Understanding and coping with grief

Understanding and coping with grief

The grieving process – what to expect

Feeling shocked or experiencing a feeling of numbness following the death of a loved one is normal and a common response to loss. Approximately 4-6 weeks after the death the numbness starts to wear off. It may feel like things are getting worse now.

For a number of months after your loss you may experience “waves” of grief without warning. You will have good and bad days. Gradually time lengthens the space between the pain and feelings of despair lessen in intensity.

Anniversaries, birthdays and the date that the person died may be difficult. On these days you are reminded of your loss by the painful absence of the person who would have been with you.

Family and friends may make comments (in an attempt to be helpful) – “snap out of it or move on”. Go at your own pace, the process of grief is gradual and unique to each individual. It takes time to establish a relationship with someone we love, so our adjustment to their death also takes time. 
 You cannot become un-bereaved – the grief is always there but it changes.

Every person’s reaction to death is unique and personal; there is no right or wrong way to grieve. 
The pain of losing someone can be expressed in a number of ways. You may only experience a couple of them and your responses or reaction may change over time.

  • loss of appetite
  • sleeplessness
  • tightness in the chest
  • gastro-intestinal upsets
  • palpitations
  • fatigue and lethargy
  • loss of sexual drive
  • sadness and despair
  • abandonment
  • hopelessness
  • anger
  • loneliness
  • guilt
  • relief
  • difficulty in concentrating
  • confusion
  • forgetfulness
  • having a sense that no one understands what you are going through
  • preoccupation with the deceased
  • You may struggle with trying to find meaning in your life or start to reassess how you see your life.
  • You may question your values and beliefs.
  • Your spiritual beliefs may be a support to you at this time, or you may feel distanced or let down by or from them.


Given how you are feeling, wherever possible delay major decisions such as changing house, job or relationships for some time following your loss.



It is important to realise that children grieve differently to adults, their understanding of death will depend in their developmental age.

Children lack an adult’s skill in verbal expression of their grief. They may show their grief through changes in their behaviour or appear not to be affected by the loss.

  • They need to know they are safe and will be taken care of 
by keeping to their routine as much as possible. They need the opportunity for honest, open discussions to talk about the person who has died.
  • They should be given the choice to be involved in the mourning rituals.
  • Children need to be sad and happy in their own time, they ‘come and go’ from their grief.