bereavement

Get support after bereavement or loss

Most people experience grief when they lose something or someone important to them. Bereavement, grief and loss can cause many different symptoms and affect people in different ways. There are support services that can help you to cope.

The grieving process

What is the grieving process?

Bereavement is a normal reaction to loss in human beings in virtually every culture across the world. There are no set rules for how long “normal” bereavement lasts, as each person and each loss is very different. Therefore, bereavement tends not to be diagnosed unless it has gone on for a very significant period of time and significantly impacts the person’s life. Getting over or past the loss of a loved one can be challenging for nearly everyone.

Stages of bereavement

  • Denial and isolation
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.

The first reaction to learning about the terminal illness, loss, or death of a cherished loved one is to deny the reality of the situation. “This isn’t happening, this can’t be happening,” people often think. It is a normal reaction to rationalize our overwhelming emotions.

Denial is a very common self defence mechanism that buffers the immediate shock of the loss, numbing us to our emotions. We block out the words and hide from the facts. We start to believe that life is meaningless, and nothing is of any value any longer. For most people experiencing grief, this stage is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.



As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge. We are not ready. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, redirected and expressed instead as anger. The anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family.

It may even be directed at our dying or deceased loved one. Rationally, we know the person is not to be blamed. Emotionally, however, we may resent the person for causing us pain or for leaving us. We feel guilty for being angry, and this makes us more angry.

The doctor who diagnosed the illness and was unable to cure the disease might become a convenient target. Health professionals deal with death and dying every day. That does not make them immune to the suffering of their patients or to those who grieve for them.



The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to take back control through a series of “If only” statements, such as:

If only we had taken them to see the GP sooner…

If only we got a second opinion from another doctor…

If only we had tried to be a better person toward them…

This is an attempt to bargain. Secretly, we may make a deal with God or our higher power in an attempt to postpone the inevitable, and the accompanying pain. This is a weaker line of defense to protect us from the painful reality.

Guilt often accompanies bargaining. We start to believe there was something we could have done differently to have helped save our loved one.



There are two types of depression associated with mourning. The first one is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate this type of depression. We worry about the costs and burial. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with others that depend on us. This phase may be eased by simple reassurance and a few kind words from loved ones around you.

The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to say our farewells to someone we have lost. Sometimes all we really need is a hug.



Reaching this stage of grieving is a gift not afforded to everyone. Death may be sudden and unexpected or we may never see beyond our anger or denial. It is not necessarily a mark of bravery to resist the inevitable and to deny ourselves the opportunity to make our peace. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression.

Coping with loss is ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through the process. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing.

This final stage in which the sadness is less intense and we come to accept that life must go on. Energy returns and we begin to look to the future.



What can I do to help myself?

Tips to help you through the grieving process

The death of someone close to us is one of the most stressful things we will experience in life. Bereavement brings a high risk of mental and physical health problems for a long time afterward.

Grieving is a completely natural process, but it can be profoundly painful and distressing.

Occasionally we are aware in advance that someone is reaching the end of his or her life, and in this case the experience of grieving partly begins before their death occurs.

Family, friends, neighbours, colleagues and strangers in a self-help group who have “been there” can give you support. Let the people close to you know what you’re going through and warn them that you may soon need more support than usual, or for them to not be offended if you don’t contact them for a while.

Knowing when to ask for help is important, but so is being allowed to be alone with your thoughts. One of the keys to coping is to consider bereavement as a normal natural part of life which can be a topic of conversation without fear or discomfort.



Try to eat well and get plenty of rest. It is very easy to overlook your physical needs when you are busy dealing with everything that has to be done surrounding a death or when you are struggling with grief.

You may have difficulty getting the right amount of sleep or even getting to sleep and your sleep may be disturbed by vivid dreams and long periods of wakefulness. You may also lose your appetite, feel tense and short of breath, or drained and tired. Try not to do too much.

If possible, speak to your employer about having time off work or if you can delegate some of your workload to a colleague. Gather information on the financial and legal aspects of bereavement in advance, so you feel less overwhelmed.



Prepare your child/children by explaining the situation and how they are likely to feel at the time of the death and afterward. Make sure they are aware of any practical arrangements that are going to change. Make sure you tell their school teachers. Be there for them and listen to how they feel and to give them plenty of hugs.



Emotionally, you will be getting used to the idea of the loss, but this may happen gradually and may come and go. It is often not as simple as it sounds, especially if you have known the person for a long time. You may switch between talking rationally about the situation, then have a sudden surge of hope that the person will recover.

