When is it time to get help?

Grief is painful and exhausting. It is not always easy to decide when it might be time to get help. You might choose to seek help if you:

  • continue to feel numb and empty some months after the death
  • cannot sleep or suffer nightmares
  • feel you cannot handle intense feelings or physical sensations such as exhaustion, confusion, anxiety or panic, chronic tension
  • feel overwhelmed by the thoughts and feelings brought about by a loved one's death, eg. anger, guilt, rejection
  • feel the need to share your grief but have no-one with whom to do so
  • keep constantly active in order not to feel (e.g. working all the time)
  • find you have been drinking or taking drugs to excess
  • find you are worrying and thinking about suicide yourself
  • feel afraid that those around you are vulnerable and not coping

Some sources of support and how they might help you:-

Self-help groups

enable you to meet and share feeling and experiences with others and
may provide you with reassurance

Local doctors

  • can listen, talk and offer emotional support
  • can help you with problems such as sleeplessness, anxiety or depression
  • can advise you on other sources of help

Support will vary from doctor to doctor. It is not always possible to talk about what has happened in a short appointment. You could write to the doctor before your appointment to get round this.


  • provides more time to talk things through or longer term support
  • does not force you to delve into the past but instead offers help with the emotional crisis and life changes you may be facing
  • might be a relief as it enables you to talk to someone who is a stranger in a safe environment


  • can be a source of strength and support if you hold religious beliefs
  • local religious leaders might be an invaluable source of support

Befrienders centres

  • provide confidential support to anyone who is in distress or despair or who might be experiencing suicidal feelings. To find a helpline near you click here.

Specialist Bereavement Organisations

Some bereavement organisations are listed on the following links:-

International Association for Suicide Prevention

American Association of Suicidology

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

UK resources
A full listing of UK bereavement organisations, and useful books, is outlined in the full version of the Royal College of Psychiatrists bereavement pack. You can download a pdf of the full pack here.

© The Royal College of Psychiatrists 1997
Taken largely from the Bereavement Information Pack by Kate Hill, Keith Hawton, Aslog Malmberg and Sue Simkin
Reproduced with kind permission from The Royal College of Psychiatrists

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