Grief is a natural process that effects everyone differently. It takes a lot longer to work through than we generally allow ourselves. When dealing with grief yourself, or assisting others, it is helpful to remember that there are many different ways to deal with a loss, and it is something that we often never “get over”, rather something that we learn to live with.

Working through the process

Everyone will work through the grieving process in their own way, depending on their individual relationship to the deceased, and the bond that existed between them. There are generally recognised stages which start with the acknowledgement of the loss to the eventual acceptance of it.

Normal reactions to grief include:

  • Feeling shocked or numb
  • Disbelief / denial
  • Strong emotional responses such as sadness, tearfulness, anger, guilt, relief, or even laughter
  • Physical symptoms such as nausea and lack of appetite

Grief is an essential part of loss, and expressing these feelings is helpful, healthy, and should be encouraged.

These responses to grief will of course be tempered by the circumstances surrounding the death. For example, it is common for relatives of the long term terminally ill to have a sense of relief that the person is no longer suffering. On the other hand a tragic accident may bring about intense feelings of anger, resentment and frustration.


Children are far more sensitive than we often give them credit. They grieve in a similar way to adults, but it can be a far more spasmodic process with less mature expressions such as tantrums or extreme withdrawl.

If you want to help children dealing with loss, you should consider the following:

  • Be honest and clear when answering their questions – if you don’t know the answers, find someone who does – ask your funeral director.
  • Avoid saying things like “Nana’s sleeping” or “has been taken from us”. These sound all very nice to us, but to a child they can become very frightening. Often for children, not knowing the answer to their questions is far more terrifying than the actual answer.
  • Keep them involved in the funeral arrangements and the service.
  • Talk to them at their level – use words they understand – and be honest.

There is a range of written material and work books available, we have listed two below. Ask your funeral director if you would like one

Children Grieve Too (Supporting grieving children & teenagers)
Tough Times (An activity book for 7 -12 year olds)


If you know someone who is having trouble dealing with loss there are many ways to help them:

  • Don’t avoid them
  • Don’t judge or say you know how they feel – even if you think you do
  • Don’t try to find positives in the death
  • Don’t change the subject
  • Do listen to them without interrupting
  • Do let your genuine concern show
  • Do encourage them to be patient with themselves and not to expect too much
  • Do allow them to talk about the person they have lost
  • Do support and encourage them to seek help if you are concerned they may need it