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Bereavement is the experience of losing someone important to us. Most of us will experience the death or loss of someone we love. The loss of someone or something can be emotionally distressing and the grief we feel can be incredibly hard to process as we adjust to the loss.
 
On these pages we talk more about bereavement and share information that you may find helpful.
  
Common emotional and physical impacts of grief
There is no right or wrong way to feel. Your feelings may change from day to day or even hour to hour. You may have the feelings soon after the person has died or not for weeks or months afterwards. The thoughts and feelings you have may vary. Sometimes they may be very intense and stop you doing what you normally do. At other times they may be in the background and you can still do your day-to-day activities. Some people describe being overcome or frightened by their feelings at times.
 
How you feel and react may depend on different experiences or circumstances, such as the relationship you had with the person who died, and any previous experience of death you have had. Some circumstances can seem to intensify the normal responses to loss, making them all feel sharper.
 
People have their own way of expressing feelings. Some people find it helpful to share thoughts and feelings and some find it hard to put into words how they are feeling, but it doesn't mean that they are not as distressed. It is important that you find your own way to grieve and what works best for you.
 
It takes time so try not to put too much pressure on yourself to feel better straight away. Feelings will change over time and it's important to try to accept how you feel.  
 
Some of the emotions that are commonly felt
Shock and numbness
Many people describe feeling shocked and numb in the days and weeks after someone they know has died. People describe it as unreal and hard to believe that it has happened. This can go on for some time.
 
Anger
Anger is a very common feeling after someone dies. Some people describe being shocked at how angry they feel. Try not to worry about it as it is a normal feeling to have. Anger may be directed at different people. You may feel angry at the people around you for not understanding how you feel and it is common to feel angry at the person who has died. Some people say they feel guilty about feeling angry, especially if it is towards the person who has died. All these feelings are normal.
 
Guilt and shame
People feel guilty for different reasons after a death. It is very common to think about things you wish you had said or done differently. There may be things you wish you had been able to talk about or do with them while they were still alive.  Feeling guilty can be very painful and people describe that it can make them feel that they have failed. Talking this through with trusted others can be very helpful. People sometimes have a painful feeling of shame after a loss even if others try to reassure them that there is no need.
 
Fear and anxiety
Grief can feel frightening. Someone dying, especially if was an unexpected death, can shake our confidence in the world. Some people are frightened by how strong their feelings are.
 
Sadness
The sadness you feel after a death can be overwhelming. Some people describe it as a physical pain. It can stop you wanting to do things you might normally do, or even getting out of bed. Some people become very depressed and stop looking after themselves properly. If this happens, you should seek extra support.
 
Crying
Many people find that they cry easily after the death. Crying can be a response to all the emotions we describe here. People often say they suddenly start crying when they least expect it, even months or years later. You may start crying if you hear a song on the radio, or see something that has happy memories for you and the person who has died. Try not to worry about how often you cry. Some people find they cannot cry, and this may worry them. There is no need to worry if you don't cry. It does not mean you do not feel the loss. Crying cannot usually be forced. Just do what feels right for you.
 
How you might feel in your body
Many people have physical symptoms after someone dies. These can be scary.
 
Some people say the symptoms are so strong that they worry they are seriously ill, but physical reactions are quite common.
 
They can include:
  • feeling sick
  • difficulty sleeping
  • feeling very tired (exhaustion)
  • poor concentration
  • your heart beating fast (palpitations)
  • dizziness
  • poor appetite and weight loss
 
If you are worried about any of these symptoms, you should talk to your GP.
 
Additionally, you might notice that you are
  • Finding it hard to concentrate
  • Worrying about making mistakes
  • Finding it harder to manage the emotional impact of work
  • Worrying about being 'good enough'
  • Overworking or finding it difficult to go into work
  • Unsure about how to talk about the death
  •  Worrying about letting people down
 
These are all common and normal reactions – it can help to discuss them with someone you trust.
 
Things that might help
No one can take away the pain you might feel, but there are things that may help. There is no one type of support that will suit everyone. Just as people have many different emotions, they will find different types of support helpful.
 
Talking to trusted others
Some people find it helpful to talk to colleagues, family or friends about how they are feeling. You may talk regularly or just when you feel ready. Sometimes it may be difficult and painful. You may cry or feel upset. But at other times, you may find you can share stories about the person who has died and smile at happy memories. As time goes on, it often gets easier to talk about times you shared together. Try to remember that the way you are feeling is normal, and that sharing your feelings with others can really help.
 
Talking to a health professional
Sometimes it is easier to talk to someone who is not part of your team, family or friendship group. There is support available to you after someone dies. It is important to ask for help or talk to your GP if you feel you are not coping. They may refer you to a counsellor or therapist who can help.
 
You can also contact Cruse Bereavement Care which provides bereavement support to people across the UK – call 0808 808 1677
 
Religious and faith groups
If you have a religion or faith, you may find this comforting following the death of your relative or friend. Or you may find that the death makes you ask questions about your faith or beliefs. Some people find meaning in a faith or belief they have not previously had. Faith leaders are often available to listen and to offer support. They may be able to tell you about other sources of support in their faith communities.
 
Writing down your feelings
Some people find that it helps to write down how they feel. Keeping a diary or just writing your thoughts down for yourself and then shredding them can be a way that some people find helps them express feelings without having to talk about them.
 
Looking after yourself
Bereavement can impact us physically as well as emotionally. It's important that you continue to do what you can to look after yourself. Make sure you sleep and rest. You might struggle to sleep or find your sleep is disrupted. If you can't sleep, rest is still important as it helps you to recharge.
 
It's also important to eat and drink regularly. You may have lost your appetite but it's important to stay healthy and keep your energy levels up as best you can.
 
Starting to move on
You may continue to have days when you feel overcome by grief. But as time goes on, most people find they start to have times when their feelings are less intense and they can begin to look to the future and start to enjoy things again. Life will not be the same following the death of your relative or friend. But you can start to enjoy life in different ways.
 
As time passes, most people are able to remember the person who has died and talk about them without being overcome by their feelings. However, things might continue to be difficult at times, and you may sometimes feel very emotional again. This is not unusual, but it tends to happen less as time goes on.