Most people experience grief when they lose something or someone important to them. If these feelings are affecting your life, there are things you can try that may help.
Support is also available if you're finding it hard to cope with stress, anxiety or depression.
Symptoms of bereavement, grief and loss
Bereavement, grief and loss can cause many different symptoms and they affect people in different ways. There's no right or wrong way to feel.
As well as bereavement, there are other types of loss such as the end of a relationship or losing a job or home.
Some of the most common symptoms include:
- shock and numbness – this is usually the first reaction to loss, and people often talk about "being in a daze"
- overwhelming sadness, with lots of crying
- tiredness or exhaustion
- anger – towards the person you've lost or the reason for your loss
- guilt – for example, guilt about feeling angry, about something you said or did not say, or not being able to stop your loved one dying
These feelings may not be there all the time and powerful feelings may appear unexpectedly.
It's not always easy to recognise when bereavement, grief or loss are the reason you're acting or feeling differently.
Stages of bereavement or grief
Experts generally accept that we go through 5 stages of bereavement or grief:
- Denial – feelings of shock, disbelief, panic or confusion
- Anger – feelings and behaviours such as blaming yourself or blaming others
- Depression – feeling tired, hopeless or helpless – like you have lost perspective or feel isolated
- Bargaining – feelings of guilt often raise questions like "If only I had done more"
- Acceptance – this does not mean that you like the situation, it’s about accepting your loss and being ready to move forward
Although these are accepted as the most common stages of grief, everyone experiences grief differently.
Most people go through all these stages, but you will not necessarily move smoothly from one to the next.
Your grief might feel chaotic and out of control, but these feelings will eventually become less intense over time.
Things you can try to help with bereavement, grief and loss
if you're struggling to sleep, get sleep tips from Every Mind Matters
consider peer support, where people use their experiences to help each other. Find out more about peer support on the Mind website
listen to free mental wellbeing audio guides
try the 6 ways to feel happier, which are simple lifestyle changes to help you feel more in control and able to cope
do not try to do everything at once – set small targets that you can easily achieve
do not focus on the things you cannot change – focus your time and energy into helping yourself feel better
try not to tell yourself that you're alone – most people feel grief after a loss and support is available
try not to use alcohol, cigarettes, gambling or drugs to relieve grief – these can all contribute to poor mental health
Further information and support
You can find further information and support about:
- grief and bereavement on the Cruse website
- losing your partner or child in pregnancy
- losing someone to suicide on the Mind website
The GOV.UK website also has information about what to do after someone dies, such as registering the death and planning a funeral.
Where to get NHS help for stress, anxiety or depression
Referring yourself for therapy
If you need more support, you can get free talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) on the NHS.
You can refer yourself directly to a talking therapies service without a referral from a GP.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- you're struggling to cope with stress, anxiety or a low mood
- you've had a low mood for more than 2 weeks
- things you're trying yourself are not helping
- you would prefer to get a referral from a GP
Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E now if:
- you or someone you know needs immediate help
- you have seriously harmed yourself – for example, by taking a drug overdose
A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a medical emergency.
Prolonged grief disorder
For most people grief will become less intense over time. But for some people, grief lasts many months or years. This is known as prolonged grief disorder or complicated grief.
Symptoms of prolonged grief disorder include:
- very difficult feelings such as sadness or guilt for over 6 months
- spending a lot of time thinking about the person who's died
- difficulty accepting the death
- not being able to return to everyday activities
- suicidal thoughts
You're more likely to have prolonged grief disorder if the death was traumatic or sudden and unexpected.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- you have symptoms of prolonged grief disorder