A guide to dealing with grief

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We’re all connected by grief

Grief can come in many forms. There is no one size fits all approach, and it’s often the hardest thing you’ll ever have to overcome in life.  

Grief and loss can make you feel as though your world has been put on hold, while you learn to navigate life without the person you love beside you. Equally, offering support for grief can make you feel hopeless, as you struggle to find the right thing to say, or do the right thing to show your support. 

Whether you’re coping with death or offering support for someone who’s grieving, it’s normal to have questions. What do you say when someone diesHow long are you entitled to time off work as bereavement leave? Where can I find financial support? Were affairs in order, such as a lasting Power of Attorney or a Will?  

Collated in partnership with Scotland’s bereavement charity, Cruse, this guide is for anyone struggling with grief, or anyone offering support to someone who’s grieving. At Watermans, we believe you should understand your rights to grieve, and we want to help make things a bit easier. Throughout this guide, we’ll aim to answer some of the most common grief questions with a blend of emotional support and practical legal advice.

Symptoms of grief

It’s important to remember that grief connects us all. At one stage in life, we will all feel the pain of grief and loss and share the same emotions. So, when you’re grieving, you should remember you’re never alone. There is someone out there who shares your pain, even though our experiences of how we lose someone are different.   

There are said to be 5 stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. A stage can imply there is a process, but as each of us are deals with bereavement in our own way, you cannot expect to follow a linear loss. There is no set timeline for how to grieve.  

Some days, you’ll experience a wave of heightened emotions and feelings following the death of someone close to you. Some days, you’ll be ok.   

You may find you’re in company, but still lonely. You’re surrounded by people but not the person you’re missing. You may experience a flash of unexplained anger, or days when leaving the house feels too difficult. Perhaps loss of concentration and motivation.  

However you’re feeling, remember, it’s ok not to be ok. It’s normal to feel these symptoms of grief 

No amount of compensation can make up for it but for some families it makes all the difference. 

In this short video, we see a wife grieve the loss of her husband, a young woman who has lost a sibling, a grieving set of parents who have lost a child and a man who has lost his parents. Each has a story to tell and a personal experience of how they are coping and dealing with their loss. 

If you’ve lost a family member following a fatal accident that wasn’t their fault, you can seek justice and compensation. 

 

 

We have created this animation in partnership with Cruse as a reminder that grief  connects and affects us all, albeit through different circumstances and at different times in our lives. Life won’t be the same after losing some you love, but there is bereavement help available, and with the kindness from others, things can get easier.  

 

Why it’s normal to ask questions

 

In a world where we have many answers at our fingertips, we’re often anxious to know the answer to everything. It’s our human instinct to react with curiosity to new emotions, especially if you’re experiencing loss and grief for the first time. But, it can lead to discovering new ways of coping.  

With help from the experts from Cruse’s bereavement expert, Audrey Holligan, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions around grief.  

Illustration of couple in a grief support group after losing a child

How long does grief last?

Grief can last a lifetime. Many people often think ‘it’s been over a year now, you must be over it’. But, that’s not always the case. 

Adults and children cope with bereavement in different ways. While an adult may only deal with loss once, a child may deal with loss multiple times throughout their life. For example, if death of a loved one happens when a child is five, they might revisit that death when they’re ten, fifteen and twenty. 

Illustration of young woman looking sad

How to get over grief?

It can be difficult to accept, but symptoms of grief is something you’ll sometimes never get over. There are many resources available to help people ease the pain of grief. What you find helps you may determine how you end up living with your grief.  

Many people’s first port of call is via their GP who will often refer a patient to a bereavement charity, like Cruse. With a bereavement charity, you’ll have the option to attend one-to-one counselling, group sessions or speak over the phone. You’ll need to figure out which is best for you. For example, while a group call or session may work for an adult, a child may find it intimidating and unable to express how they really feel. 

Illustrations of visitors knocking on someone's front door with a bunch of flowers

Is my grief normal, and should I seek help?

