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First reactions


If you have been expecting someone close to you to die, at first you may feel numb. This is nature’s way of helping you realise and accept the death.


If the death is sudden and unexpected, your reaction may be disbelief. It may take time to understand what has happened and you may feel a great deal of pain because you have not had the chance to say goodbye.


You may find yourself expecting your loved one to suddenly arrive and hear familiar sounds like their key in the door, or feel their presence in the room. Accept these things as part of the process of grieving, which will eventually lead you through this terrible time.


The physical signs of grief


Some people are affected physically by the death of their loved one. Some people can’t sit still and become hyperactive. Others have headaches, shortness of breath, chest pains, dizziness, lack of concentration or depression. Some find it difficult to sleep and some experience bad dreams.


But don’t be alarmed – it’s unlikely that you will suffer any of these symptoms. It is just important to realise that an emotional shock can produce physical symptoms. You should speak to your doctor if you have any symptoms over a period of time.


The way forward


Many people choose to withdraw from social contact, feeling unable to face the outside world. You may feel like this, but grieving is difficult enough without having to do it all on your own.


Allow yourself time to grieve and adjust to your new situation. Always take time before making any major decisions such as moving house.


The most important healing can come from talking. It may help to go over what happened many times with family and friends. Talking about your feelings may also help. A professional counsellor or people like the Samaritans will have the time and understanding to talk to you. You will never get over it, but in time you will come to terms with what has happened.


Try to recognise the danger signs of becoming too dependent on tranquillisers or alcohol. You may find keeping a diary or writing down your thoughts helpful, and you never need to show your writing to anyone.




Grief is a normal response to loss. It often brings physical and emotional pain. Shock, anger, guilt, regret, numbness and loneliness are some emotions that most people feel.


Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to take away the pain. Grief is something you have to work through. There is no set time to say when you will feel better. Sometimes you might find that you take two steps forwards and then three steps backwards.

You may find our Grief and Loss guide helpful to download.

Helpful organisations


Cruse Bereavement Care (England and Wales)

Cruse can help anyone who has lost someone they love. 
Call: 0844 477 9400 
Young persons helpline: 0808 808 1677
Cruse Bereavement Care, PO Box 800, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 1RG


Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland

Call: 0845 600 2227 
Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland, Riverview House, Friarton Road, Perth PH2 8DF



Samaritans offer a 24-hour phone listening service. 
Call: 08457 90 90 90


Citizens Advice

This is a good source of practical help and advice and is particularly helpful with financial or legal problems. 
To find your nearest bureau visit


The Compassionate Friends

They offer help for parents whose children have died. 
Call: 0845 123 2304 
The Compassionate Friends, 53 North Street, Bristol BS3 1EN


The Child Death Helpline

Call: 0800 282 986 (Mon to Fri 10am to 1pm, Tues and Wed 1pm to 4pm and every evening 7pm to 10pm).