There are no rules in grief. It can help to listen to yourself and learn what works for you. Accept that what helps initially may change over time. Whatever happens, be kind to yourself. Although it may initially seem impossible, with support you can adjust to a new way of living that includes your grief and the precious connection you have with the person who has died.

Here is some guidance on looking after both your physical and mental wellbeing.

Ways to look after your physical wellbeing

Looking after your physical wellbeing can help you to face everyday challenges, stresses and changes, and have the strength to do what is important to you. It can be useful to start with small, achievable changes that become a part of your routine and where you can see the benefits quickly.

Why is eating well important when you’re grieving?

Bereavement can affect appetite or the kinds of food you feel like eating. You might lose your appetite or eat at irregular times of the day, particularly if your sleep is disrupted, or you might gravitate towards eating different kinds of food such as quick snacks if you are too exhausted to cook, for example. There may be other reasons that eating feels difficult and eating healthily less worthwhile; some people associate preparing food and eating well with caring for someone they love who has died, or if you may have recently given birth there may be bodily changes that can affect your appetite and diet.

Eating a nutritionally balanced diet can help you have the energy to cope with your grief and that of those around you, even if you are feeling low emotionally. If your appetite has reduced, try eating little and often, and drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. A varied diet which provides energy and strength will usually include carbohydrates, fats, proteins and different kinds of vegetables and fruits. Reducing your intake of caffeine and any alcohol may help reduce any feelings of anxiety.

As eating can be a social activity, a meal can be an opportunity to see friends or family. Some people find it helpful to share a special meal, to help celebrate and remember the person who has died.

Food is very important emotionally and can be comforting. For some people, eating as a comfort may become a problem if it affects their health or how they feel about themselves. Having a regular routine for sleep, exercise and other activities may help you to identify, and manage, eating habits that you are concerned about.

It worries me that I could easily over eat... in between meals I am trying to eat fruit instead of biscuits.

Why is it important to avoid alcohol and recreational drugs when you’re grieving?

Some people may try to manage how they feel through alcohol or recreational drugs. Although this may distract you or block out emotional pain for a while, it can become a problem affecting your health and wellbeing in the long term. Your GP can help if you are worried about your use of alcohol or drugs.

I avoid strong stimulants and alcohol which tend to make me more anxious and depressed.

How can exercise help when you’re grieving?

Bereavement affects everyone differently. Some people will feel restless and full of adrenaline, and will use exercise to direct some of their energy, while for others, grief can be exhausting and they may not feel like doing exercise if they are tired or feeling very low. However, it is widely acknowledged that exercise can help you to feel better about yourself, improve appetite and help with sleep. Even gentle exercise can boost energy levels and relieve stress, releasing endorphins, the natural brain chemicals that improve mood. 

Exercising with family, friends or in a group can reduce isolation and give you a change of scene. Being outdoors and in nature where possible can be therapeutic; walking, gardening or other outside activities can be absorbing, helping you to focus on the present moment.

I found walking a great help. You get some exercise and are out in the fresh air. I tend to walk with my wife and while we are walking we can talk through stuff that is troubling us. Big stuff that could be controversial is talked through when we are walking.

All the muscles of the body hold emotional and physical stresses, so it is important to try to care for both your mental health and your physical health, as they are so interconnected. Physical symptoms such as neck, back or joint pain are common in people who are bereaved, but exercise can help avoid these by keeping your joints and muscles healthy. Exercise can also help you to focus on your breathing, which may help in managing strong emotions or difficult situations.

Doing regular exercise can also be a way to give more structure or routine to your day, and it may help to clear your mind and feel more in control. Focusing on a new skill or routine may also give you a distraction and sense of relief from the pain of grief.

I could never have predicted the physical impact of grief - exhaustion in particular. By walking I’ve gained physical strength, my mood is enhanced, and walking has anchored me, provoked discipline and focus. Most significantly, it has facilitated talking - with friends as well as with myself - which has helped me to reflect.

If you are trying a new exercise routine, it needs to be manageable and safe. This includes stretching before exercising and making sure that any medical conditions do not put you at risk. Low impact exercise such as tai chi, pilates or yoga can be very beneficial, as well as more strenuous activity. You may be able to match a form of exercise to how you feel. For example, walking or running to relieve fear or stress, martial arts to release anger or frustration, or more meditative forms such as tai chi to help manage anxiety or sadness.

It can also help to do exercise that you enjoy, to reward yourself afterwards, and note how the exercise makes you feel. Any new exercise routine is more likely to work if you start with small, achievable changes that can develop into a habit.

