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Coping with bereavement

Lily for bereavement

Sadly, bereavement is something that everyone will have to go through at some point, but not everyone experiences it the same way. Coping after a loss is always tough, so we would like to share with you some ways that you can look after yourself and your family.

How might you feel?

Bereavement has roughly seven stages:

  1. Shock/denial
  2. Pain/guilt
  3. Anger/bargaining
  4. Depression/reflection/loneliness
  5. The upward turn
  6. Reconstruction and working through
  7. Acceptance and hope

There is no clear divide between one stage and the next, but with time feelings will become less intense. Everyone experiences grief differently, but you might feel:

  • Shock – You may feel numb and emotionless as you try to grasp what has happened
  • Sadness – Feelings of overwhelming sadness can be scary, but it’s important to allow yourself to cry
  • Anger – This is a perfectly natural emotion to feel after you lose someone. You may feel angry at them, their illness or yourself
  • Guilt – You may feel regret for things you did or didn’t say, or feel somehow to blame for not stopping them from dying
  • Anxiety – Feeling easily overwhelmed, struggling in social situations, worrying unnecessarily about things, or the welfare and safety of your loved ones and those closest to you
  • Distracted/forgetful – As your mind is distracted by grief you may find it very difficult to concentrate

What can you do?

The period following bereavement will be hard, but there are things that you can do to help:

  • Talk to someone about your feelings, such as a partner, close friend or family member. If you don’t feel as if you can open up to them, then you can contact Ben’s free and confidential helpline on 08081 311 333 or use our online chat facility
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about the person who has died. Not mentioning them can leave you feeling isolated
  • Allow yourself to be sad and cry. It’s important to grieve for your loved one and crying can help to release these emotions
  • Try to take care of yourself – eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep (or rest if you can’t sleep) and exercise
  • Meet up with friends and try to continue with your hobbies and interests. You may not feel like socialising or doing activities, but this can help to distract you, even if for a short while
  • Avoid short-term ‘fixes’ such as alcohol or drugs as these can make you feel worse in the long-term

Losing someone close to you is very difficult. You may need to adjust to living on your own or learn how to do tasks normally done by the person you lost, such as cooking or finances. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it, and remember that Ben is here to support you.

Life will not be the same again after bereavement, but given time you can find a new normality. Many people find that the bad days eventually grow fewer and fewer, and they can start to miss the person they lost whilst regaining their enjoyment in life.

Anniversaries and special occasions can be hard, so do whatever you need to get yourself through them, whether this means taking time off work or going away somewhere to distract yourself.

What do I do if my children are bereaved?

If you were also close to the person your child is grieving for, then it’s important that you are supported as well as them.

Encourage your child to talk about their feelings and ensure that you do the same. Avoid putting on a brave face as your child will feel that they should do this too and this will mean it is hard to tell how they are coping. If you think they are hiding their feelings to protect you, let them know that they don’t need to do this.

Allow them to decide when they return to school and whether or not they go to the funeral. If they aren’t comfortable it is important to respect their feelings.

You can find more information on our blog post about looking after children’s mental health.

How can I help someone else who is grieving?

Be prepared to sit and listen or keep them company whilst they cry. Sometimes just being there is all that’s needed.

Little things can mean so much to someone who has gone through bereavement. Instead of giving a vague offer of help (“let me know if there’s anything I can do”), think of something practical that you can do such as:

  • Giving them lifts to the bank, registrar, funeral director etc.
  • Cooking food
  • Shopping for essentials
  • Housework

Don’t be offended if they turn down your offer – there may be other people helping them or they may not feel that it is the right moment.

Our support services

You can find a full list of contact details for our free, confidential Support Services on our contact page.

More information


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