How to cope with bereavement and grief

Last reviewed on 8 September 2021

Losing a loved one is difficult at any time but, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it could be even more distressing. If you have lost a member of your family or someone else you know, we want to help you find the best support.

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.

We’ve put together a list of organisations that provide bereavement support at the end of this article but you might like to start by visiting the At a loss (directory of support services) and Cruse websites. If you know someone who has lost a loved one and would like to help them, you might find our guidance on how to support others useful. We have also created a advice to help young people cope with the death of a loved one.

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If your loved one was in hospital with coronavirus or for another reason, 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 COVID-19 restrictions. If you were not able to attend their funeral or other ceremony because you had symptoms of the virus or because of the attendance limits that were in place, 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. You could also speak to your GP, a trained counsellor or a peer support group. If you’d prefer to speak to someone you don’t know (either by phone or online), you can find details of helplines in the ‘Useful websites’ section below.

The time immediately after someone has died can be particularly distressing and the COVID-19 pandemic could make it harder to cope.

In the coming weeks and months, you could 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. Of course, everyone’s experience of grief is different and you will have your own personal journey.

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 (e.g. your GP) about getting professional support. You can find details of bereavement support services on your local council website and in the ‘Useful websites’ section below. If you’re struggling to cope and need urgent support, please contact your local NHS 24/7 mental health helpline – full details here.

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.

The ‘Useful websites’ section below includes organisations that provide practical advice about dealing with the death of a loved one.

Useful websites

Advice and support

Directories of bereavement services

Practical support

Advice and support about sudden bereavement

Advice and support for children

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