Looking after your mental health - Coping with bereavement or loss
Losing a brother or sister, parent, friend or someone else close to you, is devastating and can cause a variety of feelings and emotions. If their death was caused through suicide, or was very sudden, the shock may make these feelings even more intense.
You may be trying to support other members of your family or friends while trying to cope with your own feelings. Many people do not experience bereavement until later in life so you may feel confused or frightened and it can be difficult to know what are normal feelings.
You may also have the pressures of school or college to keep up with, including exams, and be worried that you cannot cope or will fall behind.
In the information below, you will find some of the things that are known to be quite common among young people who have been affected by bereavement including through suicide.
You will also find ideas that other young people have found helpful and useful websites where you can find more information, including where to go for advice and support.
How you might feel
People can have different experiences when they lose someone. How long these feelings last also varies from individual to individual.
Some of the feelings young people who are bereaved often talk about include:
- Feeling like you are the only person feeling the way you do
- Feeling numb and unable to express your feelings
- Being unable to cry – or the opposite, feeling weepy and crying or getting upset at even the smallest thing
- Thinking that you are responsible, which can make you feel guilty or that you have to try and ‘fill the gap’ in your family
- Anger – with yourself (what if you’d done something differently?); with your friends, family or other people you are in contact with like teachers at school or college (why don’t they understand?) or with the person who has died (why did they leave me?)
- Finding it hard to talk to your friends or family, especially if it feels like they don’t understand what you are going through
- Panic and agitation – not being able to sleep, to concentrate or to take decisions; a loss of interest in food/no appetite.
Coping with grief – what can help?
It’s important to remember that coming to terms with the loss of someone close to you can take quite a while and that it is a gradual process.
Looking after your own mental and physical health is a very important part of this process so it’s important to remember to:
- Eat regularly
- Get enough sleep
- Tell someone if you feel unwell or that you can’t cope –this could be someone in your family, a friend, your GP or the nurse at your school, college or place where you work.
- When someone has taken their own life, it’s especially important to remember that it was their decision and not something that you could control or prevent.
If they had been mentally unwell before they took their life and acting differently, possibly they may have been more distant from you or you weren’t getting on with them as well as usual. If this is the case, you may find it helpful to find out more about their mental illness so that you can understand their actions a bit more.
Seeing and talking to your friends, keeping up with the hobbies and pastimes you enjoy and doing some exercise are all things many young people report finding helpful, especially when they are feeling low and sad… and you should not feel guilty about getting on with your life and the things you enjoy.
If someone in your family has died, you may find it difficult to talk to your grieving parents or other family members about how you are feeling because you are worried that it will burden or upset them further – but your feelings are also important and talking may help you all to share how you are feeling.
If your friend has been bereaved
If you are a friend of someone who has been bereaved spending time with your friend if they want this, encouraging them to talk and listening to them, can be some of the most helpful things friends can offer.
Often people who are bereaved want to talk about the person who has died, this can help the grieving process, so as a friend, don’t try and avoid mentioning the dead person in your usual conversations.
Also don’t be worried if your friend wants to go over things again and again – this is often the way that people who are bereaved make sense of their loss.
As a friend, you can help by:
- Including the person who is bereaved in any social activities you are planning
- Discouraging them from making any big decisions or changes to their lives – e.g. dropping out of education or training
- Understanding that if they seem angry, irritable or fed up, this is not aimed at you but is part of their grieving.
Other things to consider:
Many young people find that talking to a counsellor about their feelings can be helpful. If you are still in education, your school, college or university health service may have a counselling service you can go to and many of these offer drop in sessions to make them as easy to use as possible whenever you need them. If you are not in education, you could find a counsellor through another route. Find out more about counselling.
Some people find attending a support group helpful, where they can talk with other people who have experienced bereavement or know about suicide. You will find information about some organisations that can help you find a support group in your local area at the end of this page.
You may want to go back to school, college or work as soon as you can, or you may feel that you want some time off. There’s no right answer to this and you should do what feels comfortable for you. What is important though, is to let your school or college know what’s happening, so that the staff there can support you or speak to your workplace.
To help you remember your friend or relative, you might like to create a photo book, memory box or write down your memories and feelings in a journal.
For more info:
The Compassionate Friends - a charitable organisation set up by bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents dedicated to the support and care of other bereaved parents, siblings, and grandparents who have suffered the death of a child/children.
Cruse Bereavement Care - offer free, confidential help to bereaved people. Helpline: 08444779400 (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
PAPYRUS - works to prevent young suicide. Papyrus produces a range of information resources to support people affected by suicide including booklets written specifically for young people which can be downloaded from its website Papyrus runs a confidential helpline HOPELineUK – 08000684141
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide - an organisation set up for people who have lost someone to suicide. There is a national helpline offering support, as well as group meetings and information factsheets.
Helpline: 08445616855 (9am to 9pm daily) Email: email@example.com
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