Support for grieving

The death of someone close affects everyone.


Grief is different for all of us and we don’t all experience it in the same way.  Understanding how to deal with a loss and where to get support can help immensely.


Understanding grief

Grief is more than just feeling sad. It can have a toll on your emotional and physical senses. Many people don’t realise grief can manifest itself in many forms, especially when considering behaviour around others. Understanding that your reaction may be completely different to someone else’s can be beneficial in allowing you to act in a responsible manner.


Grief isn’t something a person can get a grip of or push aside. Realising that it will pass and that things will get better is important. You can’t force someone out of the grieving process, but being there to help is an immeasurable act.


Helping a friend or relative through a loss

When someone close to you is experiencing grief, you may feel like you’re walking on a tightrope attempting to find the right balance in how to act. Helping a friend doesn’t mean having to adjust everything in your life. Simple actions can have an positive impact.


The main issue when trying to help a friend is not being able to articulate clearly or say the right thing to them. Your friend might not want or need someone there constantly asking if they’re OK, but it helps if you’re in their company and can act as a shoulder to lean on through a very difficult period.


Don’t let someone grieve in silence

In this day and age, when you find out someone has passed away it will be via a short phone call or a text. It’s a distant form of communication and you may feel like its best to let someone grieve on their own. This may be what the person wants, but it helps to check with them first.


The best way to help someone is by seeing them face to face. It lets them know you’re here to help, and let’s you know if they are ready to talk and possibly receive your help. Grief can hit many people like a fog and obscure their day to day routine. Picking up on the little things can help the most; whether that’s making sure there’s milk and bread at home, tasks are carried out, and simple things like picking kids up or giving a short lift is something you can help with.


Don’t leave someone alone after the funeral

Getting back to normal life is often the hardest part of the grieving process. That’s why it helps if you can be the positive force to help a friend or relative want to actively do things again. Simple actions and asking if they want to go for a walk, have a coffee, go the cinema etc, all help rebuild confidence step by step.


Even simply being a presence around them at home helps. It also helps to show your presence at what would be difficult points in the calendar; Christmas, Birthdays and Anniversaries can all have an impact.


Know that there are official channels for help

There are always avenues to seek help after a loss.


In Scotland, Cruse would be one of the main bereavement charities that can provide expert advice and help, especially if you know someone younger who may be experiencing grief.


Other organisations that provide information and advice include:



We can also highlight local groups which may be of benefit to contact for support such as Help me Grieve as one that we have recommended in the past.

Some aspects of life which are affected by grief. 




We are all affected when somebody else suffers, a grieving person affects those around and some people feel embarrassed. To reduce the discomfort other people may avoid us or try to reduce contact as much as possible. This is sometimes done for sincere and kind motives even if it is very unhelpful. folk may cross the road when they see somebody coming who has been through bereavement so that they do not have to talk about it. When they do meet, the subjects spoken of may include anything but the bereavement, because they think that you would not want to mention it and it would cause upset! Some people speak of feeling a sense of isolation and loneliness. Grief overshadows all normal relationships as we adjust to the change in condition being a single parent, widow(er). To a certain extent we become different people. 




Our bodies react to bereavement in many ways. Headaches, stomach pains, arthritis or many other complaints can suddenly become apparent and make us feel as though we are falling apart. Some people speak of intense tiredness and exhaustion. All of our reserves of energy can be used up simply in order to cope. This is a natural reaction to loss. The body passes through a crucial stage in the first 6-9 months and some folk can die of a broken heart if they bottle up their feelings and are unable to express and come to terms with their grief openly. It is important to look after ourselves, to eat and steep properly. There is nothing wrong with spoiling ourselves a little either. 




There are emotional stages through which most people pass. These stages are not neat and tidy and one may feel several of them going on at once. We are all different people and so we all have unique feelings. It is possible to swing from one stage to another, or indeed hardly experience one stage at all. This does not mean that the grief of one person is deeper than another, simply that we have different ways of experiencing and coping with loss. We will now look at what these stages are. 




It is worth understanding the stages of grief. This should not mean that we treat grief: lightly as if it were just a phase that somebody was going through. Progress is not automatic and somebody may still be grieving deeply after 20 years if they have not been helped through the process of bereavement, and yet there should come a time when we are able to live with our loss. 




