Coping with grief

There’s no handbook for grief, and no ‘one-size-fits-all’ way to grieve either. It affects everyone differently and you might also find you have some emotions you weren’t expecting – ones no-one warned you about.

You might not be feeling very sad, you might be experiencing anger, you might be feeling like your feelings ‘aren’t right’ or that you should be feeling a certain way. Most people have many intense feelings when someone dies – even when the death was expected and there was time to prepare. People often feel sad, confused, angry, guilty and sometimes even relieved – this is all part of the natural grieving process. There is no correct way to grieve – and all the emotions you’re feeling are perfectly valid.

How to grieve

Here are some simple ways to help you live with the grief you’re feeling. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and you might find other strategies that work for you.

Share your feelings: Grief can bring intense and strong emotions, so it’s important not to keep your grief completely to yourself and talking to friends and family could be helpful.

Seek help from professionals: Talking to a professional can help you to understand and release some of these strong feelings. You can access support lines run by bereavement charities – such as Cruse Bereavement. If you’re known to the hospice then you can get in touch with our Patient and Family Services team who can help.

Take time with others: It might be helpful to take part in a communal activity to remember the person you’ve lost – ceremonies like funerals and remembrance services can help you to say goodbye. These types of activities can encourage you to reflect and remember, as well as bring you together with other people feeling a similar way to you.

Do something in your own way: Even a simple activity like lighting a candle for the person you’ve lost might bring you comfort. You could also try visiting a favourite place you went together. Find what feels right for you, remember there’s no ‘correct’ way to approach grief and any coping mechanism isn’t necessarily going to make you feel ‘fine’ again.

Be kind: Be as gentle and kind with yourself as you can. You may want to sleep more and do the minimum to get through the day – and that’s okay.

How to help someone who’s grieving

If someone you know is grieving and you’re not sure how to help, you’re not alone. It’s the top questions asked on search engines in relation to grief. A lot of people aren’t sure what they should say or their best way to help. Remember that your wellbeing is important and helping someone living with grief can be difficult for you too. Don’t give more than you have capacity for, help out in a way that works for you and the person who’s grieving.

Ask: A lot of people just don’t know where to start, what questions they can ask and worry they’ll say the wrong thing. While it’s completely understandable to feel uncomfortable by withdrawing from the bereaved person you might inadvertently make them feel even more alone and isolated. Just letting them know that you’re there for them and want to help could be a great comfort to them.

Consider the best way to communicate: Some people might appreciate a text message as a phone call, or meeting up in person, might be too much to manage. Some might want the distraction of being out and about but this could feel overwhelming for someone else. Be mindful of the way you’re communicating and let them know you’re open to changing it if it’s better for them.

Listening is key: The best thing you can do is listen to the person going through grief, and be alongside them. Try to respect whatever it is that they want to share – and limit the amount of advice and personal feelings you share about your own experience of grief. You can gently offer services and support that might help them – see our resource list below – but respect that they might not be in a place to engage with support services just yet.

Resources to help you with grief
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  • Cruse Bereavement Support – national charity dedicated to help people with bereavement, including a helpline and resources you can access.
  • Mind – mental heath charity with useful grief resources
  • Grief Encounter – charity supporting young people and children who are bereaved
  • The Samaritans – support for anyone who’s been bereaved due to suicide
Image of two people hugging

At the beginning there were lots of dark days, but thankfully they’re getting fewer. I’ll be honest, I find it hard to talk about how I’m feeling. I speak of her in the past tense, but the reality is that she’s still with me – she hasn’t gone.

- Kris, speaking about his experience of losing his partner Nina

Read Nina’s story

How to talk to children about death

Talking to children about death needn't be shied away from, after all it's likely they'll experience grief in their childhood - maybe the loss of a grandparent or pet. Maria Syred, Social Worker at St Barnabas House has written some helpful information about how to talk to children about death and dying.

Helping you talk to children about death