NHS Lothian

Tips to help cope with loss and bereavement

4 min read

Tips to help you cope with loss, change and bereavement

Remember that everyone has different needs, so what’s right for one person might not be right for another. Having said that, here are a few suggestions that might help you cope with difficult feelings around change, loss and bereavement:


Look after your health

Grief can be exhausting and may make you more prone to illness. So eat well, rest properly, exercise regularly and take care of yourself. Remember to look after your mental health as well as your physical health. Treat yourself when you can, eat your favourite foods, take a bath, or go for a long walk. Some people find meditation, prayer, mindfulness, or just being out in nature to be helpful. Take time for yourself whenever possible. This is especially important if you’re also caring for other people who are bereaved.

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.


Give yourself time to grieve and feel the feelings

Allow yourself space to be with the feelings you’re experiencing. It’s ok to cry and feel sad. Sometimes you may find it helpful to talk to someone about your feelings, so phone or video call your friends, or go for a walk with them. Other times, you may just want to be alone with your feelings. Writing down your feelings and thoughts and using music and art as an outlet for your feelings can be helpful too.

Try to be patient with yourself and accept your feelings, even if you don’t like them. Don’t add pressure by comparing yourself to others.


Talk to people about how you feel

Family and friends are a really helpful form of support following bereavement, although sometimes they might be grieving too. If you don’t feel ready, you don’t have to talk to them about what happened but it can help to have people around you. Talking about your grief, your feelings and thoughts is a helpful way of making sense of your loss.

You may also find it helpful to get in touch with a bereavement charity such as Cruse Scotland. Bereavement charities usually have helplines and you might find it helpful to talk to someone outside your friend and family circle. See the ‘Support’ section of this website for other national and local bereavement services.


Ask for help if you’re not coping

People will most likely ask you if you need anything, or if there’s anything they can do, but if you don’t tell them, they won’t know what would be most useful.


Try to keep up activities and relationships

It can help to have things going on that will distract you from the pain of grieving and give you a break. As much as possible, keep in touch with people and make plans with them. Find out about local or online events, classes and activities that you can attend.

Simple things like watching a film or reading a book can help, although it may take some time to be able to concentrate enough. Try to steer clear from books or films that are too closely related to your situation.


Remembering your loved one

Try to plan what you will do on anniversaries such as birthdays, festive holidays, the anniversary of your loved one’s death, and other important dates. Deciding what you will do for these occasions in advance can help manage what’s likely to be an emotional time.

Think about ways of keeping your loves one’s memory alive if that’s a comfort. There are lots of ways of doing this: memory boxes, bespoke jewellery, memorial fund-raising, or framed pictures are just some examples.


Be honest with children

If you have children, be honest with them about your own feelings and name them. Help your children to name their own feelings too and use age-appropriate language to explain a death. You could try doing a creative project alongside them that reflects how they’re feeling. Help them to learn how to look after themselves and their feelings.


Things you can try and avoid doing while grieving

  • Don’t make major changes in your life, such as moving house or changing job, until you’ve had time to process what has happened and adjust to your loss.
  • Don’t enter into any new financial agreements without proper advice. Talk to friends or relatives, or seek the advice from an organisation such as Citizens Advice
  • Don’t turn to drugs or alcohol at this difficult time. This will impact your health, affect your emotions and slow down your grieving process.
  • Don’t bottle things up. Try to talk to people.


Remember, there’s no one way to cope with your feelings after the death of someone close, or the loss of something important. We all feel differently and cope in different ways. Give yourself time to find your way to grieve and to manage your loss.






Urgent Help


If you, or someone you know, is in crisis and in imminent danger of causing harm to themselves or others, call 999 immediately

Help within 24 hours