Talking about the future loss may help you get used to the reality of the death and work through some of the pain. Remember it isn’t morbid to talk about death, and it’s sensible to be prepared for it as much as  possible. At times, you may be the person who can support others also affected by the loss such as your partner and children. As you do this you will probably, slowly, find a way of imagining life after the loss, with the person in your thoughts and memories.

Depression is a natural part of grief, and usually lifts of its own accord. But if it doesn’t, you may begin to worry that you are becoming clinically depressed. This can be treated and there are different ways of getting through it, which you could discuss with your GP.



If you are mourning for a recent loss make sure to make time for feeling the emotions, whether they are anger, sadness, or pain. There is no need to judge these emotions as good or bad and know that it is Ok to feel these – remember, they will not last forever as all things come and go. You may even create a little ritual where you spend time with a photograph or object connected to the person who has passed.

Friends sometimes get uncomfortable around grief and if they try and make you feel better in the moment, thank them for this, and let them know it is normal and natural to feel how you feel right now.

Make sure to also take care of yourself during this time, go out on a walk, make sure to eat healthy.

Try and open your eyes to the nice things that are around you. It could be a smile on a child’s face or even your own. Smell a wonderful flower from a friend or maybe taste your own favourite food. Even in the midst of grief, we can be open to the wonders of life.

Know your limits and allow yourself to take a break from feeling when it’s becoming overwhelming, but make sure to let your grief know that you will come back. Make a time to revisit it otherwise it will occupy you all day.

Doing something different to help others can be a great way to move through grief. Maybe you would like to volunteer at a homeless shelter or make some things for those you care about.

Support has been known to be very helpful – you might find that joining a grief or support group either online or in person can be a great support for you.

More than anything treat yourself with love and kindness during this time. The grief will seem more acute during some times and more subtle during others.



I am concerned about someones who’s grieving

Is someone you know grieving a loss? Learn what to say and how to comfort someone through bereavement, grief, and loss.

When someone you care about is grieving after a loss, it can be difficult to know what to say or do. The bereaved struggle with many intense and painful emotions, including depression, anger, guilt, and profound sadness. Often, they also feel isolated and alone in their grief, since the intense pain and difficult emotions can make people uncomfortable about offering support.

You may be afraid that you are intruding, saying the wrong thing, or making the person you care about feel even worse at such a difficult time. Or maybe you think there’s little you can do to make things better. That’s understandable and totally normal. But don’t let discomfort prevent you from reaching out to someone who is grieving. Now, more than ever, they need your support. You don’t need to have answers, give advice or say and do all the right things. The most important thing you can do for a grieving person is to simply be there. It’s your support and caring presence that will help your loved one cope with the pain and gradually begin to heal.

Key things you can do to support them:

  • Don’t let fears about saying or doing the wrong thing stop you from reaching out
  • Let your grieving loved one know that you’re there to listen
  • Understand that everyone grieves differently and for different lengths of time
  • Offer to help in practical ways
  • Maintain your support after the funeral



There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief does not always unfold in orderly, predictable stages. It can be an emotional rollercoaster, with unpredictable highs, lows, and setbacks. Everyone grieves differently, so avoid telling the person you care about what they “should” be feeling or doing.

Grief may involve extreme emotions and behaviors. Feelings of guilt, anger, despair, and fear are common. A grieving person may yell to the heavens, obsess about the death, lash out at loved ones, or cry for hours on end. Your loved one needs reassurance that what they feel is normal. Don’t judge them or take their grief reactions personally.

There is no set timetable for grieving. For many people, recovery after bereavement takes 18 to 24 months, but for others, the grieving process may be longer or shorter. Don’t pressure your loved one to move on or make them feel like they’ve been grieving too long. This can actually slow the healing process.



While many of us worry about what to say to someone who is grieving, it’s actually more important to listen. Sometimes, people who mean well, avoid talking about the death or change the subject when the deceased person is mentioned. Or, knowing there’s nothing they can say to make it better, they try to avoid the grieving person altogether.

But the bereaved need to feel that their loss is acknowledged, it’s not terrible to talk about it, and their loved one won’t be forgotten. One day they may want to cry on your shoulder, on another day they may want to vent, sit in silence, or share memories. Just by being there and listening to them can be a huge source of comfort and healing.

How to talk—and listen—to someone who’s grieving

While you should never try to force someone to open up, it’s important to let the person you care for know that you’re there to listen if they want to talk. Talk openly about the person who died and don’t steer away from the subject if the deceased’s name comes up. When it seems appropriate, ask sensitive questions—without coming across as being nosy—that invite the grieving person to openly express their feelings. By simply asking, “Do you feel like talking?” you’re letting them know that you’re there to listen.

