A guide to dealing with grief 

A young person is standing against a wall outside wearing a grey hoodie. They are looking down at their phone reading a guide to dealing with grief

How to cope with grief

We all experience grief at some point in our lives. Losing someone you love is one of the toughest things that can happen. If you’re going through this now, know that you’re not alone and there are things you can do to help you cope. We teamed up with bereavement charity, Winston’s Wish to create a guide to dealing with grief.

Looking after your mental health when grieving

It might sound impossible when you’re struggling with grief, but there are some simple things you can do to care for your mental wellbeing that will make you feel more in control and help you get through it.

Get enough sleep

After someone dies, your routine and the normal structure of everyday life often changes. That’s why it’s common for sleep to be disrupted. You’ll feel much more able to deal with your emotions if you’ve had a good night’s shut eye.

  • Try going to bed at a regular time each day – this will create a pattern and your brain will know it’s bedtime.
  • Make sure you wind down before bedtime – try having a bath or listening to your favourite podcast.
  • Make your bedroom cosy and relaxing so it’s easier to drift off there.
  • For more tips read our article on how to sleep better.

Be kind to yourself

It’s so important to give yourself a break; there’s no right or wrong way to get through the pain of grief. Being loving and kind towards yourself will make the process feel a little easier.

  • Recognise every small step as an achievement – if you got out of bed this morning, that’s amazing.
  • Treat yourself with things you enjoy, like your favourite ice cream.
  • Give yourself things to look forward to – start planning something fun to do with friends.
  • Don’t judge yourself for anything – each day is a clean slate.
  • Know that it’s ok to smile and laugh, even though you’re going through the grieving process.

Remember, figuring out how to deal with grief isn’t easy for anyone, so practicing self care can really help. See our guide to self care for more tips.

Eat well

It’s common for your appetite to change when you’re dealing with grief, but remember that food can make a big difference to your mental health, as it gives you the energy you need and keeps your brain healthy.

  • It’s great to have treats, but make sure you’re also getting a healthy, balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds.
  • If you’re finding this tough, try joining a recipe club for inspiration.

Read our tips for getting a balanced diet here.

Find a routine

There’s no need to plan every part of your day, but having a loose structure will help you to feel more in control and will also give you a sense of achievement. It can be as small as going for a walk, or calling a friend at the same time every day.

Connect with others

It’s normal to feel numb and not necessarily feel like talking, but keeping a connection to the people in your life, or finding communities of people who can support you will make such a huge difference; it will help you to feel understood and give you a way of releasing your emotions.

  • Talk about what’s happened with a friend or family member and tell them how you feel.
  • It might help to plan how you will tell your friends about your loss – make sure they know how they can support you.
  • If you don’t feel like talking then you could Whatsapp, email or write a letter.
  • Join an online community like the one at The Mix, where you can talk to other young people who are going through the same thing you are.
  • Email [email protected] to get support and advice from their team, or join their live chat service

Live in the moment

This is another way of saying, notice how you’re feeling right now and the things that are around you. When things feel a bit overwhelming, this can ground you in the moment and help you to take each thing a step at a time.

  • Try noticing your breath – what does it feel like when you breathe in and out?
  • Notice your surroundings and name something you can see, smell, touch and taste and hear.
  • Read more about mindfulness.

Remembering the person you’ve lost

Making time to think and talk about the person who you’ve lost is important and will help you to process your grief.

  • Speak about the person who has died with your friends and family – tell your favourite stories about them.
  • Keep a box with photos and things that remind you of them that you can look at whenever you want to.
  • Start a new tradition on their birthday – you could have a picnic somewhere they loved or listen to their favourite music.

Going back to school/university/work after someone has died

It can feel really worrying when you go back to a “normal” routine after the death of a close friend or relative, but there are lots of things you can do to make the experience a bit easier.

  • Only go back when you’re ready – there’s no pressure or rush.
  • Speak to your school/uni/workplace or ask your family to speak to them about a plan that will help you cope with being back.
  • Know that it’s ok if you change your mind – you can take more time if you need to.
  • Tell one staff member what’s happened then you know you can go to them if you’re struggling.
  • Know that homework and revision might be difficult right now and that’s ok – you can also get special allowances that will be considered in your marking.

Speak to a bereavement counsellor

It’s ok if you’re struggling to cope and there are experts who know exactly what you’re going through who can support you through this time. Whether you’re feeling angry, depressed or thinking things will never be the same again, speaking to a bereavement counsellor can make a huge difference. See our article on what happens in grief counselling for more information about this.

You can also sign up for up to eight sessions of free and confidential counselling at The Mix.

Read our article on grief and bereavement to understand more about how it might affect you.

We’d like to thank Winston’s Wish for their support and insights when producing this article.

  • Cruse offers grief and bereavement support via phone, email, and face-to-face. You can call their free helpline on 0808 808 1677 (Monday – Friday, 9.30 – 5pm, extended to 8pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays) or visit their website for more support.
  • Hope Again is a website created for young people by young people affected by bereavement. It offers a community of peer support, as well as a support service via email: [email protected]
  • Marie Curie offers emotional support and practical information for anyone affected by terminal illness, and their friends and families. Call Marie Curie’s helpline on 0800 090 2309 from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 11am to 5pm Saturday.
  • Get support from the community on our discussion boards.

Next Steps



By Holly Turner

Updated on 09-May-2023