Updated 06 December 2013


Bereavement – the period of grief and mourning after, for instance, the death of a loved one – is part of a normal and probably inevitable process of dealing with loss.

Bereavement – the period of grief and mourning after, for instance, the death of a loved one – is part of a normal and probably inevitable process of dealing with loss.

Grief manifests itself mentally/emotionally in anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness and despair; and physically in the form of sleeping problems, changes in appetite, health problems or illness. It can also manifest in social ways; and sometimes, the bereaved person experiences the full gamut of reactions.

The length of the mourning period varies from person to person, circumstance to circumstance.

Grief counselling or grief therapy can be helpful.

Start the healing process

  • Accept the reality of the loss. The heart takes time to follow the head in knowing it is true that the person has died and will not come back. And it takes time to process the realities of how things will change.

  • It is fine and right to grieve. Pressure to "get on with your life", and to stop your preoccupation with the loss, may come from concerned friends and family, but it isn't helpful. It can result in the bereaved person feeling lonely, with no one with whom to share the experiences, and this may slow the healing process. It is for this reason that counselling can be invaluable.

  • Adjust to how your environment has changed, to life without the missing person.

  • Emotionally relocate the loved one. The bereaved have to find a new place in their life for their lost loved one - a place which allows them to move forward and form new relationships.

Learn how to cope with the loss

Maintaining contact with others is vital in the stress-filled months after suffering a loss. Friends and relatives may feel uncomfortable about talking about it, so take the initiative and ask for their help: it will also help them.

When you feel ready, share with your family and friends your feelings of loss and pain. Understand that each of them may be grieving in their own way.

Children experience many of the feelings of adult grief, so try reminding them that they are still loved by sharing your thoughts and feelings and asking them to share with you.

Anniversaries, birthdays and holidays may be painful reminders so plan these days to meet your own emotional needs and those of your family.

You may feel guilty for a while for still being alive. This isn't uncommon, but it's not rational, so try and talk those feelings down, and accept that this will pass. Enjoyment of life – which will come back, eventually, is not disloyal to the deceased.

The survivors of any death or loss need comfort, support and trusted listeners. Many people find relief in support groups where they can voice their feelings and learn from the experience of others.


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