Acknowledge the situation. For example, you could say something as simple as: “I heard that your father died.” By using the word “died” you’ll show that you’re more open to talk about how the grieving person really feels.

Express your concern. For example: “I’m sorry to hear that this happened to you.”

Let them talk about how their loved one died. People who are grieving may need to tell the story over and over again, sometimes in real detail. Be patient. Repeating the story is a way of processing and accepting the death. With each retelling, the pain lessens. By listening patiently, you’re helping them to heal.

Ask how they feel. The emotions of grief can change rapidly so don’t assume you know how they are feeling. If you’ve gone through a similar loss, share your own experience if you think it might help. Remember, though, that grief is an intensely individual experience. No two people experience it exactly the same way, so don’t claim to “know” what the person is feeling or compare your grief to theirs. Again, put the emphasis on listening and ask them to share how they are feeling.

Accept their feelings. Let them know that it’s okay to cry in front of you, to get angry, or to break down. Don’t try to reason with them over how they should or shouldn’t feel. Grief is a highly emotional experience, so they need to feel free to share their feelings—no matter how irrational—without fear of judgment, argument, or criticism.

Be genuine. Don’t try to minimize their loss, provide simplistic solutions, or offer unsolicited advice. It’s far better to just listen to your loved one or simply admit: “I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care.”

Be willing to sit in silence. Don’t press if they don’t feel like talking. Often, comfort for them comes from simply being with you. If you can’t think of something to say, just offer eye contact, a squeeze of the hand, or a reassuring hug.

Offer your support. Ask what you can do for them. Offer to help with a specific task, such as helping with funeral arrangements, or just be there to have a cuppa or as a shoulder to cry on.

Things to avoid saying to someone who’s grieving

“It’s part of God’s plan.” This phrase can make people angry and they often respond with, “What plan? Nobody told me about any plan.”

“Look at what you have to be thankful for.” They know they have things to be thankful for, but right now they are not important.

“They’re in a better place now.” They may or may not believe this. Keep your beliefs to yourself unless asked.

“This is behind you now; it’s time to get on with your life.” Sometimes people are resistant to getting on with life because they feel this means “forgetting” their loved one. Moving on is much easier said than done. Grief has a mind of its own and works at its own pace.

Statements that begin with “You should” or “You will.” These statements are too directive. Instead you could begin your comments with: “Have you thought about…” or “You might try…”



It is difficult for many grieving people to ask for help. They might feel guilty about receiving so much attention, fear being a burden to others, or simply be too depressed to reach out. They may not have the energy or motivation to call you when they need something, so instead of saying, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” make it easier for them by making specific suggestions. You could say, “I’m going to the supermarket this afternoon. What can I bring you from there?” or “I’ve made beef stew for dinner. What time can I come over and bring you some?”

If you’re able, try to be consistent in your offers of assistance. They will know that you’ll be there for as long as it takes and can look forward to your attentiveness without having to make the additional effort of asking again and again.

There are many practical ways you can help a grieving person. You can offer to:

  • Shop for groceries or run errands
  • Drop off a meal
  • Help with funeral arrangements
  • Help with bills
  • Take care of housework, such as cleaning or laundry
  • Watch their children or pick them up from school
  • Drive them wherever they need to go
  • Go with them to a support group meeting
  • Go for a walk together
  • Take them out somewhere
  • Share an enjoyable activity (sport, game, puzzle, art project)



Know that they will continue grieving long after the funeral is over and the cards and flowers have stopped. The length of the grieving process varies from person to person, but often lasts much longer than most people expect. They may need your support for months or even years.

Continue your support. Stay in touch with them, check in with them regularly, or send emails, texts, letters or cards. Once the initial shock of the loss has worn off, your support is more valuable than ever.

Don’t make assumptions based on how they may look. They may look fine on the outside, while inside they’re suffering. Avoid saying things like “You are so strong” or “You look so well.” This puts pressure on the person to keep up appearances and to hide their true feelings.

The pain of bereavement may never fully heal. Be sensitive, life may never feel the same for them. You don’t “get over” the death of a loved one. They may learn to accept the loss. The pain may lessen in intensity over time, but the sadness may never completely go away.

Offer extra support on special days. Certain times and days of the year will be particularly hard. Holidays, family milestones, birthdays, and anniversaries often reawaken grief. Be sensitive on these occasions. Let them know that you’re there for whatever they need.



It’s common for a grieving person to feel depressed, confused, disconnected from others, or like they’re going crazy. But if their symptoms don’t gradually start to fade—or they get worse with time—this may be a sign that normal grief has evolved into a more serious problem, such as clinical depression.

