Dealing with grief and loss

Scroll down to watch a video on coping with the loss of a parent.

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

The way grief affects you depends on lots of things, including what kind of loss you have suffered, 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 has died for "leaving you behind". Sadness often comes later.

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

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

But you will eventually come to terms with your loss, and the intense feelings will subside.

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 walking the dog can help.
  • Sleep. Emotional strain can make you very tired. If you're having trouble sleeping, see your GP.
  • Eat healthily. A healthy, well-balanced diet will help you cope.
  • Avoid things that "numb" the pain, such as alcohol. It will make you feel worse once the numbness wears off.
  • Go to counselling if it feels right for you – but perhaps not straight away. 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, showing anger towards their other parent during a separation can be painful for a child to see.

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

However, 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 are 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 don't feel able to cope with overwhelming emotions or daily life.
  • The intense emotions aren't subsiding.
  • You're not sleeping.
  • You have symptoms of depression or anxiety.
  • Your relationships are suffering.
  • You're having sexual problems.
  • You're becoming accident-prone.
  • You're caring for someone who isn't coping well.

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

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

Bereavement: coping with grief after the death of a parent

Carys' father committed suicide six years ago. In this video, Cary and her mother talk about how they have dealt with their loss.

Media last reviewed: 11/07/2015

Next review due: 11/07/2017

Page last reviewed: 09/06/2016

Next review due: 09/06/2019

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