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Britons admit they're uncomfortable discussing bereavement

Almost half of Britons (47%) say they would feel uncomfortable talking to someone who has been recently bereaved, according to a new study.

The research also shows that significant numbers of bereaved people have experienced negative reactions to their grief, including people avoiding them and the loss of friendships.

The survey, released by the Dying Matters Coalition to coincide with the launch of ‘Being there’, a campaign to help people understand what to say and do after someone has been bereaved, finds that talking about it remains a taboo for many.

Although the majority surveyed (72%) knew someone who had been recently bereaved, one in four said they had not known what to say to them, and 40% only talked about it if the person who had been bereaved mentioned it first. One in ten said they had avoided talking about it with them and 4% said they had deliberately avoided seeing them.

The survey also found that the vast majority of those who have been bereaved in the past five years (84%) said people were uncomfortable talking to them about it. Of these, a third said people changed the subject rather than talk about their loss, a quarter said people avoided talking to them, and the same proportion said not enough people were supportive.

One in four experienced someone saying something insensitive and 9% lost a friend because of how they had reacted.
About 70% of the people who had been bereaved said talking about their loss helped them feel better – but a fifth said that they could not find anyone to listen and 43% said that they tried not to talk about their loss as they didn’t want to upset anyone.

Claire Henry, chief executive of the National Council for Palliative Care, which leads the Dying Matters Coalition said:
“Many people who have lost a loved one not only have to deal with the bereavement itself but also with the reaction of others. 

“Although it can be difficult to know what to say or do for the best when someone has been bereaved, being there to talk, listen and provide support can make a real difference.”

As part of its ‘Being there’ bereavement campaign, Dying Matters has produced a leaflet of suggestions of things to say and do – and not say and do – when someone has been bereaved, all of which are based on bereaved people’s own experiences. 

This is available to download for free at and hard copies are available to order. The Dying Matters website also has a wide range of information aimed at supporting people who have been bereaved

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