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How to deal with grief after a bereavement

Coping with grief after the death of a loved one can be one of the hardest things we ever go through. You might be dealing with lots of different emotions, and it can be hard to know what support is available and how to access it.

Dealing with grief

Grief is very personal, and the emotions you feel are often complex and conflicting. You might feel many different types of grief, and that's completely normal.

Grief is natural and it can last a long time. How you feel might be influenced by several things – such as your personality, past experiences, beliefs and relationship with the person who dies, as well as how they died.

Anticipatory grief

Anticipatory grief is when you experience feelings of grief for someone while they're still living. This type of grief is commonly felt when a loved one has a life-limiting condition.

Complicated grief

Feelings associated with grief will usually change over time. But if you find there's little or no change, and these feelings are having an impact on your day-to-day life, you might be experiencing complicated grief.

If these feelings continue for over 6 months you might want to think about speaking to a healthcare professional or bereavement counsellor about how you are feeling.

What are the physical effects of grief?

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

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

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. It's important to be kind to yourself at this time, and try to get the rest and support you need.

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 after going through a bereavement. You may feel that you have little control over your life, your thoughts and your emotions. This can lead to you feeling 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.

Coping with emptiness and sadness

Feelings of emptiness and sadness often come in waves, and they can feel overwhelming and like they'll never go away. But healing can happen during periods of sadness like this, even if it doesn't feel like it.

Sadness is a natural response to bereavement, but some people may become depressed. But you don't have to try to cope on your own and help is available. 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 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 the lack of understanding in others. You might be angry at yourself – questioning if you could've done more, or regretting things you did. You might be angry at the person who died for leaving you. You might be angry and not know exactly why. These feelings are completely normal.

Coping with guilt

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

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.

If the feelings of guilt don't pass or become more intense, it's important to talk to someone who's close to you – or someone who specialises in bereavement support.

Coping with loneliness 

Losing a loved one can make you feel very lonely. This might be because you were very close to them, or because you were their carer for a long time – or because you can't face going out and socialising like you used to.

Whatever the reason, feeling lonely and isolated for a long time can affect our confidence. If you can, talk to others about how you're feeling and try to stay connected with friends and family.

How can I look after myself when I'm grieving?

Grief can have a physical impact as well as an emotional one. It can leave you feeling exhausted and unmotivated. But it's important that you keep doing what you can to look after yourself.

Talk about how you're feeling

However you’re feeling, it’s important to talk about it. This can be easier said than done, as many people feel uncomfortable talking about death – whether they’re bereaved themselves or trying to support someone who’s lost a loved one.

But death affects us all. Talking to someone about how you’re feeling, or just talking about the person who’s died, can make you feel better. It’s also a chance to remember the person and celebrate their life and what they still mean to you.

Sleep and rest when you can

Grief is tiring – whether it's arranging the practicalities, travelling, sleepless nights or just being overwhelmed with everything going on. If you can't sleep, or your sleep is disrupted, be kind to yourself and sleep when you can.

Eat and drink regularly

It might be the last thing on your mind, but try to make sure you're eating and drinking regularly. Even if you've lost your appetite, it'll help keep you healthy and boost your energy levels. Don't worry about eating a balanced diet – eating anything is better than eating nothing.

Keep an eye on how much alcohol you drink

Sometimes, drinking can become an escape from a difficult time – so it's good to be mindful of how much you're having.

If your drinking is becoming unhealthy, or you notice that someone else is starting to rely on alcohol to cope with their grief, there are specialist organisations that can support you.

Visit the Drinkaware website for more advice on alcohol and drinking


It can feel difficult to take care of yourself following a bereavement. This might mean you don't wash as frequently as you used to, you don't take your medication, or you miss doctor's appointments. But it's important you take care of yourself.

If you find yourself neglecting your care needs, or you notice loved ones neglecting theirs, it's worth talking to someone you're close to or a professional.

If the person who's died used to help you with things like washing, cooking or getting to the doctor or the shops, you should contact your local council about having a care needs assessment.

Find out more about care needs assessments

Staying connected with family and friends

After a loss, you might find yourself becoming more withdrawn, avoiding social situations and staying home more. But it's important to try and stay connected with friends and loved ones, even though it might feel difficult.

It can feel hard to talk to others, especially when you don't feel like being sociable. But if someone was close to the person who's died too, they might be feeling a similar way – so a chat over a cup of tea might help you both.

There might be a bereavement support group in your area. These groups can offer a safe and comforting environment to talk about your experiences with people who've also had a bereavement. Try asking your local Age UK, doctor’s surgery, local library or place of worship, if you have one. You can also search online for local services.

What support is available if I'm feeling lonely after a bereavement?

If someone close to you has died and you're adjusting to being by yourself, things can be particularly difficult. It might feel like you don't have anyone to talk to about your emotions, and you might feel lonely and isolated. But there's support available that could help you.

Friendship services over the phone

Age UK has a range of friendship services that you might like to try – whether it’s a regular call or just a little chat when you need one:

  • The Telephone Friendship Service: If you’d like to receive a weekly call, this service matches over 60s with a friendly volunteer. Visit the webpage or call 0800 434 6105 to find out more.
  • The Silver Line Helpline: If you’d like a friendly chat, you can call this service on 0800 4 70 80 90. It’s a free, confidential telephone service for older people and it’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

Face-to-face friendship services

If you'd prefer to chat to someone in person, there might be befriending services available through your local Age UK – they can arrange for someone to visit you for a cup of tea and a chat. Contact your local Age UK to find out about their befriending services.

Find out about befriending services at your local Age UK


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Managing your finances after a bereavement

If you're worried about financial stability after a bereavement, there's support available.

If your partner has died, you might be able to claim Bereavement Support Payment. This benefit isn't means-tested and could help ease some of the financial worries you might be facing.

Find out more about Bereavement Support Payment

Are you entitled to extra money?

Do you know what benefits you're entitled to? Our online benefits calculator can help you quickly and easily find out what you could be claiming.

Get a free benefits check

Bereavement and the coronavirus pandemic

The death of a loved one can be particularly difficult to cope with when you're unable to say goodbye and grieve in a way that feels right to you. Sadly, this was the case for many people during the coronavirus pandemic.

Due to restrictions, you might've been unable to see the person before they died, or to have the funeral service you know they'd have wanted. This might've left you feeling that things are still unresolved, or that you didn't get to say a proper goodbye. You might also have been kept from seeking comfort in the company of family and friends – at a time when you really could've done with a hug.

You might also feel that your loss has been overlooked or lessened because of the circumstances of the pandemic. But each person who died is loved and missed – and your grief is valid. It's as important as ever that you look after yourself and reach out for support if you need it.

Visit Cruse's website to find out more about what support is available for those who lost someone during the coronavirus pandemic

Phone icon We're here to help

We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 678 1602. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 120 local Age UKs.

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Last updated: Jul 12 2024

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