1. Home  
  2. Family and support for individuals  
  3. Death  
  4. Better cope with grief  
  5. How adults experience bereavement

How adults experience bereavement

Frequent reactions during bereavement in adults

The process of bereavement varies from one individual to the next. It may be influenced by the relationship with the deceased, past experience, culture, beliefs, values, and available support, among others. A person who is grieving may experience one or more of these feelings:

  • Sharp, almost unbearable emotional pain
  • A feeling of anger and injustice; mood swing
  • Solitude, emptiness, powerlessness, sadness and despair
  • Confusion and the inability to focus, concentrate or remember
  • Withdrawal and lack of interest for usual activities
  • Stress, anxiety, agitation, tightness in the chest
  • Sleep and appetite problems
  • Questioning feelings of safety and confidence in life
  • The impression of functioning as a robot
  • A refusal to believe that the event has really happened and that loved ones have died

The intensity and duration of these feelings varies from one person to the next. It is quite normal to feel confused and shaken. For this reason, it is vital to take the time needed to get back on your feet and, especially, to develop a caring attitude towards yourself and others. There is no predetermined length of time needed to get over bereavement.

Overcoming bereavement

No one is better placed than you to identify your strengths, resources and needs. Asking yourself the following questions may help you to clarify your thoughts:

  • If I have already experienced bereavement, how did I get over it? What helped me to keep a grip on things? What can I do in the current situation?
  • Which adaptation strategies can help?
  • What do people see as my strengths and how can I use them in my current bereavement process?
  • Who among my close circle of friends and family can I open myself to and share my feelings about what is happening?
  • Who can provide support, such as cooking meals, accompanying me to deal with official formalities, childcare, etc.)?
  • What mutual assistance groups and professional services are available in my community to help me? How can I access their services?

Here are some things that may help:

  • Allow yourself to talk about loss and bereavement with your family and friends. Nothing could be more normal than to feel the need to talk about this regularly. Remind yourself that each of us experiences bereavement in a personal way and at a personal rhythm.
  • Remain focused on your feelings, emotions and reactions. Allow yourself to express them to a trusted friend or family member or perhaps in another way, such as in a diary.
  • Try to recover a daily routine by adopting healthy living habits such as eating well, sleeping enough and resting.
  • Even if you don’t always feel like it, restart your household and recreational activities just as soon as you feel up to it. In spite of your pain, this can help take your mind off your troubles.
  • Remind yourself of the things you did in the past to get over a difficult period in your life.
  • Avoid using alcohol or drugs to lower your stress level. Substance abuse will only slow down the healing process and even generate anxiety and depression.
  • Avoid making important decisions when you are overwhelmed.
  • Plan a very personal goodbye ceremony.
  • Freely express your needs to the people around you, such as taking care of the children, performing household chores, assisting you with the necessary arrangements.
  • Allow yourself to grieve at your own pace.
  • Remember that feeling less pain does not mean forgetting. You can feel better while still remembering the person who died. You are not betraying that person because your pain is decreasing. Remember the good times you spent with your loved one.
  • Join a grief support group or make use of the resources offering counselling or telephone or online support. This could help you cope with your emotions or develop effective strategies to get through your grief.
  • Avoid being too isolated. Maintain a balance between the time you spend alone and the time you spend with others.
  • Believe in the value of mutual assistance and solidarity. Helping others to the extent you are able can improve your own well-being.
  • Do activities with people who are going through a similar process.

Last update: February 21, 2023


Was the information on this page useful to you?
General notice

You have questions or require additional information?

Please contact Services Québec