As Cruse puts it – there is no normal or right way to grieve. But there are many external factors at play that may result in how each person manages the grieving process. For example, childhood experiences, religion, personality type, will all impact how you grieve. When grief starts to interfere with your day-to-day life, that’s when you need to seek help or advice.   

Often, grief can be triggered by other life losses too; money, a house, a pet, a sibling moving out of the home etc. These moments in life trigger feelings of grief as they can often feel as though you’ve lost control. Remember, each of us has a unique experience of death and grief, but the right bereavement support can offer hope. 

What is chronic grief?

Chronic grief is complicated grief when someone struggles over a long period of time with the loss of a loved one. Often it can be the result of a negative experience referring to the relationship shared, how the person died and if they were there for that person.  

This can align with disenfranchised grief which is a socially ambiguous loss that can’t be openly mourned or supported. It’s when everyone is experiencing grief in some way, and personal grief isn’t viewed as important. This might be similar to how people feel during a national or global event, such as the Coronavirus pandemic.  

Chronic grief can result in a flight or fright response and pose questions, especially in children, such as if other people are going to die too. 

 

Coping with a child’s bereavement

Children manifest their grief in very different ways, and before the age of four, they are very unlikely to remember the death of someone close to them. They may see someone they’ve lost as an object that may come back in the future.  

When dealing with death, children will often find it hard to concentrate, sleep, regress in their development. They can find it hard to express their emotions and often feel guilt, believing that what’s happened is their fault. It’s useful to provide children with an outlet to show their grief, for example, art. Through the use of shapes or colours, they can express their emotions. 

Often, children will ‘puddle jump’ when talking about their grief which means they can jump between talking about something to do with the death to something mundane. It could be because what they’re trying to face is too scary for them, so there may only be a small window of opportunity to talk about the loss of a loved one. 

The most important thing when supporting a child dealing with bereavement is to be open and honest. Children who experience loss will build their lives around that pain. 


 

Answering your bereavement leave and legal questions 

Illustration of man at work on the phone to grief support

How many days are you entitled to for bereavement in the UK?

Bereavement allowance, or compassionate leave, is down to the discretion of an employer. So how long you’re entitled off work after bereavement depends on the type of company you work for. 

Gov.UK says you’re allowed a reasonable amount of time off to deal with a family emergency, but there is no set time given. Following the loss of a loved one, it tends to be a maximum of two weeks for most employers.  

In 2020, Under the Parental Bereavement Regulations, often referred to as Jack’s Law, parents who lose a child under the age of 18 have a legal entitlement to paid leave of two weeks. 

Illustration of couple at a bereavement support group with a child's teddy

What is bereavement allowance?

If your husband, wife or civil partner has passed away in the last 21 months, you may be entitled to Bereavement Support Payment (BSP). BSP was previously known as bereavement allowance or Widow’s Pension.   

To receive the full amount, you must claim within three months of your partner’s death. Find out more about bereavement allowance entitlement. 

Illustration of elderly woman answering her front door to visitors bearing a bunch of flowers

Am I entitled to fatal accident compensation?

Under the Damages (Scotland) Act 2011, families can claim if they find themselves in difficult circumstances.

Losing someone can not only cause emotional trauma but put a huge financial strain on you and your family. The main areas where claims can be made following a fatality are:  

  • Loss of Society: The pain and suffering caused by the loss of a loved one
  • Loss of Support: Loss of financial support from the deceased
  • Loss of Services: Additional cost incurred as a result of services the deceased provided to their relatives
  • Other expenses: Funeral or cremation expenses and medical or hospital expenses before the death 

Compensation does not ease the pain of losing someone you love, but it can release the financial burden it has caused you. Contact our team of trained personal injuries solicitors, who understand both the emotional and legal support needed.  


Practical steps to coping with grief  

 

The way one person copes with grief won’t be right for another, although some might be. While your pain won’t magically disappear, it’s worth exploring the ways others have found comfort when coping with bereavement 

  • 01.Accept help from others

    It’s not something everyone is comfortable with doing, and you may feel it’s even a sign of weakness. But, accepting even the smallest gesture, like letting someone pick up your shopping, running an errand or cooking you dinner can make a big difference to your mood, even if it’s only for one day.  

