Bereavement - Common reactions

Please be mindful that this the information below includes information that you may find difficult or distressing to think about. Looking after yourself and your emotional wellbeing is vital. Please see the ‘looking after yourself’ section below for tips and support. This information was co-produced with LPFT's Carers Council.


Grief is the emotional process we go through when mourning the passing of someone we love. It’s a very personal process and it is different for everyone. It might be that you find yourself wanting to be alone and spending more time in your own company than usual. Alternatively, you might feel you need to lean in to the support of friends, family and those around you. Either is fine, there is no “right way” to grieve and it is likely that the way you grieve might change over time. It also often depends on a number of factors, such as what else is going on in your life, how resilient you are feeling and how well those people around you are coping or supporting you.

It may be that you hear of the grief happening in stages. This just refers to the different steps and feelings that people experience when working through what has happened. It is not linear and sometimes you will experience a number of feelings or stages in a short space of time, or return to feelings you thought had passed. What is often described as the “final stage” is acceptance of what has happened. This doesn’t mean that you are no longer affected by what’s happened, but that you are able to lead a full and hopeful life once again.

7 stages of grief

  • Shock and denial - this is a state of disbelief and numbed feelings and can occur even when deaths are expected. It might be that you talk or think about the person as though they are still here. People often describe feeling that the person will walk into the room at any minute.
  • Pain and guilt - the struggle with unbearable feelings and worrying that you are a burden to others because of the impact of your grief on those around you. You might find yourself thinking a lot about how unfair it is that this has happened to you. Sometimes people go over and over “what if” in their mind, as though they could have prevented the death by acting differently. You might feel guilty for not behaving differently, or telling the person you loved them more frequently for example.
  • Anger and bargaining - it is really common for people to feel very tense, defensive and wound up, especially if you worry about or experience people saying the ‘wrong thing’ when they are trying to help. You may find yourself lashing out at others or shutting down. Some people find that they spend lots of time thinking that they would give up ‘anything’ if someone (often a ‘god’ or other religious figure) would take away the pain.
  • Depression - this may be a period of isolation and loneliness, during which you start to process and reflect on the loss. It can feel really hard or impossible even to keep up with normal day to day tasks such as getting dressed and showered. You might just find you are too overwhelmed and exhausted. Some people even find that they struggle with cognition. This might be that you keep forgetting things or you struggle with speech/muddling up words. These experiences can all be really frustrating and draining.
  • The upward turn - at this point, the stages of grief like anger and pain have died down, and you might start to notice that you are feeling a little calmer or more in control.
  • Reconstruction and working through - this is about starting to put your life back together, reconnecting and returning to previous activities, maybe for the first time since the death.
  • Acceptance and hope - this is a very gradual acceptance of the new way of life and a feeling of possibility for the future.

Difficult times

It can be particularly hard to bear at night, when tired, or if alone and the people around you are sleeping and there is no one to speak to.

Equally, it is common to dream that someone is still alive and so you might find that you have periods when you wake up in the morning that the reality hits you and this can be very distressing and overwhelming.

Grief can also feel particularly intense at times such as anniversaries or birthdays. It may feel hardest when least expected, for example if someone says something that sparks a memory of the person who died.

Interacting with others

It can be really tricky interacting with other people, talking about how you are feeling or answering other’s questions. Often people will say hurtful or upsetting things, even when they are trying to help. They might appear dismissive of your current emotions when trying to remain positive, by saying “it’ll be ok” or “you’ll get over it”.

You might also find that people don’t know what to say or think it will help you to hear about how someone else coped and start talking to you about their own experience of grief and bereavement. This can be particularly difficult if they reacted or felt very differently to you, or you perceive that their experience was ‘less distressing’ in some way and it’s not helpful to have to listen to other people’s stories. It’s ok to say you don’t feel up to talking at the moment or fi nd a polite excuse to leave the conversation if it is upsetting you.

It might be that the opposite happens and you notice that people you know appear to be avoiding you. This is often because people don’t know what to say or do to avoid making things worse. They don’t know how to help and so they stop contacting you, which can feel very hurtful and as if you are being rejected or they don’t seem to care how you are affected by the loss. It can sometimes feel like people are fading away and it can be helpful to share information with them about grief and bereavement or initiate contact yourself at times you feel able to do so in order to maintain some relationship with them.

What might help?

  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Only do one thing at once, don’t overwhelm yourself.
  • Give yourself more time than normal to do things.
  • People will usually be glad to help. Let them if they offer and you feel able or ask if there are specific things you need.
  • Keep a list of what needs doing, including what could be done by someone else. For example, going to the shops. If you need assistance finding help with everyday tasks, talk to friends or extended family.
  • Let your emotions out! Crying can help and it can be better to express feelings than to hold back the tears.
  • Some people have a regular get together to honour someone’s life, for example on their birthday.
  • Memorialising can help people grieve together. Some people plant a tree or erect a plaque. Some people fundraise for a charity in memory of a person who has died.

Looking after yourself

It’s important to look after yourself. If you are not well, either physically or emotionally, then it makes it very difficult for you to care for someone else. If you are struggling it is important to seek help.

Below are a few tips that you may find useful to support your own wellbeing.

  • Take time for yourself and do something that you like, even if it is for 30 minutes or an hour a day (e.g. read a book or have a relaxing bath).
  • Find someone to talk to. Having a friend or peer to offload to can be really beneficial to your own mental health. You could also join LPFT’s carers WhatsApp group, which consists of LPFT carers who support each other and will understand what you are going through. Email to join.
  • Join LPFT’s carers education and support group and learn about your relative’s condition, how services are run, and meet others in similar situations to you. Email to join.
  • Email the LPFT carers email address and let us know that you need some support -
  • Ask about family therapy available through the Trust.
  • Take courses through Lincolnshire Recovery College. There are lots of courses suitable for carers.
  • Remember our Mental Health Helpline (0800 001 4331) or the Samaritans are also available if you need support.