I have to enjoy the exercise to make me want to do it. It’s important for me to plan it rather than just going to the gym when I find the time (it just won’t happen!).

For NHS guidance on stretching and starting exercise, visit: You may also be interested to read a blogpost by a bereaved father on how being in nature helped when he was grieving.

How can sleeping well help when you’re grieving?

One of the most common effects of bereavement is not being able to sleep or reduced sleep quality, although this does not affect everyone. Your sleep may also be disrupted because other family members in your household can’t sleep. A lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep makes daily life feel more difficult. Over the long term, it can also worsen pre-existing problems such as anxiety or difficulties in coping with stress. When we sleep well, our bodies can repair and heal more easily, and we are more able to think clearly, make decisions and cope emotionally.

Managing sleep problems is not always easy but physical activity can help improve sleep. Other ways to help improve sleep include: keeping regular sleeping and waking times; reducing or avoiding tea, coffee, chocolate, sugar, alcohol and non-prescription drugs; reducing screen time (TV, computers and smartphones) in the bedroom and just before bedtime; keeping a sleep diary (a record of how well you sleep) or using a sleep app so you can notice any changes over time and anything that has helped; and writing down or talking about things that are on your mind, so they are less likely to keep you awake. If problems with sleep continue for the medium or long term and are affecting your ability to function in day-to-day life, speak to your GP for advice.

Ways to look after your mental and emotional wellbeing

As well as the physical aspects of grieving, the emotional impact of being bereaved cannot be underestimated - grief is exhausting and can feel overwhelming. Looking after your mental and emotional wellbeing can help you to cope with the intensity of grief, and face challenges, stresses and changes, while allowing ourselves to express the pain we are feeling. 

Why are structure and routine important when you’re grieving?

Grief can affect every part of life, and your existing routines may change, or you may have to make permanent adjustments. It may be hard to keep a structure to your day, but even small regular habits and routines can help you feel a sense of stability and purpose. Having a regular time to sleep, eat, do tasks or activities, and go out for fresh air or to meet a friend, can all help with wellbeing, and reduce isolation. Some people find that creating an activity schedule or programme can help them keep to a structure. The structure of regular routines can play an important part in processing grief, and slowly adjusting to a new way of life.

I'm not good at dealing with any last-minute changes to routines... additional events on top of what I'm dealing with cause a lot of anxiety.

Why is social support helpful when you’re grieving?

Research suggests that when grieving, it helps to have 'social support' – positive ways to connect with other people who are supportive. In some cases, friendships or relationships can change; others may not understand what you need, some may avoid you, or they might be grieving in a different way to you.

However, when support from others feels helpful, you may feel less alone in your grief. Other people can support you by offering to help with day-to-day practical activities or chores, or by doing something together that you enjoy. You may be more likely to treat yourself if you are with someone else, and sharing time together can give you a break from stressful thoughts.

If you can talk to other people about the person who has died and share special and everyday memories, this can strengthen the unique connection you have with the person who has died.

Grief can be very isolating. Finding information about bereavement support, or joining a support group, can help you to realise you are not alone and that the difficult emotions you may be feeling are normal.

How can talking help when you’re grieving?

You may find it difficult to talk openly, or you may find that you want to talk in detail about the events of the death in order to make some sense of what has happened. Our experience of supporting bereaved families at Child Bereavement UK indicates that finding ways to talk about what has happened, while difficult, can be very helpful. Some people have very supportive families and friends, but sometimes it can be those closest to us with whom we have the most difficulty communicating when someone dies. It may be that other family members are grieving too and may not have the capacity to offer you the support you need. This can leave you feeling misunderstood, unrecognised, hurt and angry. You may be able to help others to support you by being clear with them about what you need. Family members or friends in a supportive role tell us that it can be a relief to be given clear guidance about how to support others and what they need. 

It may be that some family or friends around you have good intentions of supporting you but are unable to communicate this. In some families, communication may be difficult for various reasons, and you may be able to find other people outside of your family or a professional who can support you in a way that feels right for you including from our support services.

How can I manage stress when I’m grieving?