  • 02.Relive the memories

    Don’t be afraid to take a trip down memory lane, share stories and memories of your lost loved one. Look at pictures and remember the good times. Visit a spot that was yours and soak in the memory. Just because they’re gone, doesn’t mean you have to forget. Memories live on, but only if people help to remind them. 

  • 03.Donation

    If someone died from illness, many people take comfort from raising awareness for a charity. If you like to be busy, getting involved in a fun run or bake sale to help raise money or awareness could be a great way to memorialise a loved one. Volunteering for the cause that’s close to your heart is also another way to show your appreciation. 

  • 04.Socialise

    It may feel like the last thing you want to do, but being with others may be the distraction you need. If you’re worried about talking about your feelings with people, you can set boundaries, tell a good friend what level of sharing you feel comfortable with.   

  • 05.Keep active

    Daily exercise is proven to make us feel good, and the endorphins can help us think more clearly. Whether it’s a short walk around the park or a run, try to keep your body active.  

  • 06.Bereavement counselling and charity networks

    Cruse Scotland can help you work through your grief and connect you to others who have had similar experiences. The charity have expertly trained counsellors who are happy just to have a friendly chat via their bereavement helpline. One-to-one counselling is also available.  

  • 07.Seeking legal support

    You may find some comfort is seeking more information about your legal rights following the loss of someone close; whether it’s to make a claim, to better understand bereavement support or to manage a person’s affairs. Waterman’s expert legal team is here to help you. 


Dealing with grief in the workplace 

We know bereavement leave in the UK is not nearly long enough for you to recover from the loss of a loved one. Returning to work isn’t always going to be easy, but for some, it can be a good distraction. To help you ease back to work, here are some suggestions:  

  • Speak to your boss or employer about a staggered approach to returning to work instead of going back full time
  • Explore the options of working from home to reduce your office time 
  • Speak to HR about any feeling you have about returning to work and familiarise yourself with company policy
  • Establish with your colleagues how you’d like to communicate about your loss, talk to one close colleague about how you’d like to approach the subject
  • Be honest with your employer if you’re struggling
  • Don’t be afraid to accept help from others who want to help  

What do you say, or do when someone dies 

 

If you’re helping someone grieve, in a haze of panic, words can be blurted out without thought. To avoid saying the wrong thing, you may even opt for silence. You’re not alone, in fact, over 400 people search “What to say when someone dies” a month in the UK. And since coronavirus affected the UK, we’ve seen an 11% surge in grief support search terms.  

Any discomfort you may be feeling you should try to put aside as you could be the bridge to helping someone. Acts of kindness, as explored in our animation, can go a long way to helping someone. We have collated some suggestions on how to approach conversations and things to say when someone dies:   

  • Ask “How are you feeling today?” instead of “How are you feeling?”, there’s a lot of pressure on someone grieving to answer something different from the last time you asked them. Don’t assume because they had a good day yesterday they will be feeling fine today. By adding ‘today’ it shows you understand that their grief changes daily.   
  • If you are speaking to a child about the grief and loss of a loved one, saying “I’m sorry”, can often confuse them as to why you are sorry; sorry for what? It’s best to ask them “How do you feel about what happened?”, or “I heard about [said family member] who died”. They might not feel like talking about it, or you might receive a one word answer; that’s okay. It may mean they’re not ready to talk about it just yet. 
  • Instead of saying “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you?”, why not offer a few things that will help instead. It can put a bit of pressure on the person grieving to ask for favours, so why not offer to make calls to friends to update the news of their loved one passing, or prepare frozen meals for them.   
  • If you’re bringing flowers to someone’s house, include a vase as it’s likely they will have received a large number of flowers recently and not enough vases. 
  • Avoid saying “They’re in a better place”, this could cause upset for some people who are struggling with grief and loss 
  • Even if you have experienced a similar loss, try not to say “I know how you feel”. Grief is personal, and you will never truly understand how someone’s feeling. Instead, sharing your experience may offer some comfort to the person you are talking to.
  • Tell stories, share memories and don’t be afraid to mention their name.  

