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Coping with grief

When someone you know dies, emotional reactions are natural and it's important to learn how to help yourself. 

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When someone dies, it’s normal to be affected — whether or not you were close to the person. You may feel shock or grief. Or, you may feel anger, guilt or even fear about your own mortality. This may be especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These emotional reactions are natural. You may feel them right away, or they can appear hours, days, weeks or months later. It’s equally normal to have no reaction at all. Usually these feelings will ease over time. Sometimes the loss can feel so painful that it interferes with your work or home life.

The information below may help you better understand and cope with your grief.

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Common reactions to grief

Death may produce a wide range of symptoms that may feel unusual to you. Remember that these are normal reactions. While they are different for each person, they may affect:

  • How you think
  • Poor concentration
  • Shorter attention span
  • Slowed problem solving
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty making decisions
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How you feel physically

  • Headaches
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Muscle tremors
  • Difficulty breathing
  • High blood pressure

How you feel emotionally

  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Guilt
  • Anxiety, worry or fear
  • Feeling lost or overwhelmed

How you behave

  • Overly quiet
  • Changes in sleep and eating habits
  • Lower work performance
  • Social withdrawal

How to help yourself

  • Give yourself permission to feel bad about your loss. Take time to grieve.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Eat well-balanced and regular meals, even if they don’t seem appealing.
  • Talk to someone who will listen and let you express your feelings. Don’t try to “numb the pain” with drugs or alcohol.
  • Realize that having thoughts and feelings about the death are normal. They’ll decrease over time and become less painful.
  • Remember, it’s OK to ask for help if you’re having trouble coping.

Our Emotional Support Help Line at 1-866-342-6892 is free of charge and available to anyone. It will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.