Grief

It can be very painful losing someone or something you care deeply about. You might experience a range of strong emotions, physical symptoms and/or have trouble thinking clearly, which can impact your behaviour. Sometimes it will feel like the pain will last forever. There's no right or wrong way to grieve, but there are ways to help you to better cope with grief that will enable you to find some resolution and acceptance of the situation.

Is my grief a problem?

We usually associate grief with the death of a loved one, but it can also result from other kinds of losses like the end of a relationship or a career, or the death of a pet. The bigger the loss, the harder it may be to deal with.

There are all sorts of myths about loss and grief. Some people will tell you that grief is a sign of weakness – that you should just pull yourself together and be strong. Others will tell you that there's a right or wrong way to grieve – if you don’t cry, for example, that must mean that you don’t care. Some people believe there is a set time for grieving – it’s OK to be sad for a year, but then you should suddenly get over it. None of this is true.

Many people will feel pain and find it hard to pick up the pieces after a major loss. You might feel shocked and numb, unable to comprehend what has happened. You might be overwhelmed by sadness, feeling empty as though a part of you has been taken away. You might feel angry at who caused your loss or allowed it to happen, or maybe guilty – feeling that you should have done something to stop it. You might be frightened, or worried about how you will cope after this loss.

However, grief is not just about emotions as there are often physical aspects to consider as well. You might lose your appetite (or maybe eat too much), feel tired, nauseous, have trouble sleeping (or just want to sleep all the time), or have a lot of aches and pains.

Grief can also change the way we behave. You might want to withdraw from everyone and everything – stay at home, draw the curtains, and lock the door, cutting yourself off from the outside world. You might want to drink a lot of alcohol or take other drugs to make the pain go away. You might find yourself being short tempered with people and the world around you. For some people, grief can be associated with depression or even self-harm.

These signs and symptoms are not unusual in people experiencing grief. But if they are persistent and interfere with your ability to carry on with life and to get on with other people, then it's important to take action.

What can I do about dealing with grief?

 Self-help

There are no right or wrong ways to deal with the loss of someone or something that you love and no rules about how long it takes. But there are several things you can do to help yourself cope better.

Get support from other people

Try to spend time with friends and family – people you care about. You don’t have to talk about your loss if you don’t want to, just be with other people. Work out a plan for how you can do that; maybe you can contact an old friend, organise to see a movie, have a coffee, or go to a sports game. You might want to join a club or a church, or perhaps a support group with other people who are also grieving. Try to make sure you have some social contact every day.

Take Action: Build Social Connections

Spending time with people that you care about will help you to cope with grief.

Use the Social Connections tool to identify the people in your life who can offer you support and the different kinds of support they can provide.

Focus on spending time with those closest to you. Plan to spend time with others each day.

This tool is also available on the High Res app to use on the go.

Look after your physical health

When you’re grieving, it's hard to take care of yourself. But ignoring your health will only make it harder to cope. Try to eat well and regularly, get plenty of rest, do some exercise every day, and cut down on alcohol and other drugs. You might be surprised what a difference this can make to the way you feel.

Take Action: Improve Your Sleep

Grief can affect your sleep quality, however there are some changes you can make to help you get the best possible sleep.

Answer the questions in the Healthy Sleeping tool about your usual sleeping behaviours and get tailored advice and tips to improve your sleep and optimise your mental and physical functioning.

This tool is also available on the High Res app to use on the go.

Take Action: Do some Regular Exercise

Regular exercise increases your ability to cope with grief, it also helps with stress more generally and sleep.

The Physical Activities tool has suggestions of activities you can try and tips for getting started and staying active.

When you’re starting out, choose smaller activities that are relatively easy to engage in, once you’re in the habit of being active you can try some more challenging activities.

This tool is also available on the High Res app to use on the go.

Take Action: Manage Your Drinking

Drinking more alcohol might seem to take away some of the pain of grief in the short term but in the long run, drinking excessively makes you feel down and makes it harder to deal with grief.

Building an action plan will help you to find the goals, strategies and supports that will help you to manage the amount of alcohol you drink. Once you have a plan you can start to put it into action.

Use the action plan tool before you start making changes, to give yourself the best chance of sticking to your goals.

You can also use the ON TRACK with The Right Mix app to manage your drinking.

Give yourself time to think about your loss

Don’t try to block it out. Share your memories – both good and bad – with someone you trust, or try writing them down. You might want to write a letter to your loved one, or maybe make a scrapbook of photos. It’s often helpful to do something constructive, like getting involved in a cause that is important to you.

Plan for tomorrow

Try to build in work, exercise, a social activity, and some time alone (but not too much). Include as many enjoyable things as possible. The High Res website features an Action Plan to help improve your resilience.

Take Action: Develop a Personal Resilience Plan

Improving your resilience will help you to deal with your grief and manage stress.

Use the action plan tool to help create a plan to build your resilience. Use the dashboard to make goals, schedule the use of other helpful tools on the High Res website and track your progress over time.

You can also use the Performance Training section in the High Res app to set goals for when you will practice the tools.

Plan for the future

It might be hard to imagine now, but you do have a future. In the early stages of grief you may have difficulties thinking things through, so it’s not a good idea to make major life decisions at this point. But there will be a time when you will start making plans and looking to the future. This does not mean forgetting the person or thing you have lost. It means moving on with your life, and finding connection and contentment again.

Although grief resolves over time for most people, for some it does not. We call this "complicated grief". Complicated grief is more likely if the loss has come about in traumatic circumstances. Sometimes it can be linked to posttraumatic stress disorder.

 Getting Help

If the strategies above don’t help, if you feel that life is not worth living, if you struggle to be with other people, or if you're unable to carry out your normal role (e.g., as a worker, a parent, a student), then reach out for some help.

  • Your GP is always a good place to start. He or she can help with a thorough assessment of the problem and make referrals for specialists.
  • This website has information on a range of professional care that is available to current and former serving members.

Online resources

More information on grief and how to manage it is available from: