Common questions when coping with bereavement

We know there are lots of thoughts, feelings and questions involved when losing a loved one. Here we try to help you answer them.

Question: Will the pain go away faster if I ignore it?

Answer: No - trying to ignore your pain or keep it from surfacing and will only make it worse in the long run. For real healing it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it.

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Question: Is it important to be strong for those around me?

Answer: Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction to loss. Crying doesn’t mean you are weak. You don’t need to “protect” your family or friends by putting on a brave front. By showing your true feelings you can help them as well as yourself.

Question: Does it mean I don’t care if I don’t cry?

Answer: Not at all. Crying is a response to sadness, but it’s not the only one. Just because you don’t cry doesn’t mean you don’t feel the pain just as deeply as others. Other people may simply have other ways of showing it.

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Question: How long should grief last?

Answer: There is no right or wrong time frame for grieving. How long it takes can differ from person to person. Don’t worry if you feel you have grieved fully after a few weeks or months – and the same goes if you’re still grieving after a year or more.

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Question: Can children understand death and should I talk about it with them?

Answer: Children understand more than we think. There’s no point confusing a child and it’s best to speak simply and clearly, and answer any questions they have about where their loved one has gone. There are some great resources for helping explain a death to a child on our website

Question: Are grief and mourning the same?

Answer: No - grief is our own private, inner response to a loss. Mourning is the outward expression of grief, the social response that we openly share with others. Everyone grieves, but not everyone mourns.

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Question: When will grief be over?

Answer: Grief is an adaptive response not bound by time. It never really ends; you don’t “get over” grief. It is something you learn to live with over time, as you gradually adjust to the physical absence of the one who has died. Grief softens and erupts less frequently as time goes on, but it can revisit you at any time, and in varying intensity, whenever you are reminded of your loss. Be aware of triggers that may bring back memories – you can’t ever stop these but you can learn how to cope with them.

Question: Is the first year of grief the hardest, and the time when support is most needed?

Answer: Not necessarily - for some, the second year is even harder than the first. The reality is that you will need ongoing compassion and support. Other people may forget about your loss, but talk to your friends and family and explain that you’re not done grieving and need support.

Question: Is the goal of grief to let go of the one who died and move on with my life?

Answer: No - the bonds of love are never severed by death. If cherished memories and legacies are intentionally tended and nourished, it is normal and healthy that a close relationship with the deceased will continue and endure throughout your lifetime. It’s not about “getting over” the loss of the person you love – it’s about remembering them fondly.

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Question: Does the intensity and length of my grief reflect how much I loved them?

Answer: Not at all. There is no grieving contest and no winner. You must feel what you feel and begin to live life when you are ready, on your own timetable. Your grief has no bearing on another’s, or on the depth of your feelings for the person who has died. No one has the right to tell you that you don’t care because you’re not outwardly sad – it’s up to you how you cope and how you recover from the loss.

Question: Does everyone grieve in the same way?

Answer: No - there is tremendous variation in style of grieving, cultural variations in grieving, and variations in length and intensity of grieving. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. You may wish to do it quietly, without anyone knowing. You may want to be loud about your loss – there’s no hard and fast rule. Only you know what you’re feeling.

Question: Do I have to tell everyone that someone has died?

Answer: No – but it can be hard to hide if you’re upset. It might be a good idea to tell your employer so they can be aware that you’re going through a tough time, but essentially it’s up to you who you tell. You may appreciate the support, but lots of people asking if you’re okay can be overwhelming.