What is grief?
It can be extremely difficult when you lose someone you knew. Whether you’ve lost a family member, a friend or a pet, you may feel a whole range of emotions. Grief is an emotional response to this loss, and is a process rather than an event. It may affect how you feel physically, mentally and socially.
You might be grieving because of:
- The death of a family member, like a parent, grandparent or sibling
- The death of a friend, or someone you knew at school
- The death of someone by suicide
- A change in a relationship
- An illness of someone close to you, like cancer or dementia
- The loss of a relationship, like someone moving away or no longer being in your life regularly
- The loss or death of a pet animal
Whoever you have lost, you need time and space to grieve and come to terms with their death.
We all grieve differently.
There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. You might feel angry, sad or depressed, or even guilt or relief. You might be numb and not feel anything. The way you grieve might be influenced by your culture, beliefs, or how your family and community understand loss. How you react might be different to how other people around you react. You might not feel anything for a while, and may experience delayed grief. There might be some occasions when you are expecting it, like when you experience one of many ‘firsts’, such as your first Christmas without that person. Or these feelings might catch you unaware sometimes. Grief can come up at any time.
Our Activists share their experiences of grief:
You might feel:
- Sadness or depression
- Fearful or anxious
- Numbness, or nothing
- Concerned with your health or other people’s
However you’re feeling, your feelings are valid and you are not alone.
More real stories and blogs on grief
How I Started Talking About My Grief: Ryan shares how he processed his grief and spoke to people he trusted after his best friend passed away.
Coping With The Death Of My Best Friend:
Jacob lost his best friend to suicide at 16. Here he describes how it affected him, and what his grief felt like.
The Pressure to Grieve 'Correctly':
When Eve’s mum was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was told to start grieving. However, she soon felt there was pressure for her to grieve in the ‘correct’ way – Eve shares she how handled this.
Here are some ways others have expressed their grief:
Working through your grief
It takes time to work through grief and it’s best not to do it alone. Sometimes you might be surprised by feelings of sadness when you don’t expect them – or you might keep worrying about other people’s health, or your own. These feelings are all normal. Most of us get through with the support of family and friends.
If you’re struggling to come to terms with a death, finding daily life hard and things don't seem to be getting any better, it can help to talk to someone. Tell a trusted friend, family member or teacher how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling very worried, you can talk to your GP about counselling and professional support.
It’s can be normal to feel guilty. But remember, the loss you have experienced is not your fault. And if you stop feeling sad or in pain, it does not mean that you don’t care enough. You are allowed to move on in your life, and it is not a sign that you don’t care enough for the person you have lost.
Messages from our Activists
“Grief doesn’t have a timeline. Just take one step at a time. There isn’t a guidebook on how to grieve and what emotions to feel. You may feel many emotions, you may feel a few emotions or you may feel none at all. If you feel a whirlwind of emotions it’s completely natural.” – Erin, 16
“Take your time, there is not length of time you have to grieve. You are ready when you feel ready. You grief is valid, just breathe and think about the memories you shared. The pain may be excruciating now, but each day is going to be less painful.” – Charlotte, 24
“Grief is a process. It will take time but you will adapt and the pain will fade and the memories will come forward.” – Tom, 23.
Helpful ways you can communicate how you are feeling:
- Write a letter to the person you have lost telling them all the things you want to say to them
- Write a letter to someone who is supporting you, so they know what you are going through
- Keep a diary or journal of how you feel
- Express yourself through paintings or pictures
- Write a song or poem
- Create a memory box full of pictures and items which remind you of good times you had with the person you have lost
How to help a friend who has been bereaved
- Listen if they want to talk. Don't feel you've got to solve anything or say something. You might feel helpless, but just being there and listening can be really helpful.
- Share your memories. If it feels appropriate and you're able to, share your memories of the person who's gone, during a chat, or in a card or letter. For the bereaved person, this can feel like being given back little pieces of the person they've lost.
- Don't feel rejected if they don't want you there. They might prefer to have one friend for going out, another to study with and so on. Make allowances for what works for them.
Where to get help
If you feel like your grief and sadness is interfering with your daily life, talking to a GP can help. Your GP can suggest some options to give you more support, or may refer you to CAMHS or bereavement counselling.
Grief is a process and the need for support or counselling can come at any time. This is why it doesn’t matter if it’s a long time after your loss, you should ask for support whenever you think you need it.
Activist Ryan says:
"CBT (talking therapy) was one of the things that kept me together, learning how to manage how I felt whilst at the same time accepting that how I was feeling (and still am feeling) was okay. It was also a place I could keep my friend's memory alive."
Helplines and services available
- Offering practical support and guidance to bereaved children, their families and professionals.
- Freephone Helpline: 08088 020 021 (Mon - Fri 09:00 – 17:00)
- Email their ASK email service for free advice and support following a bereavement: [email protected]
- Cruse Bereavement Care’s website for young people with information, vlogs, podcasts, videos and sharing personal stories.
- Freephone helpline: 0808 808 1677 (Mon-Fri 09:30-17:00)
- Email for young people, they can send a private email to: [email protected]
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS)
- Support for people over the age of 18 bereaved by suicide
- Helpline: 0300 111 5065 (every day 09:00-21:00)
- Email: [email protected]
- Local support group finder: https://uksobs.org/we-can-help/local-support-groups/find/
- Helping children through bereavement. Support ervices range from a supportive voice at the end of a phone, Grief Groups and Remembrance Days, to long-term one-to-one counselling.
- Phone: 020 8371 8455 (weekdays, office hours)
- Email: [email protected]
- Care, guidance and support for people living with any terminal illness and their families.
- Freephone Support line: 0800 090 2309 and online chat, (Mon- Fri 08:00-18:00 & Sat 11:00 – 17:00)
YoungMinds Crisis Messenger
- Provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK if you are experiencing a mental health crisis
- If you need urgent help text YM to 85258
- All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors
- Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.
- If you're in distress and need support, you can ring Samaritans for free at any time of the day or night.
- Freephone (UK and Republic of Ireland): 116 123 (24 hours)
- Email: [email protected]
- If you're under 19 you can confidentially call, email, or chat online about any problem big or small
Freephone 24h helpline: 0800 1111
- Sign up for a childline account on the website to be able to message a counsellor anytime without using your email address
- Chat 1:1 with an online advisor