How to Cope with Delayed Grief

September 6, 2020

People experience grief in different ways and no two people cope with it in exactly the same way. Whilst some experience grief immediately after they hear the news of their loss, others can experience delayed grief. There isn’t a right or wrong time to grieve and this is always important to remember. Here we discuss how to cope with delayed grief. 

What is delayed grief? 

Delayed grief is when people have a prolonged or late reaction to the loss of a loved one. It is normal for grief to cause someone a lot of pain and feels extremely emotional. However, with delayed grief, these feelings can occur at any point and sometimes at unexpected times. The unpredictable nature of delayed grief can affect a person’s mental wellbeing. 

Delayed grief can be caused by several things and again can be different for everyone. It can sometimes be caused by the individual’s personal circumstances. For example, if someone has just lost their job, had a baby or something else significant has happened in their life, they can sometimes feel like they have to cope with these things first before they can focus on their grief. 

If the death of the person is not expected, their loved ones may be in shock or denial, leading them to have delayed grief at a later date. This could occur weeks, months, or even years after a death. 

Some may find it overwhelming to deal with the death and therefore they may struggle to deal with these emotions at the time. Some prefer to focus on planning the funeral and sorting out all the other practical things that arise when someone dies so that they hold back their emotions. Although this is natural, it can lead to a delayed outburst of grief that can be difficult to cope with. 

What are the symptoms? 

After the death of a loved one, some may not have an emotional reaction initially. They may feel numb and shocked and it is common for those who are suffering from delayed grief to suddenly show the following symptoms: 

  • Loss of appetite  
  • Mood swings 
  • Insomnia 
  • Inability to concentrate  
  • Feeling numb
  • Headaches  
  • Aches and pains  
  • Anxiousness 

The time it takes for grief to hit can vary significantly. Once this period of delayed grief has come to an end, a person can be hit suddenly with intense emotions of sadness, anger, a sense of loss , or even guilt and depression. This point can come at any time and it can be caused by any trigger. This is why delayed grief is unpredictable and a scary concept for many. 

How can you help someone with delayed grief? 

If you believe you or a loved one is suffering from delayed grief there are some actions you can take to help: 

  • Contact a bereavement group 
  • Talk to your friends and family to help them understand how you are feeling. Saying how you feel out loud can really help. Don’t avoid talking to people as this can make matters worse 
  • Take time for self-care – ensure you try and get enough sleep, eat well and exercise to remain as healthy as possible  
  • Speak to your place of work and book some time off work if you feel like you need it
  • Look into mental wellbeing resources available. From mindfulness apps to medication guides, there are lots of guides to help you stay calm and process your feelings  
  • Avoid drinking too much. Many can turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism but this is not the route to go down 

Everyone needs to remember how someone experiences grief comes in many forms. Delayed grief is also natural and something that commonly occurs. Whether you are worried that you are not grieving yet or you have suddenly been hit with intense grief, there are places you can look for support and help. Coming to terms with a loss is always difficult. However, if you do not grieve you can end up with serious issues such as depression and anxiety so you must discuss how you are feeling. You are not alone and there is a lot of guidance around you to help you through the process.