Where can I get support?
There are a number of different organisations offering support for different types of bereavement. For example:
If you have lost someone to suicide, see our page on bereavement by suicide for more information and specific support options.
Losing my dad unexpectedly aged 20 completely turned my life upside down. I thought I wasn't going to get through the grief but with the right support and time, I got through it.
Losing a pet
For some people, losing a pet can feel like losing a close family member and can trigger grief and sorrow in the same way. Pets provide companionship, emotional support and unconditional love during the time they share with you and losing this can cause great sadness, especially if you are someone who has a strong bond with animals or for whom your pet is a key companion.
Some people don't have pets or see this type of loss as very different to losing a person. However, the significance of a loss is very personal and varies according to context and the meaning that the particular relationship had for us, and so it is important not to make assumptions about what is 'normal' when supporting someone who has lost a pet.
No matter what the type of loss, there are organisations and people offering support and advice. Please check the Blue Cross website for information on their pet bereavement support service.
For other ideas on organisations that can help, have a look at our useful contacts page, and the comprehensive list of bereavement support options available on Cruse's website.
How can I help myself?
Coping with the loss of a loved one is always difficult, especially when it is not expected. It can take time to understand your feelings and adjust after the loss has happened, but there are things you can do help yourself cope. For example, it can help to:
If I knew then what I know now, I would have prioritised looking after my own needs.
Understand the grief process
Grief can be painful and exhausting but most people find that in time things become easier. Understanding the grief process and the common stages of the grief cycle can be really helpful - so it can be a good idea to familiarise yourself with these and keep them in mind during the periods when difficult feelings come up.
It can be particularly helpful to:
- Take each day at a time. There might be good days and bad days. Try to focus on each day at a time and set yourself small, achievable goals.
- Develop coping strategies that work for you. Self-help resources, such as Moodjuice, can help you to work through difficult feelings and learn coping skills.
- Make a memory box. You might find it helpful to fill a box with items which prompt happy memories of the person who died, as these can to help lift your mood, when you feel down. The box can contain anything that is meaningful and helpful to you, for example: a favourite book, quotes, photos, letters, poems, notes to yourself, a cuddly toy, a perfume, or a smell that's important to you.
- Learn your triggers. It is normal for certain things to trigger difficult feelings or painful memories about the loss. By taking note of what causes your mood to change, you can gradually learn how best to cope with triggers when they happen. You can try tracking your feelings using an online mood diary (there are many freely available, such as MoodPanda).
I assumed that when I was feeling sad, it was not to do with my dad's death. But now that it has been several years, I can understand that what I was experiencing was a reaction to [his death].
Connect with others
- Let others know how you're feeling. Tell people what you find helpful and let them know when you are finding things difficult. It's okay to ask others to be with you if you need them.
- Seek support. If you're not already receiving support or don't feel the support you have is helpful, take a look at our useful contacts page for a list of organisations who might be able to help.
- Try peer support. It can be helpful to talk with others who are also currently coping with a loss or have experienced grief in the past. Contact your local Mind to find out what peer support is available locally. You can also access peer support via online communities, such as Elefriends.
In the early days, talking to whoever would listen helped me cope.
Talk to a therapist
Talking with a trained professional can help you become more aware of and address your thoughts and feelings following a loss. It can be useful to have a continuous focused source of support that goes beyond the level of support that friends or family may be able to provide.
Talking to a specialist grief counsellor may be appropriate and could help you with:
- understanding the grieving process
- identifying and expressing your feelings relating to the loss
- exploring ways of coping
- moving towards acceptance
- coping with birthdays and anniversaries of the loss.
For information on talking therapies see our pages on talking therapy and counselling. Cruse Bereavement Care also have a local bereavement services directory, with some regions providing grief counselling.
I thought that because I appeared to be coping better than my siblings, I was doing fine - but I needed to look closer at my own feelings.
Look after your wellbeing
Following a loss it is natural to feel like your whole life has been disrupted. This may mean that you experience disrupted sleep (sleeping too much or too little), eating unhealthily or for some people using substances like alcohol or drugs in an attempt to numb difficult feelings - all of which are likely to make your mental health poorer.
With this in mind, it can be helpful to try to:
- Get enough sleep. Learn how to relax before bed, making sure your bedroom is a calm place and as clear of distractions as possible. If you are having trouble sleeping, see our pages on coping with sleep problems.
- Eat well. Eating regular healthy meals can make a big difference to your overall sense of wellbeing. See our information on food and mood for tips.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. Alcohol and drugs tend to make it difficult in the longer term for you to manage your feelings and find ways to help you to cope. See our pages on the mental health effects of recreational drugs and alcohol for more information.
When I am absorbed in playing and creating it can distract me from the distress I still experience at times.