Skip to main content

Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

Coping with grief after bereavement or loss

Losing something or someone important to you can be difficult. You may experience grief and a wide range of emotions that come and go over time. There is no right or wrong way to feel.

If you are finding it hard to cope, bereavement support is available.

Bereavement, loss and grief

There are many types of loss, such as the end of a relationship, the loss of health or losing a job.

For most people, the death of someone close can be the biggest loss in our lives. Bereavement is the period of grief after a death.

Bereavement and loss affect people in different ways. But most people experience grief in some way. Grief includes the deep sadness after a death or loss. It is a natural process as we learn how to live without the person who has died.

Signs of grief

There is no right or wrong way to feel or react after a bereavement or loss.

Some common feelings and physical symptoms include:

  • sadness or depression
  • feeling numb, shock or disbelief
  • tiredness
  • vivid dreams or problems sleeping
  • losing your appetite
  • difficulty concentrating
  • being angry or irritable
  • feeling relieved or guilty
  • feeling frightened, helpless or lonely

You might spend a lot of time thinking about the loss and what happened before it.

These thoughts, feelings and physical symptoms might not be there all the time. They can appear suddenly and can be overwhelming.

Learn about how children show their grief

Process of grief

There are often no clear stages of grief. Your thoughts, feelings and physical symptoms are unique to you. They can come and go over time.

With time and support, most people find that their grief becomes less intense. That does not mean that you are over your grief or you have forgotten the person who has died.

You may still have low days or difficult days. But your grief does not stop you from doing everyday things.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the process of grief more difficult for many of us. The things we would usually do to support people who are grieving had to be done differently.

How long grieving takes

There is no set time for grieving. Some feelings can come back many times throughout your life. This often happens around important dates such as anniversaries and birthdays.

Things you can try to help with your grief

Some days may be more difficult than others. But try to look after your physical health by eating well, limiting alcohol, and getting enough sleep and exercise.

There are things you can try to help with your grief:

  • Talk about your loss and feelings - this can be with family, friends, a support group, or a healthcare professional such as a GP or counsellor.
  • Get back to a routine and everyday activities when you can - be patient with yourself if you have difficult days.
  • Accept emotional and practical support from others.
  • Ask others to be with you when you need support.
  • Ask for time alone if you need it.
  • Find ways to keep a connection to the person who has died - for example looking at photos or telling stories about them.
  • Prepare what you would like to do around important dates such as anniversaries, birthdays and holidays.

Supporting someone who is grieving

When to get help with your grief

Bereavement and loss are a normal part of life. It may take some time, but most people cope with the sadness with support from family and friends.

It can also help to meet other people who have been bereaved or join a bereavement group in your community. Many organisations also offer online groups, resources and support.

Find a list of organisations that provide support for bereavement and loss

Bereavement: When someone close dies (PDF, 3.4 MB, 57 pages)

Non-urgent advice: Talk to your GP if:

  • you are worried about how you are coping
  • your grief is intense and does not ease
  • you are worried about your physical or emotional wellbeing
  • you feel agitation, depression, guilt or despair that does not go away
  • you have serious and persistent thoughts or plans to end your own life

They can tell you about organisations in your community that can help or refer you for counselling.

Urgent advice: Call 999 or 112 if:

  • you or someone you know is about to harm themselves or someone else

Get urgent help for a mental health issue

Coping with related losses

You may have to cope with more than 1 loss at the same time. For example, when someone's partner dies, they may lose other things such as their best friend or social contacts. They may also be worried about money or losing their home.

It may help to identify each loss and talk about them separately. This can help you feel less overwhelmed.

Coping with difficult situations

Dealing with practical matters after someone dies

Coping with loneliness

Page last reviewed: 1 September 2022
Next review due: 1 September 2025