There are several definitions of the word 'stress', but it can be described simply as 'too much pressure'. Sometimes stress can help us to manage a specific situation for a while, but when it continues long-term, it can affect our immune system, and increase risks to our physical and mental health so it is important to find ways to manage stress as early as possible. Increased worry and anxiety are very common in bereavement. Sharing worries with someone close to you may help you both; it can be a relief to share similar thoughts and to feel less alone. However, you may want to talk to someone who is neutral, such as a professional support practitioner or by calling our confidential Helpline. You may also find it helpful to be aware of your inner voice and to try to talk positively to yourself, including repeating encouraging or soothing phrases and acknowledging what you have achieved under such difficult circumstances

Research suggests that the following may help to reduce the impact of stress on physical health: having information about how we grieve and our reactions to bereavement; continuing with everyday activities, as far as possible; having social connections, especially with people who help to reduce your stress levels; doing at least two health-protective things each week such as taking exercise and eating a nutritionally balanced diet; avoiding or reducing alcohol, cutting down or not smoking; and talking to someone who will listen without judging.

How can I cope with isolation and difficult feelings?

Writing a journal or diary can be a way to express and release feelings. It can also be a helpful record for you to look back at your process of grieving over time and note any changes.

You may notice that you may not be able to function as effectively as you normally do. You may be tired, have a poor memory, find it difficult to concentrate, or feel that nothing is important. You could make a note of things that you worry you might forget, and set yourself one achievable task a day.

One of the most difficult aspects of grieving is the feeling of being out of control. It may be hard to keep a structure to your day, but this can help you to manage feelings of being overwhelmed. For instance, you could do essential chores in the morning and exercise in the afternoon. If possible, plan activities that will give you some kind of break, like watching a film that might distract you for a while.

We grieve physically in our bodies so exercise, even a gentle walk, can help release some of the physical tensions. Massage can also help some people. 

How can I cope with anger when I’m grieving?

Try to find ways of expressing your anger physically without hurting yourself or others, such as punching a cushion or pillow. Things like stomping through the woods or a park or kicking leaves can be satisfying. Gardening or other absorbing work outside can help to release energy created by anger. Some people may find kick-boxing, running or other forms of exercise helpful too.

Along with physical activity, it can help to shout or scream to release tension. Make sure that you are in a private place and cannot be heard. If you have been angry on your own, find someone to comfort you afterwards. Some people believe expressing anger generates more anger, rather than releasing it, but others do not share this experience. See for yourself whether this works for you.

Humour can help break through anger – sometimes things happen that are so insensitive, or the things people say are so fantastically unhelpful, the only thing to do to get through it is to laugh. Laughing on your own or with like-minded people can feel good and can help release tension.

Should I be sorting the belongings of someone who has died?

You may have a strong desire to remove all the objects, such as photographs and clothes, belonging to the person who has died because it hurts every time you look at them. The general guidance is to wait before you act, until your feelings are less intense. Then you will be able to decide more rationally what you would like to keep and what to let go of. It can be positive to offer a memento to other family members and to donate items that can benefit others to a good cause such as a charity. 

Waiting until your feelings are less intense also applies to big decisions and plans such as moving to a different house, although in some cases this may be something you have to do for practical reasons.

How can remembering be helpful?

It can help to find ways to remember the person who has died. You may feel too raw initially, but looking through photographs, recalling experiences or visiting places you went together can help to focus your grief. If you cry, remember tears are there for a reason, both to let others know that you need support and to release chemicals that calm you.

In time you may want to do something in memory of the person who has died, such as planting a tree or a shrub. Or you could create something artistic or write a poem tribute to them, if that feels right for you.

Some people find comfort in having a memory box which you can either buy or make – in which to keep precious possessions. These could be cards, dried flowers, photographs and other special things relating to the person who has died.

How can I manage letters and expressions of condolence?

Condolence letters are written as an expression of care for you and the person who has died, not as something to put pressure on you. Only reply if you feel up to it and if that is what you want to do. Some people find it too overwhelming, or it may be that you feel it is something you can approach later, while others find that replying to condolence letters can feel healing. Everyone is individual and it is important not to put pressure on yourself. You might find it helpful to set up an online memorial page on which others can share their condolences and memories.

How can I return to work or study after being bereaved?

If you are returning to work or study, there are ways to ease yourself back in. Perhaps you could ask a work colleague to accompany you to the office on the first day. You could talk to your manager about how they can help support you. Let people at work, university or college know whether you want to talk about what has happened or not or how you want others to be told. If possible, you could consider asking to go back to work or study gradually, perhaps easing yourself in by working part time, if this is possible. Don’t expect to be able to perform at your usual capacity; try to take on manageable, short-term tasks. Work can be a useful distraction from grieving, but you are unlikely to be able to switch off completely. Give yourself short breaks in the day to go for walks and have private time and space for a few tears if needed.

Visit our page: How we can support you for more on our services.

You can also call our Helpline 0800 02 888 40, email [email protected], or use Live Chat on our website.