Prolonged grief

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.

What is prolonged grief?

When someone is grieving, it is really normal for them to feel low, sad and hopeless. Giving yourself time is really important. Most people will start to fell better and adapt over time, however when this doesn't happen for months or years and they continue to struggle with life, they must be suffering prolonged grief. You might also hear it referred to as complex, complicated or abnormal grief.

Why does prolonged grief happen?

Anyone who has experienced a loss can be affected by prolonged grief, but there are a number of factors that make the person you care for more likely to struggle with longer term symptoms of grief. For example:

  • If the loss was unexpected, sudden, particularly traumatic or violent.
  • Death out of 'the natural order' such as the death of a child.
  • If there was a row/tension in the relationship or estrangement between the person who has died and the person who is grieving.
  • If you have additional difficulties such as mental health or significant physical health issues.
  • If there have been other recent stressors or multiple bereavements.

How do I recognise prolonged grief?

Whilst there is no hard and fast rules about when the grieving process transitions from 'normal' to 'prolonged', generally if you are experiencing intense emotions and struggling to cope with life six months or more after a loss, it may be that you would benefit from more support.

Things that you might continue to notice or that may seem to be getting more intense rather than reducing over time after a bereavement include:

  • Frequent/intense/overwhelming emotion. This might not be just feeling sad, but anger, guilt or remorse.
  • Withdrawing from social contacts, for example regularly turning down offers of meeting up, stopping attending groups or clubs you previously enjoyed, taking much longer or not replying to calls and texts.
  • A lack of enjoyment in things you used to get pleasure from.
  • Appearing stuck in a loop - finding yourself wanting to talk over and over about the person who has died, particular issues, feelings or memories without seeming to gain any respite or feeling of relief.
  • Being avoidant of places, people and activities which remind you of the person you have lost.

What should I do?

  • Stay in touch - try to stay in touch with those people around you who you trust to support you.
  • Try to stay in some kind of routine - getting up, getting dressed and having regular meals is important in maintaining some resilience and staying physically well.
  • Ask for help if there are specific tasks of actions that are different or unknown following bereavement, such as adapting to shopping and cooking for one, household tasks, helping plan how you might spend particular periods of time especially if you have lost a caring role.
  • Seek professional help - this might be making an appointment with your GP or conacting one of the organisations listed under the 'places that can help' section.

Special events

It is likely that special events will be particularly hard to cope with. This could be directly linked to the person who has died, such as their birthday or anniversary, or it might be a big event that you are doing for the first time since you were bereaved.

It is important to be aware that these times are likely to be very difficult and may have a big impact on how you are coping.

Some people really find it helpful to think in advance about planning what they want to do with this time. It may be that you want to do something in memory of the deceased or to plan some self-care time, staying home, eating a favourite meal, watching films, or going somewhere.

Places that can help

Cruse - bereavement support

  • National helpline - Call 0808 808 1677 (Mondays and Fridays 9.30am to 5pm, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 9.30am to 8pm).
  • Email 
  • For children and young people, visit Hope Again.

St Barnabas

Sue Ryder - online bereavement counselling/online bereavement community/personalised text support.

Lincolnshire Talking Therapies - talking therapies for people aged 16 years and older.



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.