Looking after yourself – following the death of a loved one
We would like to express our sympathy and hope that this guide will offer you support and reassurance so that you feel that you are not alone.
Any death can be devastating. This page describes some of the feelings that can arise from losing someone, and where you can go for help and support. Bereavement affects people in different ways. There’s no right or wrong way to feel. You might feel a lot of emotions at once, or feel you’re having a good day, and then you wake up and feel worse again. Some people say “It’s like waves on a beach. You can be standing in water up to your knees and feel you can cope, and then suddenly a big wave comes and knocks you down again”.
Experts generally accept there are four stages of bereavement:
- accepting that your loss is real
- experiencing the pain of grief
- adjusting to life without the person who has died
- putting less emotional energy into grieving and putting it into something new – in other words, moving on.
You’ll probably go through all these stages, but you won’t necessarily move smoothly from one to the next. Your grief might feel chaotic and out of control, but these feelings will eventually become less intense.
Feelings of grief
Grief is as unique as you are. Each person will be affected in his or her own way because everyone is different and had their own relationship with the person who has died.
Give yourself time – these feelings will pass. You might feel:
- shock and numbness – this is usually the first reaction to the death, and people often speak of being in a daze
- overwhelming sadness, with lots of crying
- tiredness or exhaustion
- anger – for example, towards the person who died, their illness, or God
- guilt – for example, guilt about feeling angry, about something you said or didn’t say, or about not being able to stop your loved one dying
- pre-occupied with some details of the person’s last moments or the way that they died, particularly if it was traumatic.
These feelings are all perfectly normal.
Coping with grief
Talking and sharing your feelings with someone can help. Don’t go through this alone. For some people, relying on family and friends is the best way to cope. If you don’t feel you can talk to them much – perhaps you aren’t close, or they’re grieving it’s important you seek help.
Don’t be afraid to talk about the person who has died. People in your life might not mention their name because they don’t want to upset you so it might be worth saying you don’t mind talking about them.
Cruse Bereavement Care Freephone National Helpline
Staffed by trained volunteers, who offer emotional support.
Helpline is open 9.30am–5pm Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays), with extended hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings until 8pm.
Tel: 0808 808 1677
Provides loss and bereavement support, can also offer you fast track support if you have lost someone in a traumatic way.
Tel: 01782 683155/ 683153
Staffordshire Mental Health Helpline
Tel: 0808 800 2234
Text: 07860 022821
Online chat: www.brighter-futures.org.uk
If you are in emotional distress. Offersa 24-hour confidential telephone helpline; also contactable via email or in writing.
Tel: 116 123
Text phone: 08457 90 91 92
NHS North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare mental health services
Adults of working age (aged 16-65):
Call the Access Team on 0300 123 0907 (option 1) 24 hours a day
Children and young people: call 0300 123 0907 (option 4) (9am–5pm Monday to Friday)
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS)
Self-help organisation whose aim is to provide a safe, confidential environment for bereaved people to share their experiences and feelings – enabling support to be gained and given.
National Helpline: 0300 111 5065 (open 9am–9pm)
Help is at hand
Click here for useful Department of Health information following an unexpected death/suicide. Copies are available to be posted– telephone 0800 3899676 extension 8471.
If there is an immediate risk
If you, or someone you know, are in immediate danger of serious harm, call 999 immediately.
Your GP can also provide help and support.