Feeling sad this week? Learn about the 5 steps of grief, plus how to avoid it consuming you

As the nation mourns Her Majesty The Queen.

EGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 11: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Queen Elizabeth II attends the Out-Sourcing Inc. Royal Windsor Cup polo match and a carriage driving display by the British Driving Society at Guards Polo Club, Smith's Lawn on July 11, 2021 in Egham, England. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As the nation mourns Her Majesty The Queen.

There's a real sense of loss at the moment across the UK, as people mourn the loss of Her Majesty The Queen.

The 96-year-old is said to have passed peacefully on Thursday, 8th September.

After Buckingham Palace shared the news that HRH Queen Elizabeth II had passed away, tributes began to pour in, including moving words from Harry and William.

While events in the last few years have been undoubtedly challenging - first came the pandemic, then the war in Ukraine, then the cost of living crisis - we've overcome, adapted, and grown. We've shown strength in the face of hardship and proven we're resilient when things get really tough. But, with all of that comes grief, too, and a sense of mourning for what once was.

It's okay to grieve the life you've lost and the people, too: for what could have been compared to what you endured instead. Feeling weighed down and tangled up in your grief more than you'd care to admit? That's to be expected, but could do your mental health more harm than good, if left unaddressed.

That's why we've spoken to two mental health experts to ask for their guidance. Here, they explain the best way to address this grief and accept it, plus outline the five steps of grief, alongside a handful of simple ways to overcome your emotions. Don't miss our guide to coping mechanisms for distressing global news, while you're here.

How to deal with grief, if you're mourning

Why are people currently feeling a sense of loss?

Well, according to renowned healer, emotional trauma expert, and founder of divineempowerment.co.uk Antonia Harman, because we've all seen a vast amount of change in a short period of time. Pair the pandemic with the cost of living crisis, war, and now The Queen's passing, and you've got a quadruple whammy.

"Let’s face it, 2020 was a long way from what we planned, and the uncertainty around this new strain of COVID-19 is gut-wrenching" she shares. "Many have lost loved ones, businesses, social connections, and more, with no end in sight. We all hoped the following years would be different and yet the country was plunged into a deep sadness and fear. The loss is somewhat overwhelming," she explains.

A couple supporting one another through the steps of grief

So, is it common to mourn during circumstances like these?

In a word, yes, or so specialist mental health adviser at BUPA UK Caroline Harper thinks.

"You may associate grief as being a response to losing a loved one, but it’s a lot more complex. Grief is often portrayed as one feeling, but it includes a range of emotions and reactions that can affect how we think and behave," she explains.

"It’s completely understandable to experience feelings of numbness, guilt, anger, or sadness during this time. Grief can affect you physically too; you might suffer from a loss of appetite or find it difficult to sleep," she goes on to share.

As author Matt Haig explains on Instagram, seeing figureheads like The Queen pass also makes us sad as it often reminds us of the people we love "who we feel like are as eternal as a postage stamp but who are, also, as fragile and mortal as humans are."

So yes, it's normal to feel blue, but do know this: you are not alone. "This too shall pass," Antonia reassures. "Do your best to connect in other ways and remember, it’s not forever."

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Steps of grief: 5 to know, plus how to accept them

Harper goes on to explain that there are five steps of grief: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. "The grieving process looks different for everyone, and each person will experience them in a different order. That's because everyone grieves in their own way, and at different speeds," she explains.

Her top tip for beginning to accept those steps of grief and pain you're feeling? Acknowledge that the pain is there, and be aware of its presence. It's an important step to accepting this grief and recognising how it's affecting you, both physically and mentally, she says.

Secondly, she advises keeping a record of your feelings. "If you can, note down the feelings you’re experiencing emotionally; whether it’s sadness, anger, or perhaps guilt."

Then, try and notice how your grief is impacting your physical health: for example, are you finding it difficult to sleep, or experiencing a lack of energy? "Acceptance doesn’t mean you won’t experience these emotions or any distress - rather, it means noticing what you are feeling," she shares.

5 practical ways to overcome grief 

Create an adapted routine

When news is unsettling, it’s important to focus on your routine, Harper reckons. "This can help maintain a sense of order, normality, and purpose," she shares.

Include activities in your new routine that you enjoy and leave you feeling relaxed or calm, she says. Think:

"As well as these activities, try to maintain a regular sleep schedule and ensure your diet is full of fresh fruit and vegetables," she adds.

Stay connected to your loved ones

Harper's advice? "Set time aside to connect with your friends and family, whether this is virtually or in person," she recommends.

Although you may find it difficult, she stresses that opening up about how you’re feeling to your close friends or family can really help if you're feeling low. "Share how you’re feeling and then allow yourself to be supported by others," she says.

Limit your news consumption

If what you are reading or listening to is making you feel overwhelmed, angry, or upset, turn it off. "Focus on something else you enjoy, or head outside for a walk, as this can help to clear your head," she shares.

Seek support

If you are feeling regularly low or hopeless and it’s impacting your daily life, it’s important to speak to your GP or ask for help, Harper stresses. There are lots of free resources available; from online therapy, to local support groups, to tips on dealing with depression, anxiety, and more. "It’s important to remember there is always support out there," she says.

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.