How you might be feeling

Grief affects people in different ways. There’s no particular way you should be feeling, or time it will take for you to adapt to the death and feel more like yourself again. It’s important to let yourself grieve in your own way. This might include spending time on your own as part of coming to terms with the death, but it’s also good to talk to others and draw on their support.

There are a few feelings that people commonly describe, but your own experience might be different. It’s normal for your feelings to be chaotic and it might be hard to pin down exactly how you are feeling. Intense feelings can be frightening, but they usually ease over time. You might experience:

  • shock and feelings of unreality, particularly in the days after the death
  • intense sadness, which can feel overwhelming
  • anxiety, either general or about something specific
  • worries about your own mortality
  • anger and irritation – you may find yourself arguing unexpectedly with people you’re close to
  • guilt
  • feelings of hopelessness and depression
  • a need to be supportive of others and suppress your own grief
  • some relief, perhaps if the person had been ill for a long time.

For about a week after my wife died I had a completely irrational fear of going to bed in case I fell asleep and didn't wake up. That would have left the children as orphans which would have been terrible. Fortunately common sense prevailed and I returned to normality. I have no idea whether other people have had similar weird thoughts. A sudden death does have odd effects; I was a healthy 48 so had no reason to be worried.

Physical effects of grief

Like other forms of stress, bereavement can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. Stress and anxiety can produce physical symptoms. You might experience:

  • exhaustion
  • loss of appetite or comfort eating
  • feeling sick or an upset stomach
  • panic attacks
  • aches and pains, such as chest pain and headaches
  • disturbed sleep or nightmares
  • restlessness or hyperactivity.

Grief can make you more vulnerable to illness so try to look after yourself.

If you have worrying symptoms or ones that persist, speak to your GP. If you’re concerned about anything you’re thinking or feeling, talk to your GP or a support organisation, such as Cruse Bereavement Care (0808 808 1677) or Samaritans (116 123).

Feelings of hopelessness

Sometimes, people feel there’s no point seeking help because it won’t bring the person who has died back. You can feel powerless when you’ve been bereaved. Remind yourself that your own life has a purpose and you can start finding things that will become important to you again. Talking to people about what has happened and how you’re feeling can help. You may not feel comfortable talking to a friend or family member. If you need someone else to talk to, you can call Samaritans (116 123) or The Silver Line (0800 4 70 80 90) 24 hours a day.

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