After the funeral, everyone else's lives seem to go back to normal, and you may be left wondering how you're going to cope. You may feel angry that everyone 'has moved on'. You might find it difficult to cope with managing day-to-day activities such as eating and sleeping. Things like going to work, or social events may seem very difficult and the things you once found important may seem irrelevant. Don't underestimate the impact of grief on you and your well-being. This is the time for you to take extra care of yourself and, most importantly, get support from family, friends or professionals.

AtaLoss.org is dedicated to helping bereaved people find appropriate local support when they need it. Even if you don't feel as if you need support now, grief is like the waves in the sea. Sometimes it can hit you unexpectedly and long after you have lost your loved one. This is normal. We will be here for you if that happens. And don't forget that you can always talk to our on-line Griefchat counsellors at any time, as often as you need to or just for reassurance.

Whether you are grieving the loss of a spouse, parent, child, sibling, friend or someone else close to you, please remember to take care of yourself. Here are a few words of advice;

Give yourself permission to grieve

Although we live in a society which expects us to “be strong” and “carry on”, you need to appreciate the fact that grief is quite needy. It consumes most of your energy and it demands your full attention at all times, whether you like it or not. The only way to move forward and adapt to life without your loved one is to give yourself permission to grieve. Don’t let others define your grief and tell you how you should feel.

Listen to your body

Your body is perfectly capable of letting you know what it needs and when. Listen to it and eat if you feel hungry, drink water if you are thirsty and sleep when you feel tired. Get into the habit of exercising as it improves not just your physical but your mental health as well. When you exercise, your body produces endorphins which lift your mood and improve the way you feel. Learn some breathing exercises and meditation to help you calm down and reduce the stress you are going through.

Don’t bottle up your emotions

Pretending that you are OK when you are not does not make grief disappear. You need to go through the motions and find a healthy way of expressing your feelings. Talking to someone helps and so does grief counselling but if that’s not the way you do things, then there are other ways to help you achieve the same result. Start a journal and write about your feelings and thoughts in it. That would help you to validate your grief and enable you to work though it in a healthy way.

Grief Support

Whilst wanting to withdraw from public life and restrict yourself to the boundaries of your own home is quite normal under the circumstances, you must make an effort to prevent it from becoming a habit. Interacting with others and spending time with those close to you are important parts of the healing process.

Family and friends

Your family, friends and those close to you are your support network and you need to let them be there for you. Give them the chance to do what they can to make life easier for you at this difficult time. Don’t let your pride and independence stay in the way and alienate them. Be proactive and reach out to them. If appropriate, involve them in the funeral planning process, ask for second opinion on decisions you need to make etc. Let them know that they are an important part of your life.

Support groups

If you are not comfortable sharing grief with family and friends, join a local support group or an online one. These groups provide a safe environment in which you can share your feelings and draw inspiration from the experience of others. Grief creates a strong bond between people and you can benefit from being among others who are on the same journey.

GriefChat

GriefChat is a free online service which connects you to a bereavement counsellor who is specially trained to listen to you and to point you in the direction of further help and support. It’s available Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm and you can benefit from it by clicking on the GriefChat box at the bottom of this page.

Please refer to our Grief Help and Support page for more information and contact details of bereavement charities and organisations which specialise in helping people who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

Here are other ways to look after yourself

Eating Well

Some people lose their appetite when they’re grieving – if this happens, your appetite may start to return when you’ve had time to grieve. Other people might not feel like cooking and start eating unhealthy foods.

Even if you don’t feel like it, try to eat as healthily as you can. Eating healthily will give you the energy to get things done and help you to cope better with day to day life. Sharing food with friends and family can also help you to share your loss which is an important part of the grieving process so do accept invitations to dinner or lunch. People will understand that you won't be in a party mood.

Sleeping

Emotional stress such as grief will exhaust you. If you're having trouble sleeping you can visit your GP for temporary support which sleeping tablets offer. But try things such as exercising during the day, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and going to bed at the same time each night - perhaps a little earlier than usual.

If you are kept awake at night thinking about your loved one, try talking to close friends or family. Talking really helps.

Crying if you want to

Crying is the body's way to reduce stress and soothe itself. It is a normal reaction to sadness and it doesn't matter whether it's days, weeks, months or years after the death. If you feel like crying, try not to question it. If you want to scream, that's OK too although do it where you won't cause alarm.

It's also OK if you don't feel like crying – some people might feel numb with grief. Everyone experiences grief differently and that's an important thing to recognise. So don't feel guilty if someone else cries and you can't. Grief is dealt with in different ways. 

Invest in yourself

It's OK to pamper yourself when you are bereaved. In fact it is essential that you do, and do so without guilt. If, for example, you are a parent supporting grieving children, you may feel you need to focus on the children and ignore your own needs.  This would be a mistake. They need you more than ever and it is important that you are able to be there for them. So spend quality time with children, and also claim quality time for yourself.  Make time to read, walk, have a massage or whatever you feel you need. And ask others to help by having the children for an afternoon, or ask you to go for a walk, help with domestic chores or encourage you to get out. 

Keeping busy is not self care!

It is a natural thing to keep ourselves busy when we are experiencing grief. It serves as a distraction that buries the pain underneath every activity you can pile on top of it. It only helps to make one more day go by which in itself connects to the myth that time heals all wounds. 

But… keeping busy is not self-care. Here are some words of advice;

  • You can try and suppress them or hide from your feelings but in the end this will only prolong the grieving process. Acknowledging your pain and taking responsibility for your feelings will help you avoid the complications often associated with unresolved grief such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems.
  • Express your feelings – the most effective way to do this is through some tangible or creative expression of your emotions such as journaling, writing a letter expressing your apologies, forgiveness and the significant emotional statements you wish you had said, or art projects celebrating the person’s life or what you lost.
  • Feel whatever you feel – it’s okay to be angry, to yell at God, to cry or not to cry. It’s also okay to laugh, to find moments of joy, or to let go when you’re ready. Your grief is your own and no one can tell you when you should be “over it” or when to “move on.”
  • Be aware of short-term relievers – these can be food, alcohol/drugs, anger, exercise,TV, movies, books, isolation, sex, shopping, workaholism etc. Most of these are not harmful, in fact some are healthy, but they become harmful when they are used for the wrong reasons… to cover-up, hide or suppress our grief.   

Remember ....

Allowing yourself to grieve is the best form of self-care

There is no 'normal' in grief. Your grief, your feelings are yours. It is best to recognise your feelings whatever they are and tell yourself they are 'your feelings'.  You will come to accept them and deal with them in a time that is right for you.  Coming to terms with your loss does not mean 'moving on' and forgetting your loved one. It means you will learn to live the life that you have now and cherish the memory of the one you have lost in new ways.