How to cope with bereavement and grief

Last reviewed on 5 October 2020

Losing a loved one is difficult at any time but, in the current circumstances, it could be even more distressing. If you have lost a member of your family or someone else you know to coronavirus, we want to help you find the best support.

The NHS bereavement helpline (0800 2600 400, 8am-8pm) provides advice, guidance and practical support for anyone whose loved one has died.

The bereavement care charity Cruse is also helping families affected by coronavirus. You can find a broad range of guidance, including easy read fact sheets, on the Cruse website and you can contact the charity’s free national helpline on 0808 808 1677 or email them at helpline@cruse.org.uk.

There is no right or wrong way to feel at the moment. Bereavement and grief affects people in different ways – you might experience shock, numbness, anxiety, sadness, anger, exhaustion and even guilt – but there are some things that might help you come to terms with your loss.

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Talk about your feelings

If your loved one had symptoms of coronavirus, you might not have been able to spend time with them at the end of their life or say goodbye in the way you would want to. You might feel shocked and angry about what has happened or even feel guilty that you couldn’t be with them due to social distancing and self-isolation. If you’re not able to attend their funeral because you have symptoms of the virus yourself or because of the attendance restrictions that are currently in place across the country, this could be very upsetting.

Many people find it helps to talk about their feelings with someone they trust – a friend, a relative, a faith leader or someone else. As you might not be able to do this in person at the moment, try to find a way of talking to them on the phone or online. You could also speak to your GP, a trained counsellor or a peer support group (over the phone or online at the moment). You can find details of helplines and other organisations in the ‘Useful websites’ section below.

Recognise that grief comes in stages

The time immediately after someone has died can be particularly distressing and the current social distancing and self-isolation rules could make it harder to cope.

In the coming weeks and months, you can expect to go through four stages of grief: accepting that your loss is real, experiencing the pain of grief, adjusting to life without the person you have lost and finally feeling that your grief is less intense and that you’re able to focus on other positive aspects of life again.

As you move through these stages, your grief might feel out of control but your feelings should become less intense over time. If you find that you’re struggling with your grief, please talk to someone about getting professional support.

Be kind to yourself

When someone dies, there is a lot to organise and this can be very stressful. You might be the person responsible for registering their death, arranging their funeral and considering how to manage any property. You might also have the difficult job of breaking the news to other people.

With so much to do, it can be easy to forget to look after yourself. Try to eat healthily even if you don’t feel hungry. Stick to your normal routine if you can and try to get enough sleep. Do some light exercise, even if you feel exhausted. If you’re worried about funeral costs or other bills, find out if you can get bereavement benefits.


How Good Thinking can help

Good Thinking provides NHS-approved resources to help you take care of yourself. One of the apps available on the Good Thinking service, called My Possible Self, includes a section on Managing Loss and Major Life Changes. It aims to support people who have had some time to process their loss and who feel ready to move into a new stage or role in their life.


Useful websites

Cruse (dealing with coronavirus-related bereavement)

Cruse (easy read fact sheets)

The Good Grief Trust (coronavirus bereavement advice)

NHS (coping with bereavement)

NHS England (information for families)

UK Government (what to do when someone dies)

UK Government (local bereavement services)

Age UK (coping with bereavement)

Age UK (arranging a funeral during the coronavirus outbreak)

Child Bereavement UK (child bereavement)

Grief Encounter (child bereavement)

Dying Matters (how to tell others about a death)

National Association of Funeral Directors (arranging a funeral)

Grief Chat (grief in isolation)

NHS (coronavirus bereavement helpline)

At a loss (bereavement support)

Widows Empowerment Trust

Sudden

Mental Health Foundation (Change, loss and bereavement)