MoodzoneDealing with grief and loss

Most people grieve when they lose something or someone important to them.

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Most people grieve when they lose something or someone important to them.

As well as bereavement, there are other types of loss, such as the loss of a relationship.

The way grief affects you depends on lots of things, including the type of loss you have experienced, your upbringing, your beliefs or religion, your age, your relationships, and your physical and mental health.

How does grief affect you?

People react in different ways to loss. Anxiety and helplessness often come first.

Anger is also common, including feeling angry at someone who's died for "leaving you behind". Sadness often comes later.

Feelings like these are a natural part of the grieving process. Knowing that they're common may help them seem more normal. It's also important to know they'll pass.

Some people take a lot longer than others to recover. Some need help from a counsellor or therapist or a GP.

You can get psychological therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and applied relaxation on the NHS.

You do not need a referral from a GP.

You can refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies service. Or a GP can refer you if you prefer.

How to cope with grief and loss

There's no instant fix. You might feel affected every day for about a year to 18 months after a major loss.

But after this time the grief is less likely to be at the forefront of your mind.

There are practical things you can do to get through a time of bereavement or loss.

Express yourself

Talking is often a good way to soothe painful emotions. Talking to a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor can begin the healing process.

Allow yourself to feel sad

It's a healthy part of the grieving process. 

Keep your routine up

Keeping up simple things like doing the housework can help.


Emotional strain can make you very tired. If you're having trouble sleeping, see a GP.

Eat healthily

A healthy, well-balanced diet will help you cope.

Avoid 'numbing' the pain

Avoid things that "numb" the pain, such as alcohol. It'll make you feel worse once the numbness wears off.

Go to counselling if it feels right for you

Counselling may be more useful after a couple of weeks or months. Only you will know when you're ready.

Grieving when you have children

When you have children, you may not want to show your feelings. Sometimes this is a good thing.

For example, if you're grieving as the result of a separation or divorce, showing anger towards their other parent can be painful for a child to see.

Reassure your child that the separation is not their fault. Keep their routine as normal as possible and tell them what's happening so they're less confused by it all.

But if both parents are grieving for a loved one, it's sometimes good for children to see that it's normal to sometimes feel sad and cry.

Pay attention if your child wants to share their feelings, whether it's through talking, drawing or games.

Children need to feel they're listened to, so include them in decisions and events if it feels right.

When to get help

Get help if any of the following apply to you:

  • you do not feel able to cope with overwhelming emotions or daily life
  • the intense emotions are not subsiding or are actually getting worse as time passes
  • you're not sleeping
  • you have symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • your relationships are suffering
  • you're having sexual problems
  • you're caring for someone who's not coping well

Seeing a GP is a good place to start. They can give you advice about other support services, refer you to a counsellor, or prescribe antidepressant medicine if needed.

Often, combining antidepressants with talking treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy can help with intense, long-lasting feelings of grief.

Or you can contact support organisations directly, such as Cruse Bereavement Care on 0808 808 1677 or Samaritans on 116 123.

Page last reviewed: 20/01/2017
Next review due: 20/01/2020