Chapter 4: Supporting the person

Ways to support

The grief expert says
Cara Grosset, social worker, speaks about responding to grief cues from individuals and how coversation about loss and grief may be helpful.(3:22)Video transcript
Cara Grosset, social worker, speaks about sharing the truth and providing support after a loved one's death.(3:22)Video transcript
The support worker says
Karen Campbell, developmental services worker, explains about taking an individual approach and considering the best time and place when speaking about death of a loved one.(3:22)Video transcript
I've been there
Claire shares about helping her family in their grief.(3:22)Video transcript

It still hurts a little bit. When I think about it, it still hurts me sometimes. –Young woman with an intellectual disability

Providing effective grief support takes time, and support should be based on an individual’s needs, determined in collaboration with the person and their family/caregivers.

Because the grieving process can last longer than you might expect, it’s important to continue to have conversations and explore feelings. It may help to talk about how the death might affect their life. For example, you might say, “You can’t visit her anymore, but you can remember her.”

You can provide support in other ways, such as:

  • Including the person in activities. (For suggestions, see the next section.)
  • Continuing to involve them in decision-making.
  • Supporting their inclusion in any memorials or rituals for the person who died.
  • Respecting photos or other mementos, such as clothing or jewellery, which can also create opportunities for talking about the person who died.
Encouragement and routine
  • Minimizing change and encouraging a routine.
  • Remembering that behaviours and emotions may be related to grief.
  • Assisting individuals when they are upset.
  • Seeking assistance from a professional counsellor if needed.
Click on each item on the left for more detail

Also consider that, in grief, although the family, friends, and support workers can be a source of tremendous support to the person with the intellectual disability, the person themselves may also be a great support and bring comfort to others that are also grieving.


Providing effective grief support takes time and must be based on an individual’s needs, determined in collaboration with the person and their family/caregivers. Your patience, respect, and good listening skills are key ingredients in providing support.

What may help

Honour the person’s right to know information that affects their life. Work with those who know the person best when deciding how best to share information (e.g., timing, details).

Provide a variety of opportunities for grief expression based on the individuals’ desires and preferences. Encourage the person to explore what grief looks like for them.