Grief is a natural reaction to loss, and can be experienced in a variety of ways.  Specifically, the intensity and duration of grief related experiences can differ significantly between individuals, impacting upon emotions, thoughts and behaviours for a number of weeks, or even months.  Similarly, individuals also cope with loss in a variety of ways.  Whilst some might find it helpful to talk openly about their feelings, others might prefer more time alone.  As time passes, most individuals learn to adapt and cope with their feelings of grief.  However, for some individuals, this process can be more difficult and they might seek the support of a Clinical Psychologist for additional help.

Typical responses to grief can include the following:

  • Emotional response: sadness, anger, guilt, remorse, anxiety, loneliness, helplessness, shock and disbelief
  • Cognitive responses: confusion, difficulty concentrating, feeling preoccupied with the loss, searching for answers as to why this happened, losing interest in enjoyable activities, vivid dreams
  • Physical and behavioural responses: muscle tension and tiredness, changes in energy levels, changes in patterns of sleep, social withdrawal, restlessness, avoiding reminders/triggers

Experiencing grief is a difficult and challenging process for many.  However whilst most people learn to manage their grief in their own time, prolonged or complicated grief reactions may benefit from specific psychological support and interventions.  This might include maintaining self-care activities and routines, linking in with social supports, participating in activities designed to improve mood, and learning to identify and modify unhelpful patterns of thinking.  Clinical Psychologists are highly trained mental health professional who are skilled in providing assessment and appropriate support for a range of mental health concerns, including grief.

Tips to help with grief and loss

Helpful yourself

  • remember to ask for help if you need it
  • try to talk openly and honestly with those you feel close to
  • allow yourself time to grieve and feel sad
  • joining a bereavement group may provide additional support
  • take care of your physical health – regular exercise, eat well and limit your use of substances
  • participate in enjoyable activities
  • practice relaxation or mindfulness

Helping someone else

  • provide practical support – such as cooking, housework, helping to make arrangements
  • provide emotional support by providing comfort and reassurance, and being open to talking about the person’s loss whilst listening with compassion
  • encourage the person to access other forms of support as needed – such as financial or medical support
  • try not focus only on the person’s loss, but also talk about everyday life and current events
  • if possible, check in with the person over time – weeks, and even months after the loss to show that you still care and are available
  • suggest that they speak with a professional if you feel that their grief does not seem to be lessening over time, or if they are struggling to return to a normal level of functioning

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