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Coping with bereavement

Coping with the death of a loved one can be extremely hard. You may be dealing with lots of different emotions, finding it hard to process them and having difficulties moving on.

How can I cope with my feelings after the death of my loved one?

Grief can make you feel many different things. It's important to remember that these feelings are not bad or wrong. They are a normal part of bereavement, and there are no quick answers to how you might be feeling.

Coping with fear

Feeling fearful and anxious is natural – your familiar world has been turned upside down. You may feel that you have little control over your life, your thoughts and emotions. This is likely to make you feel vulnerable and afraid. But as you get used to coping, in time, you will begin to feel more capable of dealing with your changed circumstances.

Something that might help: If you are feeling overwhelmed by fearful thoughts or anxiety, it could help to talk to someone about how you are feeling. It can take a lot of courage to admit you're struggling, but don't keep it to yourself. Read our section below on where to go for support and help.

Coping with emptiness and depression

Feelings of depression and emptiness can hit you when the reality of the death begins to sink in. Although it may feel almost unbearable at the time, this seems to be a period when some inner healing takes place. Afterwards, people say they feel lighter, more in control of their lives and better able to look forward.

Sadness is a natural response to bereavement, but some people may become depressed. You don't have to try to cope on your own and help is available.

Something that might help: You can talk to your doctor at any time, in complete confidence. They won't judge you – they're there to listen and help you get back on track. Remember that you can phone Samaritans, day or night, on 08457 90 90 90

Coping with anger

You may feel anger at the injustice of your loss, or at the lack of understanding in others. You might be angry at yourself and at the person who died, who has left you feeling abandoned, frightened and alone. These feelings are normal.

Something that might help: Don't bottle up your feelings – try to think about the reasons for your anger. Talking about your feelings with someone who isn’t emotionally involved in your loss can help. It's not always easy to open up about our feelings, but there's a lot of truth in that old saying 'a problem shared is a problem halved.'

Coping with guilt

Some people experience feelings of guilt when someone dies. You may find yourself wondering if you could have done more to help, or feeling guilty about something you said or didn’t say to them when they were alive.

Something that might help: Guilt is a natural emotion after bereavement, but it's important not to dwell on things in the past that you can’t change. Try not to be too hard on yourself or anyone else.

Coping with loneliness

You may feel as though the person who died has left a big hole in your life, and this can leave you feeling lonely, especially if you spent a lot of your time with them.

Something that might help: Make the most of opportunities to spend time with other people and keep in touch with friends and family.

Find someone to talk to

If you've not been feeling yourself since the bereavement, there's support available. Cruse Bereavement Care can offer practical advice or just someone to chat to about how you’re feeling.

How do I manage if I'm feeling so tired and drained?

You may find that you experience physical changes after bereavement. These can include:

  • difficulty getting to sleep
  • vivid dreams
  • long periods of wakefulness
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling tense and short of breath, or edgy and restless
  • feeling slow and lethargic.

You're likely to feel exhausted, especially if you were caring for the person who died or if you went through an anxious time before their death. Strong emotions and dealing with all the practical things that need to be done after a death can also leave you tired and drained.

Something that might help: Take extra care of yourself – try to eat well and get some rest even if you can't sleep. Take gentle exercise if you can. Be kind to yourself – don't try to do too much while you're grieving.

Bereavement and the coronavirus pandemic

Coping with the death of someone you care about is never easy, but the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic have made things even harder. 

If a loved one is reaching the end of their life in a health or care setting, it's natural to want to be with them. But that can be more difficult at the moment, you may have to wear certain PPE or keep your distance. It might be that you're unable to visit the person for various reasons. This can make this time particularly difficult to navigate. 

It might be that you've lost a loved one to coronavirus or during the course of the pandemic. Having to grieve in isolation, separated from normal support networks can make things a real challenge. And as restrictions ease, you might be worried life will go back to 'normal' and your loss during this time may be somehow forgotten. 

It can be particularly difficult to come to terms with someone's death because of the pandemic. Feeling isolated, not experiencing their last weeks or days as you'd have liked or not being able to arrange a funeral with everyone you'd have liked to have been there can mean it's particularly difficult to cope with and come to terms with the death.

Cruse Bereavement Care offer support specifically for those coping with bereavement during the coronavirus pandemic.

How do I stay on top of the practical things I need to do?

In addition to the strong emotions that you may feel after a bereavement, you may also be worrying about practical issues, such as how to manage on a smaller income and handle household tasks.

You might find these things helpful:

  • Find out if you can get any bereavement benefits to give you some extra money.
  • Use our benefits calculator to see if you are eligible to claim anything which could boost your income.
  • If you're worried about keeping up with the housework, talk to your local Age UK to see if they offer any services or know where you could get some help (you may have to pay for this).

Where can I find more help and support?

Therapies based on talking to a trained professional are proven to help get us back on track. Chat with your doctor or nurse and ask them how talking to someone might help.

Help and support from others, especially those who have gone through a similar loss, may help you to cope with your bereavement. There are peer support services in many areas – ask at your place of worship, if you have one, or your local Age UK, doctor’s surgery or local library, or search online for local services.

Cruse Bereavement Care can offer practical advice, signposting to services or just someone to chat to about how you’re feeling. They are also offering some specific advice around coping with grief during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sue Ryder’s Online Bereavement Support

Sue Ryder’s Online Bereavement Support makes it easy to connect with the right support from your own home. Whether you’re looking for one-to-one professional support, to talk to others in similar situations, or to read expert information resources, you can access support for free on your computer, tablet or smartphone.

All Age UKs provide services to combat loneliness. If a loved one has died and you're struggling with loneliness, contact your local Age UK for help.


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For more information call the Age UK Advice Line on 0800 678 1602.
We’re open 8am to 7pm, every day of the year.

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Last updated: Jul 19 2021

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