Change, loss and bereavement

This content mentions death and bereavement, which some people may find triggering. 

We have all been through times of change, and some of us have experienced loss of different types, including the profound loss experienced when someone close to us dies. 

Times of change and loss

Change and loss can involve many things. During the coronavirus pandemic, all of us have been affected one way or another by changes. This may have been adjusting to the loss of not being able to go where we choose or coping with the loss in our income or job. The latter can in turn affect our identity. 

How our minds and bodies react to bereavement

Whatever the loss, our mind and body will react to this change. Something or someone that was there before is no longer there. Something or someone we depended on as part of our lives has gone. There has been a change. This can shake our world, and how it does so, will depend on what has happened and what support we have in place to cope. 

When we are bereaved, we can feel anxious, sad, angry, shocked, grief-stricken, withdrawn, in disbelief, guilty, sad and in denial – and experience these in no particular order. We can struggle with sleep, concentration, our appetite and making decisions. We can also experience physical pain, such as headaches and muscle pain, as well as less specific bodily reactions that are similar to feelings of anxiety.

It is normal to have mixed feelings following change, loss, and bereavement

It is entirely normal to feel such intense feelings. It is a time of trying to make sense of the change our losses bring, whatever they are. It is about adjusting to our ‘new normal’. However, we also need to remember that when people are bereaved, their feelings are very challenging to bear, and sometimes they can feel intolerable. This can be a very difficult time. 

Viktor Frankl, who survived the unspeakable horrors of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany, said:

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

A few things that might help with change, loss and bereavement 

Here are a few self-help suggestions that might help you with any difficult feelings you may be experiencing while adjusting to change, loss and bereavement: 

Feel the feelings

Allow yourself space to be with the feelings you are experiencing. Sometimes you may find it useful to talk with someone about your feelings, such as a phone call or video call with a friend, or sometimes you may just want to be alone with your feelings. There may also be times when writing down your feelings and thoughts or using music or art as an outlet is helpful too. Remind yourself that with any loss and change, difficult feelings will follow. 

There is no time limit to grief

For many people, the intensity of loss will diminish over time, but for others, it may not. It is important to work out how we remember the person who has died, and how we continue relating to their memory and what they meant to us, even though they are not with us any more in body. 

Other types of loss

With other types of loss the feelings are likely, in time, to pass or to change. It might help to acknowledge that this is a time of adjustment. Allow yourself to let go of the thought that ‘everything will return to normal’, because it may not, but in time you will find a ‘new normal’. Henri Nouwen said ‘Hope is willing to leave unanswered questions and unknown futures unknown.’

Take care of your body

Look after yourself physically. Try to get a good night’s sleep, you might want to read our ten top tips for good sleep for this. Try to eat as healthily as possible, you may want to read our diet and mental health A-Z page. Include some daily exercise, but make sure that this is in line with the current government guidance, you may want to read our How to look after your mental health with exercise guide. Some people find meditation, prayer, mindfulness or just being out in nature helpful. 

Give to others

Sometimes giving to others or an act of kindness can help you feel better. Consider volunteering, delivering groceries or calling someone who might live alone. You may want to read our random acts of kindness blog for inspiration. 

Do something that is going to make you feel good

Doing something that makes you feel good can often be a welcome distraction from thoughts and feelings that are challenging to shift. Try something new like drawing, making music, growing seeds, reading a book, or watching a movie with someone else. 

Different ages and cultures may react differently to loss and grief

Be patient with others around you who may also be struggling with loss but express it differently. Remember that everyone experiences grief differently, and at different times and stages – this can include members of the same family group. 

Be honest with children

If you have children be honest with them about your own feelings and name them. Help them name their own feelings and use age-appropriate language to explain a death. Consider doing a creative project alongside them that reflects how they are feeling. Help them to learn how to look after themselves. You may find this information from the charity Cruse useful, it talks about what you can do to help a child who is grieving

When do I need to seek further support? 

If your feelings become overwhelming as a result of your loss and they are stopping you from doing most of the self-help things above please seek further support from: 

If you have thoughts of not wanting to live anymore or have plans to take your own life then please call 999 (UK) or go to A&E and ask for the contact of the nearest crisis resolution team. These are teams of mental health care professionals who work with people in severe distress. If you're worried about someone else, see our advice about talking about suicide.

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. – Maya Angelou 

If you feel affected by the content you have read, please see our get help page for support. 

Get help

Was this content useful?