Coping with grief

Many people feel such intense emotional pain following a death that they wonder is they can survive. It may be hard to believe in the early days, but the pain does ease and thoughts about the person who has died become more comfortable and the happy thoughts are treasured.

Some strategies for dealing with grief


Everyone is different in how they grieve.

Some people need to have others around them in the first few weeks and months after a loved one has died- family, close friends, pastors or counselors.

Others find it better to be alone. It is possible to set up planned times, say to spend fifteen, twenty minutes or longer alone every day. They might turn off their mobile phones so they won’t be disturbed. This time acts as a safety valve. In it they deal with any emotions they have stored up during the day.

There are different ways of grieving at these times: thinking, crying, praying, meditating, writing or drawings, talking to the dog.

Some people like to keep a diary. They write down their feelings and the memories of the loved one, They can see how their grief changes over a period of weeks and months. This is proof of progress for them. If the diary is kept in a safe place the written memories become precious in the future. Alternatively some people may feel more comfortable with pictures or diagrams.

Many people feel less alone by also grieving with other family members, including the children.


Tears are a natural response to emotional pain, however some people may feel embarrassed about crying in front of others, or even alone. It’s important to remember that there is nothing wrong about crying. Many people find crying a relief. Rather than being an indication of weakness, tears are often a sign of strength and show that the bereaved person is prepared to work through their grief. Some people find it difficult to cry, and yearn for tears to release their grief.

Enlisting help

The grieving process can seem long and lonely, so many people find someone whom they can confide in, for example, a relative or friend. Doctors or the local community health centre may be able to help in this way, or refer bereaved people to a specialist grief counselor. Some people find the experience of another person who has been through a similar situation invaluable, and so contact a support group.

Some other useful strategies

Everyone is different but some of the following strategies may be helpful:

  • live one day at a time
  • do something special for yourself every day
  • avoid making any major decisions, such as selling the house, in the first year if possible
  • talk to a caring friend, pastor or counselor
  • join a bereavement support group
  • read books on grief
  • write letters to the person you have lost to express your feelings or as a way of saying goodbye. You can keep these in a safe place, or bury them under a bush you plant in their memory, or scatter the pieces in a significant place
  • keep a diary or journal as a record of your own journey of grief
  • create a memorial for the person who died: plant a tree, create a memory book or photo album. Children often like to collect items for a memento box
  • commemorate the person you lost on special days, such as birthdays. Do something special for yourself as well!

Self care

Self care is important to prevent further stress to the body. The following have been found to be helpful in coping with grief:

  • a regular daily routine. Have set times for getting up, meals and going to bed
  • a balanced diet. Include: breads and cereals; meat, fish and dairy products; fruit and vegetables
  • avoiding too much coffee and tea to help you sleep at night
  • outdoor activities, such as going for a walk or gardening, just spending time in nature, take you away from the stress, and refresh you mentally
  • exercise, such as swimming, walking and team games, will produce chemicals called endorphins in the body which help to counteract depression and make you feel good. The exercise does not need to be strenuous. If you have doubts about your fitness consult your doctor
  • relaxation: meditation, massage, music
  • a relaxing pre-sleep routine: winding down before bed and not watching television
  • avoiding seeking relief through alcohol, smoking, medication and other drugs
  • consulting your doctor about physical symptoms, for a blood pressure check, for practical help, for medical certificates, and for help with the grief

Be patient, tolerant and gentle with yourself as you grieve. It is important to seek professional help when you feel overwhelmed by your grief or memories. No one has to bear it all alone. There is help available.


Page last updated: 25 February, 2021

Other Resources

AnglicareSA Suicide Support

Suicide Prevention Service: 1300 07 77 98

Living Beyond Suicide: 1300 76 11 93