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What to expect when you are grieving

Different for everyone

Grief can be the most difficult thing you experience.  It is a journey that will be different for everyone and it may not always be what you expected. For many people there is an initial sense of shock and emotional numbness.  Your world may feel shattered, and nothing feels familiar.  As the reality sets in you can be overwhelmed by a range of emotions: sadness, fear, anger, regret, anxiety…  These can change from moment to moment. You may experience physical symptoms, like tiredness, aches and pains, shortness of breath etc. or find it hard to concentrate on simple tasks or remember things.

When people in a family or group of friends grieve differently it can cause tension.  There is no right way to grieve.  Make time to grieve in your own way and let others do the same.

Grief is timeless

There is no set timeline for grief.  It can seem that when everyone else’s life is ‘going back to normal’ yours is not.  

On some days you may feel overwhelmed by grief and on others you are able to function and mange OK.  Grieving means spending time both coming to terms with your loss and building a new life without the person you cared for in it.  Death ends a life but it does not end a relationship.  Part of grieving is finding ways to ‘carry’ the person you cared for with you.  On significant dates, or when you hear a favourite song etc. you may reconnect with your grief and so you could say that grief never really goes away.  

Grief can be complicated

When someone close to you dies it may feel like they have left a huge emotional hole in your life.  They can also leave other, more practical gaps that you have to fill, e.g. if they used to do child care, DIY, cooking, driving, managing financial affairs etc.  

A bereavement can trigger financial or housing issues that you need to cope with and this can be confusing and overwhelming.  But you don’t have to manage it all on your own. There are people who can provide emotional support as well as practical, legal and financial help.  Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need to.  See ‘Reach out for help’ section.  

Looking after yourself when someone dies

When someone dies there is a lot to do and taking care of yourself may be the last thing on your mind.  You just don’t have the time to think about yourself. Even a couple of minutes having a coffee and focusing on your breathing can help you face the next task.   

Talking to someone

Staying connected and sharing your feelings and concerns with friends and family can help.  It can be comforting to share memories and stories of times you all spent together.  Sometimes you need someone who is not so close to talk with, so try a community, faith or bereavement support group.      

Develop a helpful mindset

We can be our own worst enemy – pushing on and being strong for everyone else.  Grieving can be tiring and it’s OK to take time to do it in your own way.  Set boundaries and stick to them - accept that you are doing your best.  Some days you will have more energy than others, so take one day at a time.   


Life can feel chaotic so it’s important to focus on the basics and things that must be done.  Doing small things regularly can be easier than setting yourself huge goals – some days just getting up and getting dressed can be a challenge and a real achievement. 

Diet and Sleep

It’s harder to think straight when you are tired so try to get some sleep – or at least rest if you can’t sleep.  Your body and your mind need fuel so even when you don’t feel like eating try to keep your energy levels up.  


Regular exercise can help you relax and improve your mood. Even gentle movement like a short walk in the fresh air can improve your sleep and your wellbeing.  

Reach out for help

Bereavement can leave you feeling isolated.  You may feel that nobody else understands what you are going through - but you don’t have to be alone with your grief.   Community support groups or organisations such as Cruse Bereavement Support will listen and help you understand and come to terms with your grief.  The Samaritans’ free help line is open 24/7 on 116 123 if you need to talk at any time.  You can find a wide range of other organisation that offer all sorts of emotional and practical help via the Cruse website.

Supporting someone else who is grieving


It’s normal to feel awkward or worry about saying the wrong thing to someone who is grieving. Don’t let your worries and fears stop you from being there for them.  Give them time to speak and don’t rush to offer solutions or share your own experiences.   

Finding the right words

There are no perfect words to say to someone who has been bereaved.  Something as simple as, ‘I’m sorry to hear that your Dad died’, is a good start.  Share your memories and use the name of the person who died if you knew them.  It’s usually best to avoid clichés like, ‘time is a great healer’ or ‘at least they are not suffering’. 

Support through action

Sometimes actions speak louder than words and we can help with small acts of support, like doing the shopping or helping in the garden. Rather than saying ‘how can I help?’ try making specific suggestions, e.g. ‘how about if I pick the children up from school today?’.

Needs change over time

Grief is not always straight forward and what people need may change over time – and probably for longer than you think.  Keep gently checking in and be flexible.  

Practical step to closing an account with Power NI

You can close the account of someone who has died if you are a relative or solicitor handling their estate.  Just go to ‘I would like to close the account for someone who has died’.