Mind

How to cope with grief

If you have lost someone, here are some ideas for beginning to cope with the grieving process.

What exactly is grief?

Grief is a natural response to loss. Often this means the death of someone close to you. But grief can also follow losing a pet, having a miscarriage, going through divorce, or losing a friendship. It’s a very personal thing. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, and no set length of time that it will last. Be patient with yourself and work through the process naturally.

Grief and Covid-19 coronavirus

The current situation has made bereavement and grief all the more challenging. If you’ve recently been bereaved, and you’re struggling with your emotions, you are not alone.

If you weren’t able to say goodbye, or give your loved one a proper send off, you might be struggling with feelings of guilt, anger, or trauma. It may be helpful to consider how you can remember the person who has died in your own way. This might mean planning a time for family and friends to come together in the future. You can create a memory box, or photo album, or dedicate a charity fundraiser in their honour.

The current restrictions can make many religious or cultural practices more challenging. The Interfaith Network has resources from religious leaders with guidance on how to manage funeral rites and practices.

When you’re in lockdown with family, you might feel you don’t have a moment to be alone to process your feelings, especially if you’re responsible for childcare. On the other hand, if you’re living alone in lockdown, loneliness or boredom might intensify feelings of grief.

Because circumstances have been so different, it may be more difficult to accept your loss. Remember that though many are suffering, your feelings are still important and you are allowed to ask for help.

Five ideas that may help with the grieving process

Grief can be one of the most difficult experiences we go through in life. There is no quick fix, and nothing can make it disappear immediately.

There are a few things that you can do, which may help you through this time:

1. Don't keep your feelings bottled up

It’s proven by the experts that expressing your emotions can help reduce and manage the intensity of your feelings. You could talk to someone - or if you don’t feel comfortable doing this, write it down in a journal.

2. Find a support group you can join

Meeting people who are going through a similar experience can help and offer comfort. You might feel less like you’re going through it alone with others to share your feelings with. Sue Ryder has an online bereavement community, where you can share your feelings anonymously and connect with others in similar situations.

3. Explore a new hobby or interest

Spending time on a new hobby could be a distraction as well as giving you something to look forward to. Creative pastimes can provide a sense of achievement, while physical activities are a great way to release endorphins in your brain – the chemicals that can make you feel more positive. If you live alone, consider trying a group-based hobby or volunteering. This may provide some company and companionship during times of loneliness. 

4. Speak to your friends and loved ones

When you’re grieving, you may well feel like you want to be on your own. That is natural, but can also isolate you. Try to maintain connections with friends – surrounding yourself with familiar, friendly faces can be very comforting.

While it’s more difficult to see loved ones in person, try to organise a time to chat on the phone, or video call. If you live with loved ones, don’t retreat from them and spend time together when you can. You might not be ready for an emotional heart to heart, but even being together in the same space can help you to feel less isolated.

5. Take care of yourself

Eating regularly and sleeping when you can are both really important. If you neglect your own physical health, your grief will be harder to deal with.

Try to find structure in regular meal times, exercise or movement (if possible), and sleep. Taking care of your own needs might feel selfish, but it’s essential and you deserve it.

Benenden Health members can access a wide range of supportive webinars, on sleep, exercise and nutrition, which may provide support when needed the most. 

Preparing for anniversaries

The anniversary of the death of your loved one, their birthday or a family event can be particularly difficult for those left behind. These occasions can trigger feelings of grief, even years later. It may help you to book that day off work, or talk to the people who will share this day with you beforehand. You could plan something special to commemorate your loved one together.

When grief doesn’t go away

While the sadness of losing someone never goes completely, it shouldn’t take over your life indefinitely. If you find that you are unable to resume your life, it may be that you are suffering with low mood due to bereavement, which can become depression. Grief and depression share many symptoms, but if you’re experiencing constant feeling of despair it could be a good idea to speak to your GP.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

For more guidance on coping with grief and bereavement, the mental health charity Mind have a list of useful contacts that can offer support.

Benenden Health members can call the Mental Health Helpline if they find themselves affected by bereavement and are struggling with grief. The helpline can offer 24-hour support from a qualified therapist during this difficult time.