How to support a friend who has lost their life partner – as Kate Garraway talks about ‘raw pain of grief’

The presenter announced last week that her husband, Derek Draper, had died.

Kate Garraway
Kate Garraway (Yui Mok/PA)

Kate Garraway thanked the public in a video message to ITV’s Good Morning Britain viewers for their support as she deals with the “raw pain of grief” following the death of her husband, Derek Draper.

The Good Morning Britain (GMB) presenter announced the death of the 56-year-old former lobbyist turned psychologist and author on Friday. The couple married in 2005 and had two children, Darcey and Billy, together.

Draper had suffered from severe complications from Covid and required daily support and care, which Garraway previously shared in 2021 ITV documentary, Finding Derek.

“Hello everyone. Thank you so much for all the wonderful messages that you have sent me,” Garraway said in the video message. “It really does mean so much to me, Darcey, Billy and all of Derek’s family. They are an extraordinary comfort and I’m so lucky to feel connected to you all through these messages at this time when the raw pain of grief can be so isolating.

“And that is the wonderful thing, isn’t it, about our Good Morning Britain family? That all of us on the team and all of you watching from home are connected, supporting each other through the challenges of life, knowing that we can also laugh at the fun and joys together that we share too.

“I am certain that it is the support that you have given me and sent to Derek that has sustained us through these tough nearly four years, motivating us to fight on for each other and for those who can’t fight for themselves and it will sustain us to continue that fight in the weeks and months and years to come.

“I look forward to waking up with you very soon again on Good Morning Britain to celebrate life in all its wonder and challenge again.”

(Andrew Matthews/PA)

So, how do you support a friend who has lost their spouse or partner? Bereavement and grief specialists share some thoughts…

Offer to listen whenever they are ready to talk

There’s often a lot of support immediately following somebody’s death. But grief has no timeline, and does the need for support.

“Make sure they know you haven’t forgotten their grief in the months and years following a bereavement, and that you are happy to listen if they want to talk about it,” said Bianca Neumann, head of bereavement at national bereavement charity Sue Ryder.

“Be open to whatever they are feeling at that time. If they are busy looking after everyone else, encourage them to allow space for their own feelings too. The most important thing is to listen, and focus on what they are saying to encourage them to open up in a safe space.”

Offer to join them in activities

(Alamy Stock Photo)

Though each bereaved person’s experience will be different, offering to join them in doing things together could be helpful on lots of levels.

“Find a hobby or activity that they enjoy and offer to accompany them – whether that is going for a run, doing DIY, walking or watching sports,” said Neumann. “People often talk better whilst doing something and this may encourage them to open up, whilst also taking part in something they enjoy.”

Offer specific help

If your friend is grieving, it’s easy to feel helpless. But there are often lots of ways you could help – however, being specific about it is best.

Louise Bowen, bereavement coordinator at Marie Curie, said: “Rather than saying, ‘Let me know if you need anything’, try to offer specific help, for example, offer to do the shopping or to cook dinner on a certain day.

(Alamy Stock Photo)

“Remember, sometimes grieving people find it difficult to ask for help when they’re already feeling vulnerable, so be vigilant and practical about how you can support them and make their life easier, and let them know that there is no time limit on your support,” Bowen explained.

“Just being with the person can be helpful and sometimes doing something alongside someone, like going for a quiet walk, can allow conversations to emerge naturally.”

Gift them some writing kit

Supporting them in writing down their feelings may sometimes be helpful. As Andy Langford, clinical director at Cruse Bereavement Support, said: “Writing letters can be really comforting. Letter writing helps you get off your chest anything you had left to say to the person.”

A journal could be similarly beneficial – providing a space to help people “sort out [their] thoughts” and “record memories of good times” they shared with their loved one, Langford explained.

Don’t tell them they will ‘heal’, ‘move on’ or ‘get over it’

Neumann said: “When someone is first bereaved, they may not be able to imagine a future without the person who has died. They might worry about their memories fading, and find the idea of ‘moving on’ or ‘getting over it’ very upsetting.

“People often say ‘time is a healer’, but bereavement isn’t about healing, so much as finding ways to live with grief.”