Coping with bereavement

Bereavement is the reaction to a loss by death. Grief is the psychological and emotional reaction to a significant loss, not limited to death. Mourning is the social expression of bereavement or grief. Complicated grief, also known as traumatic grief, is typically not diagnosed until months later.

Grief manifests in different ways for different people. But with time, the emotions tend to reduce. Most recover from a major bereavement within one or two years, the sense of loss never goes away entirely. However, if it lingers and begins to affect a person socially and occupationally, the person might be suffering from depression. It is important to keep a lookout for symptoms and not dismiss them. The support of friends and family can make a real difference to a bereaved person's capacity to manage the experience.


Symptoms to look out for

Common symptoms include disbelief about the death, anger and bitterness, pangs of emotions yearning for the deceased, preoccupation with thoughts of the deceased, avoidance of reminders of the loss, and losing own's life purpose.

During the first year of bereavement, some people may demonstrate various types of disrupted functioning:

  1. cognitive disorganization - derailed, uncertainty about the future, search for meaning, difficulty accepting the loss
  2. dysphoria - unease or dissatisfaction with life
  3. health deficits - weight loss and fatigue
  4. disruptions in both social and occupational functioning

Studies found that the percentage of bereaved who meet criteria for a major depression decreases over time, with 40% in the first month, 24% in the second month, 15% after 1 year and 7% after 2 years.

Reference: Bereavement-Related Depression

However, the prevalence of complicated grief among those bereaved by violent and unexpected death (such as homicide, accident and suicide) can be as high as 78% during the first year, compared to those who experienced other types of death. It was hypothesized that the lack of perceived preparedness is associated with the severity of the complicated grief.

Reference: Complicated grief in those bereaved by violent death: the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on complicated grief


How about children and adolescents?

Children may understand and react to the loss in different ways. It is important not to overlook their emotional needs. They may need a lot more reassurance and words of comfort to understand and how to deal with the situation.


Getting help

  Who is it for? Day Time Contact
Insitute of Mental Health General public who wants to seek professional help Mon - Fri 08:00 - 18:00 6389 200
Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) Individuals facing a crisis, thinking about suicide or affected by suicide Daily 24 hours 1800 221 4444
Mental Health Helpline Those suffering from psychological and psychiatric problems Daily 24 hours 6389 2222
SAMH Helpline For people who have psychological, psychiatric or social problem and others who need information on services for such persons Mon - Fri 09:00 - 17:00 1800 283 7019
Care Corner (Mandarin) Mandarin-speaking community with family marital and personal problem Daily 10:00 - 21:00 1800 353 5800
AMP Hotline  Malay / Muslim families in crisis or those who need help Mon - Fri 10:00 - 17:00 6416 3960
Club HEAL  For Malay / Muslim individuals or families who require assistance with or support for mental health concerns Mon - Fri 09:00 - 17:00 6899 3463
Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA)  Indian families in need of assistance or counselling 

Mon - Fri


09:00 - 17:00

09:00 - 13:00

1800 295 4554
Aware Helpline
(Association of Women for Action & Research)
Women with a variety of concerns  Mon - Fri 15:00 - 21:30 1800 774 5935
Counselling & Care Centre  For individuals, couple and families experiencing psychological, marital or family problems  Mon - Fri 08:30 - 17:00 6536 6366
O Joy Care Services For older people, families and caregivers cope with mental and psychosocial health  Mon - Fri 10:00 - 18:00 6749 0190


It is ok and natural to feel sad. Take your own time to be alone and spend time with your loved ones may help feel better.


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