Dealing with Grief


Dealing with grief doesn’t mean trying to ignore or ‘get over’ your loss. It means finding ways to live with the loss and take care of yourself and your family while you grieve.  

There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ way to grieve. Some people cry openly and want to talk about it; others prefer to keep busy or shut the world out. 

In most cases we grieve the same way we live: 

  • If you are the type of person who tackles problems head on and just gets on with it you will probably grieve like that. 
  • If you are quiet and withdrawn and tend to keep things to yourself, then you are likely to deal with grief in that way. 

Every person’s experience of grief is unique – so how you (and each of your family members) deal with grief will be unique too. Try not to take reactions personally, or to judge how others are dealing with their grief. 

It’s common during bereavement for your thoughts to bounce between focusing on the loss of your loved one, and focusing on life as it is now and how things will be in the future without them.  Switching between these is a sign of a healthy grief process.  

Helpful ways to deal with grief include sharing stories about your loved one, going for a run or walk, and letting out your emotions (like having a good cry in the shower, or watching a sad movie if you need some help letting the tears out).  Think about what has helped you deal with stressful events in the past. 

Unhelpful ways to deal with grief include hurting other people, self-harm, alcohol or using drugs.  

It’s both okay and necessary to take a break from grieving and distract yourself, but also give yourself the time and space to experience whatever emotions and reactions you have to your loss. Read more advice for coping with daily life while you are bereaved.  

Helping a young person deal with grief 

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is upsetting at any age, but the death of a parent or sibling is especially difficult for children and adolescents. There is no guidebook for how to support a young person who has lost someone important to them, but these tips may help: 

  • Young people go through the same grief, sadness and despair as adults do, even though it might look different. As well as sadness, young people may feel anger, guilt, loneliness, anxiety and even relief.  
  • For teenagers the grieving process can last longer, and can go through different stages as they mature. Each new milestone and era through adolescence and adulthood will bring new moments of grief and pain (for example graduation, weddings, becoming a new parent).  
  • Tell your child that there is no right or wrong way to feel or show grief; everyone deals with it in their own way. Print out or direct them to CanTeen’s tips for dealing with grief after cancer that we have written for young people.  
  • Keep the communication going. Over time, your child/ren may have new questions about what happened to their parent or sibling. Let them know it’s always okay to ask and answer them honestly.  
  • They never have to be okay with the fact that their parent or sibling died, time may not remove that wound. The goal is not for grief to disappear, but rather for your child (and yourself) to learn how to make space for the pain, and to create a new normal that honors the loss, as well as focusses on moving forward. 
  • If you’re worried about how a child or young person is dealing with grief read our advice for supporting them, whether they have lost a parent or sibling.

More advice/support 

If you need some help understanding and dealing with grief call or email a CanTeen counsellor: 1800 835 932 or 
Self-care and self-compassion are key to coping during your bereavement. See our tips for Taking care of yourself.  

You may find it helpful to connect with other bereaved parents to find out how they managed their grief. Search or post a question in our online parent community. 
Useful sites/resources 

GriefLine  is a dedicated loss and grief national telephone and online counselling service: 1300 845 745 

For a full list of Parenting through Cancer resources click here
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