Grief is a natural response to losing someone who is important. It can be a very painful set of emotions, and everyone experiences it differently. The important thing is to allow yourself time to grieve for as long as you need to.
How you might feel when you are grieving
Each person’s bereavement is unique to them, but there are certain emotions that a lot of people experience when they are grieving.
Often the initial feelings are very intense, and can involve a longing to be reunited with the person who has died. As well as significant emotional pain, you might have physical reactions you have never experienced before, like heart palpitations, tiredness, or dizziness.
It can seem like things are not "real", and it might be difficult to think about anything apart from the person who has died. It is not unusual to have trouble focusing or becoming forgetful.
The period of time after a funeral can also be difficult, as it may feel like everyone's lives have gone back to normal, and you are wondering how you will move on.
In time, many people begin to accept what has happened. You might feel like you can get back to taking part in activities again, and enjoying them. While you haven't forgotten your loved one, their death has become a more "accepted" part of your memory. Thinking about them isn't as distracting as it was in the beginning, and feelings of sadness and grief are not the only emotions you feel. However the length of time it takes to process these emotions is unique to everyone – it can take weeks, months, or years.
There may be periods when intense grief re-emerges. This is common and can happen around significant events like birthdays, anniversaries, or at a stressful time.
There is bereavement support available that you can access at any point, if you want to talk to a professional about your feelings. Visit our page on finding bereavement support.
For some people, the intensity of their grief doesn't decrease, even after a long period of time has passed. If you are experiencing very strong feelings of grief and sadness for many months you might find it helpful to get bereavement support.
You can ask your GP to refer you or contact a therapist or counsellor. This page has information on the bereavement services that are available.
Not everyone experiences grief when someone dies
Sometimes the death of a close friend or relative is a relief, especially if the person has suffered, or had a drawn-out death. It is important not to feel guilty about this.
Sometimes people don't begin to grieve until months or even years later. Everyone’s circumstances are different. If at any point you find that it is hard to cope with what you are feeling, don't be afraid to get support.
Coping with grief
There are no one size fits all solutions, but the coping strategies below might help you manage your feelings and give you some comfort.
Spend time with people.Tell your family and friends about your feelings and remind them that you need company. If your energy and motivation are low, suggest meeting at your home.
If you don’t have family or friends that are close, or they are grieving too, you can contact a local bereavement service through your GP, your local hospice, or a befriending service.
You could also consider volunteering when you feel ready, and if you have time. It can be a great way to meet new people and has proven to have huge benefits for people's wellbeing. There are first hand accounts of volunteers talking about how it has benefited them on this page.
However note that some organisations might ask you to wait for a period of time before you volunteer with them. To find out where you could volunteer, visit our page on volunteering in hospice care or the National Council for Voluntary Organisations website.
Give yourself time. It is best not to make any significant decisions for a while, especially if they involve spending large amounts of money or making big life changes. Decisions that you make during this time can be influenced by your grief, and you might regret making them later.
Remember everything you are feeling is normal. Sadness, sleeplessness, a sense of unreality and even guilt are among the feelings you might experience when you are grieving. Don't be afraid of how you feel, and if any of your feelings or thoughts are troubling you there is support available to help you.
Don't be afraid to cry. Crying is the body’s way of reducing stress and is a very natural reaction. It doesn’t matter whether it is days, weeks, months or years after someone has died, if you feel like crying allow it to happen.
Remember that you won't always feel like this. Grief is a process that is extremely difficult, but it gets easier with time. It is very common for there to be good days and bad days, but in time the good days outweigh the bad. By staying active, and focusing on each day as it comes, things will get easier.