What is bereavement?

In this article, we answer some of the frequently asked questions about bereavement and explain what support is available to help you understand and cope with your grief.

What does bereavement mean?

If you are bereaved, it means that someone close to you has died. The term “bereavement“ therefore describes this experience of loss, and is often used to refer to the period of mourning following a death.

Is bereavement the same as grief?

Grief is a reaction to losses of any kind, including the losses people experience when someone is dying or seriously ill for a long time. It describes the thoughts and feelings you experience as you try to come to terms with what has happened, and tends to refer to the process of finding ways to cope with the person’s death.

Who can be affected by bereavement or grief?

It is likely that everyone will experience bereavement at least once in their lifetime, but this will feel different for each person. This is because you can’t predict what your grief will feel like or look like; it is an entirely individual experience and how you process it can depend on a range of factors.

Support for people who have been bereaved

We know that coping with a bereavement can be really painful. That’s why we’ve put together information about the bereavement support and services available to help you get through.

Bereavement leave

When someone close to you dies, you may be entitled to some bereavement leave from work. This can often depend on the guidelines put in place by your employer.

To help you learn more about how the system works, and understand what your rights are, we’ve answered some of the most common questions about bereavement leave in our article. 

Bereavement benefits

If you are grieving for your partner, spouse or civil partner, you may be entitled to bereavement benefits or payments. This can help if you are struggling to cope financially after your bereavement. In our article, we explain what benefits are available and how to claim them.

Sue Ryder’s Online Bereavement Support

Alongside our written information and advice about coping with a bereavement, we also have a range of services available to you if you’re struggling with your grief.

Online Bereavement Community
Our Online Community is a safe place for people who are dealing with the death of someone they care about. It’s free to use, open to anyone over the age of 18 and available at any time of the day or night.

All posts are anonymous, so it’s somewhere you can talk honestly about terminal illness or your grief and connect with others who understand what you’re going through.

We monitor the site to make sure it stays a safe and supportive environment. You don’t have to sign up to read what others are saying, but you will need an account if you’d like to share your own experience.

Online Bereavement Counselling Service
We know how difficult it can be to access the support you need when you need it, so we have developed an Online Bereavement Counselling Service, staffed by experienced and qualified counsellors, to help fill that gap.

This service is free to use and the sessions are held over secure video chat, meaning that you can access support from the comfort and safety of your own home.

To access the service, you just need to register, provide us with a few details about your current situation, and book your initial assessment with a trained counsellor. After your assessment, if our service is right for you, you will be able to have up to six support sessions via video chat.

Grief Guide
Find the information and advice that’s right for you using Grief Guide, our new site dedicated to helping you learn about the grieving process, and finding new ways to understand and cope with your bereavement.

You can access exclusive features by creating a free account, or head straight to our collection of interactive coping tools, expert information and personal stories about grief.

Personalised grief support via text
Working together with Grief Coach, we now offer 12 months of free, personalised text message support to people coping with bereavement.

The messages, curated by Grief Coach, are based on the information you share about yourself and the person you’re grieving for, and include personalised tips and suggestions to help you throughout the year.

Every subscription also includes gentle coaching for two selected family members or friends who want to support you, but may not know how.

Leaflets about bereavement
We know that sometimes you need information in print to help people who may not be online, or if you just want to read something at your own pace. We have a number of publications about end-of-life and bereavement.

You can download these for free to print at home, or order printed copies for free.

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There’s no timetable for how long grief lasts or how you should feel. On this page we explore “How long does grief last?” and the “grief timeline”.
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We explore the stages of grief theory in more detail, focusing on how it was developed and why it isn't truly reflective of the grieving process.