How can I cope with my grief?

These are some suggestions of things you may find helpful. 

  • Set aside some time each day for grieving, so that you can cry, remember the dead person, pray or meditate.
  • Keep a journal to record your feelings, thoughts and memories. Writing may help you gain some control over intense emotions. If you write down some of the obsessive thoughts that keep coming into your mind, they may lose some of their power. 
  • Take care of yourself. Try to get enough rest and eat well. When you are able, start to set aside time for things that you used to enjoy. This is not disloyal and will help you cope with your grief. 
  • Exercise will usually help you feel better emotionally and will make you physically tired so that you sleep better. 
  • Meditation, relaxation techniques, massage and listening to music can help reduce the emotional and physical stress of bereavement. 
  • Some people find it helps to express their feelings through writing poetry or painting. Other creative activities like sewing, cooking, gardening or woodwork can also be healing and restorative. 
  • Try to avoid making any major decisions, like moving house or getting rid of the person’s possessions immediately after the death. You may not be thinking clearly and may do things you later regret. 
  • Birthdays, holidays and the anniversary of the death can be difficult, although sometimes the anticipation of the day can often be worse than the day itself. Talk to other family members and plan in advance how you want to spend the day. You might decide to make a change from your usual traditions or set aside part of the day to remember the dead person in a special way. 
  • Be aware that you may hit a low spot after the death when the tasks of planning the funeral and sorting out the affairs of the person who died are over. Ask for help if you need it. Grief may resurface years later, perhaps after another loss, or if you lost someone while you were a child. 
  • Try not to turn to alcohol or drugs as a way of relieving your sadness. While they may provide short term relief from painful feelings, they hinder grieving and can cause depression and poor health. If you find yourself using alcohol or drugs in this way, seek help, usually from your doctor in the first place, or contact an organisation like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous (see Sources of support and information). 
  • If you are feeling depressed (which may result in prolonged sleep disturbance, poor appetite, loss of energy and interest, suicidal thoughts and other symptoms), it is important to seek help from your doctor.


A bereavement may bring a family together to share their pain and give each other comfort and support, but it can be difficult if members of the family grieve in different ways or blame each other for the death. 

Women are sometimes able to express their grief in a more openly emotional way – crying, talking about their feelings and the person who died, and going over what happened to try to understand it. Men may deal with their grief by problem-solving – focusing on practical activities and feeling the need to be strong for the rest of the family. Children’s moods may change very quickly from being sad one minute to laughing and playing the next. Adolescents may shut themselves in their room or ‘act out’ their feelings through reckless behaviour. Younger members of the family may need special support (see Bereaved people with particular needs). 

Try to be patient and understanding and talk to each other about how you feel. Everyone grieves in a different way, and if someone goes about it in a different way to you, it doesn’t mean that they don’t care. Try not to compare grief reactions. 


Friends can be a great source of support, for example, with practical things immediately after the death, when you might be finding it impossible to deal with day-to-day life and for talking about the person who died. Sometimes though, friends may find it hard to know what to do or say for fear of upsetting you. 

You can make it easier for them by letting them know what they can do to help, when you need to talk and when you’d rather be alone. Some friends may be so eager to help that they insist on talking about your loss even when you don’t want to. If this happens you might say something like: “I don’t even want to listen to anybody else talking about it just now.” Remember, you don’t need to take the advice offered by friends – make your own decisions about what you want to do. 

If you feel that your family and friends cannot provide all the support you need, there is other help available (see our Service Directory below). 

The future

The time people take to mourn the loss of someone they have been close to is different for everybody. Some feelings, such as missing the person, may never go away completely, but the pain becomes less with time. An important part of rebuilding your life seems to be to accept that the death really has happened and the person is not coming back. Gradually the things that were good about the person when they were alive can start to be important, as well as their death. Although life is never the same again, for most people there does come a time when they begin to enjoy living again. When things seem very bleak it is important to live from day to day, but remember that things will change in the future and that help is available if needed.