As well as the practical issues, the death of someone close brings a whole range of feelings and emotions. While each person's grief is different, in this section we offer some general thoughts about how to manage those feelings and to begin to come to terms with what has happened.

Dealing with your feelings

As you try to cope with the emotional upheaval of a death, the following thoughts may be helpful.

Take your time

You may feel numb, or find it difficult to believe what's happened. You may feel relief that the person is no longer suffering or you might find yourself feeling sad, angry or guilty. You may also feel panicky about what needs to be done, or about what lies ahead. It’s important, especially in the first few days, that you allow yourself:

  • time to take in what has happened
  • time to talk about the person who has died
  • time to feel the pain and the loneliness
  • time for yourself

Do it your way

We're all different, and we react to death in different ways. There's no right or wrong way to grieve. Just try to do what feels right for you.

Take care of yourself

It's important to look after yourself. For example, you should try to eat well, and avoid drinking too much alcohol. It’s also important to know that it’s normal to feel afraid, have nightmares or struggle to see the point of life. However, if you are worried about your feelings, you can speak to your doctor.


  • grief is normal, it's part of what it is to be human and to have feelings
  • grief is a journey, it is often hard, but it will get easier
  • grief has no shortcuts, it takes time, often much longer than you and many people around you expect
  • it's normal both to grieve and live, remember it's alright to find yourself not thinking about the person who has died
  • grief can be scary, can lead to depressing thoughts and even thoughts of suicide, while it's normal to think this way it's good to talk to someone about these feelings

Finally, it's important not to expect too much of yourself, and to know when to ask for help. The death of someone close is a major event in anybody’s life and there are no quick ways of adjusting.

It can be helpful to find someone you trust that you can to talk to, for example a friend, your doctor, or a religious leader. If after a while you feel you're still not coping, you may want to speak with your doctor.

Children and young people

It's important to remember that children experience grief as well as adults. The UK organisation Child Bereavement UK reports that every year in the UK over 20,000 children and young people under the age of 18 experience the death of a parent and that around 6% of schoolchildren are grieving the death of a close friend.

Understanding death

Clearly children are individuals and some will understand death better than others. In general terms, children under 3 do not really understand death, although they will react to the absence of a known person, and they will respond to the emotions and feelings of those around them.

By the age of 4, children will have experience of separation, for example being with a child minder or at nursery. Their experience is that separation is temporary and death is therefore seen as someone “going away” with the expectation that they will come back.

By around the age of 7 the permanence of death is beginning to be understood, and the child will ask questions which explore this concept. Children at this age will also explore their feelings of sadness, and will also begin to recognise that death can happen to other people as well as the person they grieve.

Coping with feelings

If you're supporting children after a death, it's important to remember that children grieve too. They often express their grief through their behaviour. They may become quieter, or more easily tearful or angry in everyday situations. They may have physical symptoms, for example a sore tummy.

When someone dies, children usually realise something is wrong. They need help to understand what has happened and to express their feelings. Here are some thoughts that you may find helpful.

It’s important to be honest with children, you should tell them the person has died, and explain what this means using words they understand. Help children understand that death is natural: all living things die, accidents happen, and illness and old age are all part of the life cycle of people and animals.

Children may feel hurt or angry that the person has gone, or may feel it happened because of something they said or did. It's important to allow children to express these feelings, and to reassure them that they are not to blame.

Children will move in and out of their grief – sad and tearful one moment, and maybe playing the next. It is important to recognise this is normal and to try and support them.


Older people

As people get older, bereavements occur more frequently. Older people commonly endure loss of a husband, wife or partner, other relatives, friends, former colleagues and associates. Widowhood is usual and because women generally live longer there are more widowed women than men.

Loss through bereavement is a major stress on older people, and along with other losses experienced in old age, can reduce people’s ability to cope and be independent.

How does bereavement affect older people?

Older people’s responses vary greatly and coping with loss is not necessarily a by-product of being older. Other losses in an older person’s life will affect how they grieve the loss of someone close:

  • existing health conditions
  • communication and cognitive difficulties
  • reduced social support
  • changed living arrangements i.e. moving to sheltered housing
  • financial difficulties

However, people will also experience ageing in ways that will help them to cope and adapt to losses:

  • reciprocal support of and for family and friends
  • better health for longer
  • financial stability
  • ability to work or contribute to society in a range of ways

Bereavement and dementia

When a person who's suffering from dementia experiences the death of a family member or a carer, it can be difficult for those around them to know how best to support them in their grief.

Helping the person with dementia to accept the reality of the death and to understand their own feelings and the emotions of those around them can be challenging.