Bereavement

When someone close to you dies, it can be a distressing and overwhelming experience, even when the death was expected. 

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A guide to bereavement

In this guide on bereavement, we explore some common themes around grief. Everyone experiences bereavement in their own way. There’s no typical journey, timeline or pattern to the emotions you may be going through. But by understanding a little more about grief you may be able to reduce the impact on yourself and those around you.

  • Bereavement and your emotions

    Grief is a natural process, and it’s normal to feel sad or lonely. But keep in mind that the intensity of your emotions will diminish over time. However, in order to heal from your loss you must first acknowledge how you’re feeling. Although everyone adjusts to loss differently and there’s no ‘right’ way to grieve, you may feel some of the following.

    Shock and disbelief
    When a person close to us dies, it can be hard to accept it’s really happened. You might feel emotionally numb or even that this is a just a bad dream happening to someone else.

    Anger
    This is a natural response to death. You may also seek to blame someone, God, the doctors, yourself, or even the deceased. 

    Sadness 
    You may find yourself crying suddenly and often throughout the day. You might also feel emptiness and despair. 

    Depression
    More often than not the sadness we experience while grieving reduces and over time your thoughts will become positive again. But in some cases, grief can develop into depression. 

    Guilt
    If you were caring for the person who died, you may feel a burden has been lifted, which in turn might make you feel guilty. You might feel guilty about the things you said, didn't say or feel you should have said. 

    Loneliness
    The death of a partner or close friend can make you feel isolated, lonely and fearful for the future.

    Acceptance
    The pain of losing someone may never fully go away, but once you begin to accept that they are gone, most people are able to enjoy life again. 
  • Bereavement and depression

    In some cases your grief can become stronger, more complex and last for months or even years. 
     
    Grief and depression share many of the same characteristics, but if you’re grieving, your feelings of loss and sadness come and go, with depression you’ll usually have a constant feeling of sadness. Many of us go through several stages of grieving but when your grief becomes depression you may find yourself feeling extreme negative thoughts.
  • Things that make your grief worse

    Your grieving can be more severe if you knew the person for a long time, your relationship was important and their death was unexpected.
     
    Other factors may affect the length and depth of your emotions during the grieving process:
    • The nature of the person's death
    • Their age
    • Your own experience of loss
    • Whether you feel supported by others
    • How well you look after yourself
    • The reaction of others to the loss
    • Your cultural or religious beliefs
  • Bereavement and your behaviour

    When you're grieving you might feel like you can’t talk about your feelings at all, or you might find that you keep talking about your loss long after it happened.
     
    You may find that you’re:
    • Withdrawing from your friends
    • Avoiding places or situations relating to the death
    • Thinking constantly about your loss
    • Changing your relationships with others
    • Giving up your hobbies
    • Drinking or smoking more, or relying on drugs
    • Putting off related practical arrangements
  • Bereavement and your physical wellbeing

    It is quite normal to lose your appetite, have low energy levels or struggle to sleep.  
     
    As your mind whirrs around questioning, worrying and reflecting you might also:
    • Have trouble concentrating
    • Feel nauseous
    • Get ill more easily
    • Lose or gain weight 
    • Experience unexplained aches and pains
  • Practical matters following a bereavement

    When you’re feeling overwhelmed by grief it can be hard to think about practical matters. While there are a number of tasks that must be completed there are support organisations who can help you.

    The most urgent tasks are below.

    Get a medical certificate
    You'll get this from a doctor (a GP or at a hospital). You will need the certificate to register the death.

    Register the death within five days
    You’ll then get the documents you need for the funeral.

    Arrange the funeral
    Most people use a funeral director, but it's possible to arrange this yourself.

    You're likely to need support during these early days and many people find they need to ask for help. But some people find dealing with practical matters helps with their grief.

Next steps

Bereavement can feel overwhelming, but taking practical steps to deal with it, and seeking support where you need it, can help you through this difficult time.