The bereaved person is in a state of shock and unable to accept what has happened, everything seems so unreal. This is a necessary defence mechanism. Bereaved people often refer to somebody who has died in the present tense as though they are still alive. A common remark may be, “it’s not really sunk in”, “I can’t believe it, i keep thinking that he is going to walk in the door as usual”, “Maybe after the funeral it will seem as though it really happened”. We may feel tightness in the throat or emptiness in the stomach. There may be tiredness or inability to breathe. When we are with people in this stage of grief there is no need to say something clever, it is enough simply to be there. The bereaved person may simply want to talk about the one who has died, to reminisce. They need to know that it is alright to be upset and express their grief. One day reality hits home and despite the pain which brings, this is progress. 



The question which may overshadow everything is “Why me”? Many expressions come out such as, “It makes you wonder sometimes, she was so young and never did anybody any harm”. Then you see all those rapists and murderers and nothing happens to them, I can never believe in God when he lets that sort of thing happen”. There may be anger at God for having allowed this to happen. There may be anger at the doctors or the hospital, indeed anybody who can act as a scapegoat. This is natural outrage, there is no need for anybody to try to make excuses or give rational explanations or theological argument. Neither is there any person for those who are upset to feel guilty about their anger! This is a natural part of the grief process. All that is required is assurance and the understanding that grief brings a genuine burden which can be very painful. It may be that the person we are most angry with is ourselves as we think of things in the past, missed opportunities or things we wished had never happened. 




Sometimes people will try to look for a way out of the situation, “I cried all last night and prayed that God would take me too” There can be a movement between fantasy and guilt, “I think that he may come back”. Some people are sure that they have seen their loved one on a bus or in a crowd, even that they have seen a ghost. Others never touch a room or 

refuse to throw anything out, in the hope that somehow they may be able to preserve things the way that they once were. 




There can be a deep sense of regret over the lost opportunities in life, or there could also be a sense of guilt, “perhaps if we tried a different doctor” Guilt in its many different varieties is a normal part of grief and it can cause depression. It may be that it makes us feel that we do not want to go on. It is important to realise that this is something we all feel and sometimes for a considerable length of time. It is important to find people to talk to, grief needs an outlet and we must be able to cry and express our emotions. Of course we also need to be reminded that we can talk to God. 




The time comes when we are able to “LET GO” of our loved one, leave them in peace and to experience new life again. It is the time when memories can be treasured without a terrible sense of pain. Of course this may be a long time away. Learning to live again means adjusting to being a different person in one sense. Losing is simply somebody is like having a part of oneself cut off. It takes time to reaffirm life and invest in new relationships and responsibilities. It is like learning to live all over again. We are all different and can experience different things at different times. Nevertheless one thing that the Bereaved nearly always have in common is that it takes time to recover. We need to be able to give time to express ourselves and understand a little of how we feel as this will help us not to get stuck in the bereavement journey. If you have felt the pain of bereavement then eventually you may be able to help somebody who is going through the same pain. Often what we need is simply somebody to listen and love. 

Who can I contact?


Some useful contacts for those going through grief for both emotional and practical support:-



Age Concern Scotland

Telephone: 0845 833 0200





BrakeCare helpline for road crash victims: 0845 603 8570




British Association of Cancer United Patients

Telephone helpline: 0808 800 1234





Freephone: 0808 808 0000

Fax: 020 7840 7841


General Register Office for Scotland

Telephone: 0131 334 0380



Humanist Society of Scotland

Telephone: 0870 874 9002



HM Revenue & Customs Charities, Assets and Residence

Telephone: 0131 777 4000


(For information on inheritance tax and forms)


The Law Society of Scotland

Telephone: 0131 226 7411



The Miscarriage Association

Scottish Telephone Helpline (answerphone with names of local contacts) 0131 334 8883




National Association of Funeral Directors

Telephone: 0845 2301343




Office of Fair Trading

Telephone: 08457 22 44 99




Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer

Telephone: 0131 247 2694

Fax: 0131 247 2695




The Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society (SANDS)

Telephone: 0131 622 6263

Fax: 0131 622 6265




Scottish Cot Death Trust

Telephone: 0141 357 3946




The Scottish Government – Civil Law Division

Telephone: 0131 244 3581

Waverley Care HIV Information Centre

Telephone: 0131 661 0982

Fax: 0131 652 1780




Voluntary Health Scotland

Telephone: 0131 225 7290

Fax: 0131 220 9940




Winston’s Wish (support for bereaved children)

Telephone: 01242 515 157

Fax: 01242 546 187




Information for those bereaved by suicide is available from:

Choose Life

Telephone: 0141 354 2900




Cruse – Bereavement Care Scotland

Telephone: 01738 444 178

Fax: 01738 444 807