Behaviors that may hurt bereaved family members

For supporters

The words and actions of supporters in an attempt to encourage or comfort them may actually cause the bereaved pain. This is called “secondary trauma”. To minimize secondary trauma, supporters should avoid saying the following:


〇It will become easier soon. Time will solve it.

・ This does not make bereaved feel any better.


〇Don’t just go on crying.

・ It sounds like you are prohibiting the bereaved from expressing their emotions.


〇You should cry.

・Some people cannot cry, even when they are sad.


〇Your situation is better than some others.

・ Comparisons with others do not provide comfort.


〇Pull yourself together.

・ These words are hurtful when the bereaved feels the loss of what they were believing and relying on.


〇 If you keep feeling sad, the deceased may worry about you.

・ It sounds as though being sad is bad.


〇You look better than I thought you would.

・ The bereaved may feel that the supporter does not understand their grief.


〇Get over it soon.

・ The bereaved may feel that the supporter does not understand their feeling.


〇If it happened to me, it would be unbearable.

・It sounds like somebody else’s problem.


Additionally, do not impose your values on the bereaved family, and do not promise anything you cannot deliver.


※Referenced from Noriko Murakami [Supervisor] (2011). “Mental Care Learned from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake and Other Disasters-Advice from the Clinical Field (Japanese)”. Shionogi Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., and others.