Grief comes in many forms. It can hit different at different times and different stages of the end-of-life journey. It can feel like a wave that is calm one moment but crashes down the next. It can be so hard to know what to expect after the death of a loved one because grief can present differently for everyone.

Grief can present as shock, frustration, guilt, or even anger. You might even feel relief that the person is no longer suffering. You may not even be grieving at all at this moment. However your grief may present itself right now, it is the right way to feel at this moment.

As we are all unique, so too is our grief and how we respond emotionally when someone close to us dies.

Having supported thousands of Australian families through their grief, we have put together this article to share some insights about what you might expect after the death of a loved one.

Coping with grief after the death of a loved one

Bare's Daphney Adams offers advice on what to expect after a death.

To get a better understanding about what to expect after the death of a loved one, I asked Bare's Customer Experience Manager and funeral arranger, Daphney Adams for her insights. She said it is common to feel lost in the hours, days, months after a loved one has died, but grief is an ongoing process.

"You may feel numb right now, but that’s OK. That’s your body's way of coping."You may feel like crying, but there's no need to apologise for it. Crying is really normal right now, so allow yourself to cry if you need to," she added.

Daphney gives grieving families permission to be kind to themselves and take things one day at a time.

"You can tell the world to all go away for a day. The idea being that some days are good and some days not so," she said. "When grieving, people feel they need to put on a strong face for others and often they don't grieve authentically because they are acting a certain way for others. I say to them, on your tough days just look after you and tell the world to leave you alone. And that's OK!"

What to expect after the death of a child

“When I lost my son, I used to talk to myself as if I was talking to my kids. And when a wave of grief rolled over me, I would say stop it and I would pat myself on the hand. It was enough to bend my attention away from the grief," Shannon said.

“The waves are further apart now but this little routine still helps me.

“I will never stop loving him or thinking about him but I smile about him more now because he was funny and I fill myself with that as much as I can," she said.

“I wish anyone who is grieving strength and the permission to see humour in the world, because your love ones love to see you smile - the ones here and the ones waiting for you.”

Tips on coping with grief, from our community

Below are some brilliant pearls of wisdom about what to expect after the death of a loved one, shared on our Facebook page, from people on their own grief journey. We hope their insights help provide some come comfort, guidance or validation through your grief.

“In the first two weeks there’s too much to do. I was fortunate that my children took over for me and did a wonderful job. I was so thankful and everything was taken care of and the funeral was as we wanted.” – Marjorie
“Everyone grieves differently. It comes before the person has passed for me, so far.” – Ann
“It is going to be so much harder than you ever imagined.” – Linda
“The emptiness is unbelievable.” – Mary
“You have to grieve your loved one then you have to get on with life, for the sake of others close to you. But never forget the ones that mean something in your life that have passed.” - Paul
“I have learned about triggers. How one can think the worst is over and suddenly something happens and it’s all back again. I call it ‘stepping on the rake’.” –  Philipa
“When you are grieving and trying to cope with an acute loss, the details can be overwhelming. There can be so many people and professional bodies to inform. I have written a list of of people to contact at the time of death and have left a copy with our Wills.” – David
Grief is like stepping on a rake.When you think the worst is over, suddenly something happens and it’s all back again.
Grief can be like stepping on a rake. When you think the worst is over, suddenly something happens and it’s all back again.

What to do after the death of a loved one

Despite the way grief appears to each person at the moment it shows up, those who have lost a loved one usually feel overwhelmed by death. You might find it helpful to read our article when someone dies, what do I do?

If you are supporting a friend or family member through their grief, you might like to read our article how to help someone who is grieving.

Remember that you aren't expected to know what to do. That is what we are here for.

At Bare, we understand that we are meeting people at the most vulnerable time of their lives. Our team of compassionate funeral arrangers are here to guide you every step of the way. We will take care of things for you, so that you can get back to navigating life without your person and supporting those around you.

To speak with one of our funeral arrangers, please give us a call on 1800 071 176, or head to the Bare Funeral Services page for more information.

Grief support services

Although everyone will grieve differently, one common thing is our need for human connection and good, healthy conversations about grief. You’re not alone. Our Grief Support webpage includes some excellent resources and videos about grief and bereavement, created by our bereavement expert Claire Hoffman.

There are also specialist bereavement services available, including the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement. Or for more immediate help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Our list of grief counselling and support services across Australia includes more contacts that might help.