Encourage them to seek professional help if you observe any of the following warning signs after the initial grieving period—especially if it’s been over two months since the death.

  • Difficulty functioning in daily life
  • Extreme focus on the death
  • Excessive bitterness, anger, or guilt
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Inability to enjoy life
  • Hallucinations
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Constant feelings of hopelessness
  • Talking about dying or suicide

It can be tricky to share your concerns as you don’t want to be perceived as invasive. Instead of telling the person what to do, try stating your own feelings: “I am worried that you aren’t sleeping—perhaps you should look into getting some help.



Local support services in Rotherham

0330 088 9255
amparo.service@listening-ear.co.uk

Amparo provides support for anyone affected by suicide. Support can be provided one-to-one, to family groups, groups of colleagues or peers – whatever is preferred by you and is most appropriate to your situation. The service can be delivered in your home or wherever you are most comfortable. Access to services is by referral.

0114 253 2445
(Leave a message and someone will always call back)
hope@syfire.gov.uk

HOPE is a peer support group set up to bring together people who have suffered a sudden traumatic bereavement through a fire, road traffic collision or drowning. They hold group meetings at the Fire and Rescue Service Training Centre Sheffield.

Listening Ear – South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw

FREE Bereavement helpline service for anyone who has lost a loved one and who needs practical support, emotional health and wellbeing support, advice or guidance.

Please call 0800 048 5224 Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm or visit the website for meaningful support, advice or guidance. Service offers 30-minute appointments between 10am and 5pm weekdays

The service provides:

  • One to one telephone support from an qualified Worker
  • Information, emotional and practical support
  • Practical support dealing with healthcare agencies
  • Local information with regards to the current funeral process
  • Help overcoming any feelings of isolation
  • Referrals and signposting to other services as required.

Tel: 0800 048 5224

Email: helpline@listening-ear.co.uk

National support organisations

0808 808 1677
helpline@cruse.org.uk

The freephone national helpline is staffed by trained bereavement volunteers, who offer emotional support to anyone affected by bereavement. Cruse Bereavement Care is here to support you after the death of someone close. They offer a range of free confidential support for adults and children.

0808 8000 401
helpline@brake.org.uk

Brake’s National Road Victim Service is a specialist service for people affected by road death and serious injury and the professionals supporting them. The nationally accredited helpline provides emotional and practical support to people affected by road crashes.

0800 02 888 40
support@childbereavementuk.org

Child Bereavement UK supports families and educates professionals both when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, and when a child is facing bereavement. The helpline provides confidential support, information and guidance to individuals, families and professionals throughout the UK. The support team is available to respond to calls, live chats and emails 9am–5pm, Monday to Friday, except for Bank Holidays.

0345 123 2304
helpline@tcf.org.ukk

TCF offers many different kinds of support for bereaved families after the death of a child of any age and from any cause.

0808 802 0111
contact@griefencounter.org.uk

Grief Encounter supports bereaved children and their families to help alleviate the pain caused by the death of someone close. At Grief Encounter, alongside personal support, you will have access to resources that can help you communicate how and what you are feeling, and coping with your loss.

0808 802 6868
support@lullabytrust.org.uk

Confidential bereavement support to anyone affected by the sudden and unexpected death of a baby or young child. The bereavement support helpline offers the opportunity to talk freely, for as long as required, with a sympathetic and understanding listener. Calls are free from all landlines and most mobile phone networks. The helpline is open 10am-5pm from Monday to Friday and 6pm-10pm on weekends and public holidays.

0808 164 3332
helpline@sands.org.uk

Run by and for parents whose baby has died, either at birth or shortly afterwards. The helpline is for anyone who has been affected by the death of a baby and wants to talk to someone about their experience. The team are there to listen and give support, and can advise you about finding local help, whether from a Sands group or other counselling services, or information about other relevant support organisations.

08088 020 021
ask@winstonswish.org

Winston’s Wish supports children and young people after the death of a parent or sibling. The freephone national helpline offers therapeutic advice following a bereavement and the online chat is designed to help you talk about your grief and manage your grief when you do feel like you need help.

Support apps

Apart of Me is an app designed to help young people cope with grief.

       

Grief: Support for Young People has been developed for 11–25 year olds who have been bereaved of someone important to them. It can also be used by friends, teachers, parents, and professionals who would like to know how to support bereaved young people.

       

With Rotherham Health app you can assess your symptoms, book and manage your appointments, view your medical record and test results, manage your medication and much more, 24/7.

       

HealthUnlocked is the world’s largest social network for health. Find and connect with people with a similar health condition. The service has over 700 online communities focused on health and wellbeing topics.

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