with a Grief Coach who understands how loss impacts every part of life. Finding motivation, setting goals, and getting understanding and encouragement is just some of what Grief Coaching can provide. Follow the link to learn more and set up your free consult today: GRIEF COACHING. 

One thought on “Why Support Falls Short for the Bereaved”

  1. Wonderfully written and you encapsulate the topic of death and griefing with eloquence and compassion. Death is such an uncomfortable topic and often people are left feeling helpless-not having the words to console so it becomes easier to say nothing at all I guess.
    Thank you for the share and for providing some unique insight into a very difficult topic.

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