Throughout our lives, we experience many instances of grief. Grief can be caused by the loss of a loved one, but also in the breakdown of a relationship. The process of grieving is personal and may differ depending on an individual’s personality, support system, natural coping mechanisms, and many other things that will determine how the loss will affect you. However, when it comes to grieving it is important to remember that there are no fixed rules or timetables and for some individuals, it may take a few weeks or months, and for others it may take years. Therefore, it is important that you treat yourself with patience and compassion and allow the process to unfold.

Animated candle flame

Grief is often understood and described in stages, but it is important to bear in mind that each stage may last for a different period of time for some individuals and some may not experience all of the stages of grief as described below. Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge that your feelings are normal and that at some point, it will get better.

The five general stages of grief, as described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross are:

  • Denial - Feeling numb is common in the early days after a bereavement. Even if we know with our heads that someone has died it can be hard to believe in our hearts that someone important is not coming back.
  • Anger - Anger is a completely natural emotion, and very natural after someone dies. It’s also common to feel angry towards the person who has died, or angry at ourselves for things we did or didn’t do or say to the person before their death.
  • Bargaining - When we are in pain, it’s sometimes hard to accept that there’s nothing we can do to change things. It’s also common to find ourselves going over and over things that happened in the past and asking a lot of ‘what if’ questions, wishing we could go back and act differently in the hope things could have turned out differently.
  • Depression - Sadness and longing are perhaps what we think of most often when we think of grief. This pain can be very intense and come in waves over many months or years.
  • Acceptance - Grief comes in waves and it can feel like nothing will ever be right again. We may never ‘get over' the death of someone precious, but we can learn to live again while keeping the memories of those we have lost close to us.

Learn more about the stages of grief.

Grief experiences

Below are some grief experiences, from Cruse Bereavement Care. Click on 'learn more' for more information in each section.

  • Losing a parent:
    Although we often expect our parents to die before us, we are often are surprised by the complexity and depth of our grief when our mum or dad dies. Learn more
  • Death of a partner or spouse:
    The loss of a spouse or partner can be an incredibly difficult and intensely painful experience. Learn more
  • Losing a sibling:
    Losing a sibling can be a particularly painful experience. Find out ways to support yourself and others after the loss of a brother or sister. Learn more
  • Losing a friend:
    The death of a friend can affect you very deeply, whether you were very close, or whether they were part of your wider circle of friends. Learn more
  • Death of a grandparent:
    Losing a grandparent is often considered a natural part of life, but for many it can be deeply painful. Learn more

Things you can try to help with bereavement, grief and loss:

  • Try talking about your feelings to a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor – you could also contact a support organisation found on this page
  • Try the 6 ways to feel happier, which are simple lifestyle changes to help you feel more in control and able to cope
  • Find out about how to get to sleep if you are struggling to sleep
  • Listen to free mental wellbeing audio guides
  • Search and download relaxation and mindfulness apps or online community apps

Death and grief during the Covid-19 pandemic

One of the particular challenges of loss during the pandemic is that increasing numbers of people and households are being told to self-isolate or socially distance from friends and family.

Grief at any time is difficult and painful, and while Covid-19 may present additional challenges to the process, you will also experience all of the normal pain of loss and separation.

Changes have been made to several services, including end of life and palliative care as well as funeral arrangements, due to Covid-19. This may make grief and loss particulalrly difficult and you may feel that you need some extra help and support during this time.

Read our advice on supporting yourself and others: coping with death and grief.

What is grief?

Grief is something we experience when someone close to us dies. There is no right or 'normal' way to feel, as everyone experiences grief differently.

As it is natural to have a strong reaction to someone dying, you may feel:

  • Shocked about what has happened
  • Pain and distress
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Depression
  • Longing
  • Worried about other people's reactions

Here is a support guide created by the Milton Keynes and Bedfordshire councils for professionals.

Updated on: 13/04/2022