How Watermans can help 

We understand the complexities of losing someone you love and it can be even harder if their death was someone else’s fault. Our team of solicitors are there for you on a practical and legal level, offering a tailored service for you.  

When you get in touch with us, you’ll speak to a member of our response team who will listen to your case and assign you to an expert member of the team.  

Find out how we are there for families: 

Fatal accident claim    

If you have lost a family member to a fatal accident, you may be entitled to claim compensation if the person who caused the accident was proven to be negligent. More than 10,000 lives are lost each year on Scottish roads, a fatal accident could be a car, cyclist, pedestrian or someone in any other motor vehicle, or it could also be an accident at work.   

You are eligible to claim compensation if you’re the immediate deceased family, including: 

  • Spouse or cohabiting partner 
  • Parents 
  • Siblings (including half-brothers or half-sisters) 
  • Child

Above we summarise the four types of fatal accident compensation claims but here is where you can receive financial support: 

  • Medical and hospital expenses before the death 
  • Funeral expenses 
  • Cremation expenses 
  • Loss of financial support the deceased would have provided to their children or other relatives before their death 
  • Loss of services, such as the care the deceased would have provided to dependent children 
  • Loss of earnings before the accident 
  • Loss of enjoyment in life and psychological conditions such as stress or anxiety resulting from the news of the death, or witnessing the accident. 

To find out more on fatal accident claims and how to start one, please contact our serious accident no win no fee solicitors on 0131 555 7055 for a free evaluation. Or you can contact us through our form. 

Planning ahead

We have an experienced team of solicitors who can assist with the winding up of an estate in Scotland. Our team can help with this process from start to finish, dealing with everything from registering the Will and valuing the estate to applying for Confirmation and distributing the estate. 

Making a Will  

If you don’t have a Will in place, Scots Law will decide how your assets are distributed. It can incur additional costs and uncertainty. Making a Will gives you the chance to determine how your assets will be divided. An Executor will be in charge of your dealing with your estate.  

Lasting Power of Attorney  

 If a loved one passes away and a Power of Attorney isn’t in place, it can be cumbersome, and the costly process of Guardianship Order is required. Having a Power of Attorney in place will manage your affairs, including signing documents on your behalf and dealing with finances.  

Speak to our team of solicitors about how we can assist you on Making a Will to having a Power of Attorney.   


Read, watch, listen 

With the topic of grief touching us all at some point in our lives, there is a long list of books on grief, films, tv shows and podcasts that can help support someone who’s learning how to deal with grief. Here are a few to start with:  

Read

Watch

  • After lifeCelebrated for getting grief right, Ricky Gervais’ comedy-drama series on Netflix tells the story of a widow in pain following the loss of his wife. The series does not shy away from the anger he feels. The relationships we see are relatable and it won’t fail to make you laugh and cry in equal measure.
  • Learning to grieve – George ShelleyFollowing the sudden loss of his younger sister, musician George Shelley has spent 12 months struggling to cope with the grief. In a series of discussions, he aims to better understand the process of grieving and shares coping mechanisms.
  • Dead to MeA Netflix original series about a woman who loses her husband in a fatal accident, but doesn’t grieve the way she’s supposed too.  

Listen

  • Griefcast: Winner of 2018 podcast of the year, Griefcast is hosted by Comedian Carian Lloyd, who lost her father to cancer when she was a teenager. Cariad speaks about human experiences of grief and bereavement but with fellow comedians, balancing the pain of loss with funny and relatable stories.  
  • Terrible, thanks for asking: Nora McInerny knows when you’re asked: “How are you?” You feel you should reply, “Fine”, but in her podcast, she goes the opposite. Nora encourages people to share their complex emotions about how they’re really feeling.
  • Grief out loud: Hosted by charity The Dougy Center, Jana DeCristofaro opens up about the taboo topics around grief. Staying cliche-free, Jana shares stories, tips for coping and supporting others.