Grief: What is normal?

Following the death of your loved one with whom your life was entwined, there follows a period of suffering. Grief is complex and has emotional, physical, behavioural, spiritual and philosophical dimensions. It is a normal human journey and represents our adaptation towards living life without our loved person. It can be an incredibly difficult, lonely and disorientating experience.

Grief is a very individual experience. Here are some of the common things people experience emotionally.

  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling empty
  • Feeling lonely
  • Not being able to concentrate
  • Crying all the time
  • Feeling numb or not being able to cry at all
  • Feeling like you’re “on autopilot” as you attend to practical matters around the death
  • Feeling fearful or anxious
  • Feeling deep sorrow
  • Feeling guilty
  • Feelingly angry at everything and everyone (sometimes with the person who has died)
  • Forgetting the person has died e.g If they made you a cup of tea every morning you might find yourself fleetingly expecting them to walk through the door with it.
  • Hearing or seeing the person who has died
  • Being pre-occupied with memories of the person’s illness and death
  • Feeling physically drained or unwell (see section on physical effects of grief)

The grief response often has physical aspects, most common in the acute phase of your loss. These are all considered normal, though if they persist, talk to your GP.


  • Eating less or more
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
  • A feeling of exhaustion
  • Physical aches and pains
  • A physical feelings of anxiety- heart racing, sweating, breathlessness or occasionally panic attacks


Managing your Grief- Some lifestyle tips

While you are grieving bear in mind that “it’s okay not to be okay”.  There are however some simple steps you can take to improve your mental health while you do through this process.

Connect with family and friends- find people who you feel you can express how you are feeling about your loss. If you feel like your options for support are thin on the ground look around in your community for ways to connect with people such as classes, volunteering, coffee mornings or book groups.

Get things in the diary- You might find yourself lacking motivation but it can be useful to have some simple plans sprinkled in the diary to help with the passing of time such as a walk with friends, a coffee or a trip to the cinema.

Some simple steps to improve your sleep-

  • Avoid caffeine after midday
  • Make your bedroom a calm, inviting and relaxing space which you only use for sleep
  • Try to avoid screens for 1 hour before bedtime instead reading, listening to a podcast/audiobook or meditating instead.
  • Dim the lights for the final hour of the day
  • Set your alarm in the morning at a consistent time and try to get some sunlight early in the day
  • Try to be active during the day according your fitness level
  • Have good blackout blinds in your room
  • Playing some white noise or a “sleepscape” in the background as you sleep can be useful. The app Portal has some free options.
  • Limit your alcohol intake in the evening and have alcohol free evenings. While it might be easier to fall asleep after drinking, it disrupts your sleep pattern and may leave you feeling more tired.
  • Be aware that smoking and other sources of nicotine negatively impacts your sleep.

Walking in a peaceful place- Being out in nature can be calming and grounding. Many people find spending time outdoors beneficial to their mental health. If your fitness levels limit your physical activity a short walk and sitting outside on a bench or even a scenic drive can help too.

Exercise- If you are able, try to take some regular exercise. This can help with your mood and improve sleep. 

Being mindful of alcohol intake- It can be very easy for alcohol intake to creep up following a bereavement. Try to stick to the recommended weekly limits of 14 units/week with alcohol free days. A 330ml bottle of beer or cider contains around 1.7 units, one small shot of spirit contains 1 unit and a standard glass of wine is 2.1 units.

Engage with hobbies or try some new ones- Try to bring things into your life that give you satisfaction and solace. It can be anything from gardening or reading to joining a new craft or yoga class in your local area.


If your loved one received support from any of Strathcarron teams during their illness and you now feel you need some extra support on your grief journey, why not start by having a conversation with our Bereavement Support Team.

There are a range of different types of support and you can explore what might suit you best. A listening ear may be just what you need. Please just call 01324 826222 and leave a message for Bereavement Support with your name, loved one's name and contact number.