how to cope with grief and sorrow

It’s not always easy to let go of feelings of grief or sorrow. In this post, we’ll explore how you can cope with feelings of grief and sorrow, and move forwards, without lessening your experience.

(Written by caba’s mental health expert, Kirsty Lilley) 

While grief is often associated with the death of someone we know, it can also come from the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, or another change in our life. 

There’s no right or wrong way to feel grief, nor is there a timeline for how long it should last. 

It can also be difficult to know how to support someone else going through grief. Especially if they don’t realise they’re grieving, or you haven’t experienced the same kind of loss before.  

In this article, you’ll find some advice on how to cope during times of grief, and how to support someone going through it. 

care for your physical health 

Grief and feelings of loss can be a physical experience because processing difficult feelings takes energy and time.  

It’s important for you to look after your physical health and encourage others to do the same.  

Changes in appetite and sleep patterns are common, so tune in to your body and give it what it needs in terms of nutrition and rest.  

If you’re struggling to rest, our partners at Sleepstation can help.   

Remember that your wellbeing isn’t an infinite resource, so find ways to recharge and manage your energy levels. 

stay connected 

Loneliness can exacerbate feelings of grief and loss, so it’s important that you stay connected to other people. Especially if your current situation means you’re more socially isolated than usual.  

Reach out to family and friends if you need to talk, or if you need help with practical things such as preparing meals or childcare.  

Although sadness and anxiety can prompt you to withdraw, see if you can instead turn to others when you feel distressed and lean on them for support. 

If it’s easier to talk to a stranger rather than family or friends, look for a counsellor you could talk to. We have a range of emotional support and talking therapies.

get outdoors 

Even a small amount of moderate exercise releases chemicals in your brain that can lift your mood.  

Going for a daily walk, breathing fresh air, and feeling the sunshine or wind on your face may give you some mental space and a different perspective. 

Natural surroundings or green spaces can have many positive effects on our mental health and wellbeing.  

You could try growing food, exercising outdoors, gardening, or walking in the countryside.

stay present and practice mindfulness 

Anticipatory grief creates an imagined future in our minds which we’re likely to populate with the worst possible scenarios.  

It’s our brains’ jobs to keep us safe. Predicting outcomes gives us an illusion of control over otherwise overwhelming circumstances.  

Try to recognise when your thoughts are focusing on that worst-case scenario and gently pull them back to the present.  

Mindfulness practices, or breathing exercises, can help bring your awareness back to the present moment and manage feelings of stress or anxiety. 

stay hopeful 

If you’re finding it difficult to stay in the here and now, you could try to imagine a best-case scenario instead. Then, plan on taking small steps each day towards this positive outcome. 

The events we’re experiencing will pass. There’ll be opportunities to reshape our lives in ways we haven’t anticipated yet.  

Remaining realistically hopeful will help you cope in times of uncertainty. There are a multitude of ways that things can unfold.  

Also, try to keep in mind that life is a continual flow of loss and gain. 

Although we put strategies in place to establish a sense of control, the reality is that most things are uncertain most of the time. And that’s ok.  

be kind to yourself and to others 

Meet each one of your experiences with a sense of warmth and kindness. Support yourself as you would a good friend and ease up on yourself when things get tough.  

Equally, show compassion to others and be generous in your interpretation of their responses and behaviours. Allow people to be where they are in the process and balance this with tending to your own needs. 

Although grief is a completely normal process, it can be harder to bear for some than others. Everyone manages it differently. 

how can you support loved ones who are grieving? 

Many people find it difficult to support others when they’re grieving. It can feel awkward and a little too close to home. 

But, in reality, most people who are grieving just want to be seen and heard, rather than “saved” or “rescued”.  

The important thing is to make yourself available to have a conversation. Often, a kind word or thoughtful gesture, and an acknowledgement that you understand how overwhelming it can feel, is all someone needs.  

When you‘re supporting someone else, create a space where they feel comfortable naming whatever part of the grief journey they’re on. Naming our experiences gives us a sense of cognitive control. It helps that emotion to be a “something” rather than “everything”.  

Of course, it’s important to include yourself in this circle of care so that you can avoid becoming too overwhelmed with other peoples’ distress. This is vital if you’re to continue supporting others effectively and still be able to function yourself.  

Remember to keep talking about how you feel and try to support others in their journey. If your feelings of loss remain overwhelming and you’re finding it increasingly difficult to manage how you feel, consider speaking with your GP.  

Or reach out to us to find out more about our professional counselling options. 

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Who is eligible for support?

We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW)1, ACA students2, ICAEW staff members3, and the family and carers of members and students4

  1. No matter where your career takes you, past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England Wales (ICAEW) are eligible for caba’s services for life, even if you change your career and leave accountancy 
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  4. Family members and carers of either an eligible past or present ICAEW member, ACA student or past or present employee of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's support. We define a family member as a: 
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    2. widow, widower or surviving civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    3. divorced spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    4. child aged up to 25. Please note, children aged between 16 and 25 are not eligible for individual financial support 
    5. any other person who is or was dependent on the eligible individual supporting them financially or are reliant on the eligible individual’s care 
    6. any other person on whom the eligible individual is reliant, either financially or for care 

You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer  page. 

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If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.  

*Please note none of our other services are means tested. 

I’m an accountant, but not a member of ICAEW, can you still help?

Unfortunately not. We only support past and present ICAEW members, their carers and their families. If we are unable to support you, where possible we will point you to help elsewhere.

caba has supported me in the past; can I receive support from caba again?

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