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Looking after yourself

When someone close to us dies, our lives can quickly change, and we have no time to adapt to the new roles we're given.

For the first few days or even weeks, you may be too preoccupied to think about the change in your circumstances.

However, after the funeral, when everyone else's lives seem to go back to normal, you may be left wondering how you're going to cope.

There's no single solution. Everyone's situation is different and each person grieves differently. Here are some ways to cope that may be helpful.

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When she passed away I was very sad, but I know she had the greatest care at the end of her life. It eases the pain in my heart. 
Suzy, carer/relative

Eating well

Even though it can be hard to make the effort, try to eat as healthily as you can. This will give you the energy to get things done. There is lots of information about healthy eating on the NHS website  .

Relationships and socialising

There’s no reason for your relationship with the person who has died to end. If you’re used to sharing your day with them, or emailing them your news, then perhaps continue to do this.

Many people continue to have conversations with the person who has died. Although this may sound strange, it’s more natural than being expected to abruptly end the relationship. If you’re not comfortable with appearing to talk to no one, then write down what you want to say.

If you've been bereaved, people around you might not know how to act and could keep their distance. A call from you, or a text or email to say "are you free for coffee" will gently remind them that you need company. Although it can be an effort to be proactive it's usually better than spending too much time alone. If you're able to, take the time to decide how much you want to be around others.

Perhaps suggest a meeting at your house for lunch or dinner. You can ask everyone to bring a dish so you're not forced to do all the preparation at a time when your energy and motivation may be low.

If you find it hard to speak to friends, you can get in touch with the Bereavement Advice Centre  , Cruse Bereavement Care   and Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland  . These are all specialist charities that support bereaved people. You could also contact your local faith leader.

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Getting involved in the local community

After a while, when you feel ready, there are lots of community groups around the UK that can help you meet people with similar interests for conversation and activities. Meet Up (meetup.com) is a website where you can search for groups by interest or location. You can even start your own – it’s completely free.

Volunteering

If you have the time, you could also try volunteering. Even if it's just for a few hours a week, it's an excellent way to meet new people and has many physical and emotional benefits. There are various volunteering sites with hundreds of opportunities near you (details below). Try not to worry about the pressure or requirements of a volunteering role. Often, you can do as little or as much as you'd like.

  • Do-it   has a searchable database of volunteering opportunities.
  • Visit a local charity shop, like a Marie Curie shop   and ask if they need any help.
  • If you're a cat or dog lover, you could contact the The Cinnamon Trust   to see if there's an older or unwell person nearby who needs someone to walk their dog or help look after their cat.

If you’re not very mobile because of a disability, contact Scope  . It has a range of services that will support you to get out and be more independent.

For older people who feel isolated

It may be worth looking at voluntary organisations that have a befriending service.

  • Both Friends of the Elderly   (England only) and Age UK (see below for national links) have a telephone befriending service as well as a face-to-face visiting service depending on where you live.
  • If you've got a dog, contact the The Cinnamon Trust   to see if they have anyone who can help you. Dogs and cats are wonderful companions but need care and attention.
  • It's also worth contacting your local church, community group or religious organisation, if you have one. Many have weekly or monthly meetings and may be able to arrange for someone to bring you to the meeting or visit you in your own home.

Understanding your feelings

Strange behaviour is normal in a difficult situation. Some people find that this is something that's worth writing on a piece of paper and placing somewhere rarely out of sight.

Whatever you're feeling or thinking is probably quite normal considering the unusual set of circumstances. Emotions or lack of emotions, sleeplessness, a constant sense of unreality, and a feeling of guilt, are all very common. If you're afraid of your thoughts don't hesitate to get help from your doctor or a counsellor. These organisations can help:

  • Samaritans   is always on the end of the phone and is available to anyone who is in severe emotional distress.
  • Cruse Bereavement Care   and Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland   have trained bereavement support volunteers. There may be a waiting list depending on your area so it's worth getting in touch with your local office sooner rather than later (details below).

Having a good cry

Crying is the body's way of expressing and reducing stress. It's a natural reaction to someone's death. It doesn't matter whether it's days, weeks, months or years after the death, if you feel like crying, try not to question it. Your body is telling you that you need the release.

The same applies if you're supporting someone else in their grieving process. It's important to let them cry and not try to cheer them up. If you'd like to help but are unsure how, speak to one of the specialist charities below. You can also read more about supporting someone who's grieving.

This content has been supplied by Dying Matters  , with additional research in-house. 

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