Coping with grief
How we grieve, NHS advice and bereavement support
A certainty about life, living and loving is that at some point we will experience grief when dear family members, friends and colleagues pass away...

How we grieve

How we grieve is different for every person, and it may feel different for you each time you grieve for someone close. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and there is no timescale either.

For some people, grief arrives immediately, and it is overwhelming. For others, it may not hit until weeks, months, sometimes years after the death happened. Grief does not follow a linear timescale, it can go round and round in circles - some weeks you feel okay, and some weeks you don't.

If you see someone else grieving, it may be that you want to give support but don't know what to say or do, leaving you feeling helpless.

Cruse Bereavement Support, a national charity to support bereaved people, has this advice: "There is no normal when it comes to grief. However, we often find that bereaved people want to talk about the person who has died. One of the most helpful things someone can do is to simply listen and give them time and space to grieve.

"Offering specific and practical support like cooking or providing childcare can also be very helpful and help ease the burden of everyday chores."


Although grief is not predictable, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss American psychiatrist, identified some patterns, setting out five stages of grief. She defines these five stages as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

  • In the denial stage, you may get on with organising a funeral or clearing out a house without feeling a lot of emotion. This is your mind and body protecting you, helping you to survive the loss.
  • In the anger stage, you may blame someone for the death or feel angry with the person who died. It is a raw emotion, which is easier to express than some of the more difficult emotions lying beneath it.
  • The bargaining stage could be renamed the 'why' or 'what if' stage. You may cry out asking why it happened, you may start to feel guilty and think 'what if I had done this or that, could I have prevented it?'. It is a difficult stage of trying to make sense of what has happened.
  • The depression stage often comes after the shock has subsided, the funeral is over and you realise your loved one is never coming back. Even the smallest of things could have you feeling overwhelmed. This is where medical professionals and grief counsellors can help you.
  • In the acceptance stage, emotions stabilise. Gradually, your emotions will ease, and you can learn to live again while keeping the memory of your loved one close.

For some people there is a fear of grief diminishing, as though they are forgetting the person, and so they hold on to the grief. It may help to think of grief as a black ball, it doesn't ever get any smaller, but your life starts to build up around it, so it is not so dominant and easier to live with. The love for someone you have lost will always be there but in a way that means you can continue to live and love again.

NHS advice

The NHS website, has links and information about bereavement, including this advice about what not to do when you are grieving:

  • 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 feel that you're alone - support is available
  • Try not to use alcohol, cigarettes, gambling or drugs to relieve grief - these can all contribute to poor mental health.

Bereavement support

Losing a loved one can hit you hard when you least expect it. Counselling, therapy and other professional support can easily be sought to begin a process of healing, and there are many additional options to complement this approach. It is important that you explore all avenues to ensure a journey that is tailored to you, and the modern world offers many ways you can seek support independently.


Podcasts offer an effective way to relax, soothe a busy brain and switch off from the demands of daily life, forcing us to actively listen to what is being discussed. Whatever our interests, there is likely a podcast to meet our needs. The same applies when we lose someone dear to us, and there are various podcasts to help us through a difficult and painful journey of grief.

The choice is vast and varied, depending on what you seek from it. Broadcasting insightful interviews with experts detailing coping strategies and discussions with others who share their grief experiences, there is much comfort and reassurance to be sought from a podcast centred on bereavement.

Browse these podcast selections made by bereavement support charity Cruse at


Within our mobile phone is a constant source of information and inspiration, it is no wonder that there are several apps which offer support surrounding death. Guiding and advising the bereaved through interactive functionality that is on hand whenever and wherever you need it, these apps can provide an instant crutch.

While bereavement support is key, apps can also provide an effective approach to self-care, which is an important yet lesser acknowledged part of the grieving process.

Social media

The benefits of social media are huge, and it is the best way to connect with like-minded individuals from all walks of life, irrespective of their location. From Facebook groups that provide a virtual support group, to Instagram accounts focusing on grief, there are many ways you can use social media to positively impact your life.

Social media platform TikTok and its video content continues to grow in popularity within various subject areas and this extends to the notion of loss, serving to create meaningful connections with an audience who has something in common.

Grief cafes

Diverging from modern technology and bereavement support delivered from a distance, there will always be a demand for connecting with people in person. Grief cafes offer the opportunity to meet individuals dealing with bereavement and share experiences.

Creating a friendly and supportive environment where the public can gather to discuss their stories over a hot drink, the concept encourages attendees to speak openly and honestly while listening to others. The idea mitigates the formality of a support group, but its aims and objectives are similar.

To find a grief cafe in your local area, look online or speak to local charities or organisations who might be able to point you in the right direction.


Although not a new concept, grief journalling is now a widely accepted approach to bereavement that offers much comfort. Whether you want to put pen to paper or would rather type away on a keypad, grief journalling allows you to communicate your most private thoughts or reflect on personal memories. This can be particularly helpful to those in the early stages of grief who are only just starting to acknowledge and understand their feelings, although those who find comfort in journalling continue the practice for many years after.

Similarly, art journalling encourages your emotional creativity, but through illustrations and abstract artwork. As such, this can be seen as a more intimate and revealing expression of your grief. Scrapbooking or creating a memory box can also allow your grief to play out in a creative way that is both holistic and healing.