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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.

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 may have to be done differently.

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
  • problems sleeping or vivid dreams
  • 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.

Read 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.

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.

The things we would usually do after the loss of someone may have to be done differently because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But you can still get support if you need it.

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.

Read about 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 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

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.

Call 999 or 112 if:

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

Find a GP

Find a GP out of hours

Get urgent help for a mental health issue

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.

Read more about coping with difficult situations

Read more about dealing with practical matters after someone dies

Related Content

  • Bereavement supports and services
    Most people find their way through their grief with the support of friends and family. If you need more support, find organisations that can help.
  • Supporting someone who is grieving
    The needs of a person who is grieving are often quite simple. Read about emotional and practical support you can offer.
  • Children and bereavement
    It can help a child to talk about the person who has died. Sharing and talking about emotions is important, especially for children.
  • Talking to someone about what's troubling you
    When you're upset, it can help to talk about what you are going through. Talking to someone about what's troubling you can make a big difference to how you feel.
  • Coping with loneliness
    There are lots of ways to deal with loneliness and isolation. The solution depends on what's causing these feelings.

page last reviewed: 01/12/2021
next review due: 01/12/2024

National Bereavement Support Line

1800 80 70 77

A national freephone service available from 10am to 1pm, Monday to Friday.