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 guilty or relieved. 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
- fear or anxiety
- numbness, or nothing
- concerned with your health or other people’s
However you’re feeling, your feelings are valid and you are not alone.
Ryan's story: How I started talking about my grief
When my best friend passed away, I barely remember the first few months after he died. I was weighed down by this cloud of absolute nothing. For me, that was one of the things I never knew about grief. It can be so many emotions - or it can be nothing at all.
Because my friend didn't go to my school, my parents didn't "have to" know. So I didn't tell them for over a year. My close friends knew, but I never talked about him. I shut myself away instead of asking for help and it made things even harder for me.
One of the first people I found myself relying on was one of my teachers. I wrote about my friend as someone who had impacted my life in a class assignment and that started the conversation. Having a teacher know was hugely helpful.
CBT (talking therapy) was also 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.
To continue reading Ryan's story, visit 'How I started talking about my grief.'
For more real stories on grief and loss, have a look at our blogs:
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 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 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (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."
Offers practical support and guidance to bereaved children, their families and professionals.
Online chat service available for young people (1pm - 5pm, Tuesdays & Fridays).
Email: [email protected]
Opening times: 9am - 5pm, Monday - Friday
Offers care, guidance and support for people living with any terminal illness and their families.
If English isn't you or your family's first language, they can provide an interpreter for over 200 different languages.
Free online chat service also available.
Phone: 0800 090 2309
Opening times: 8am - 6pm, Monday - Friday; 11am - 5pm, Saturdays; 10am - 4pm, bank holidays
YoungMinds Crisis Messenger
Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.
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.
Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.
Text: YM to 85258
Opening times: 24/7
If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.
Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.
Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.
Phone: 0800 1111
Opening times: 9am - midnight, 365 days a year