You may behave differently while you are grieving. Some people make themselves extremely busy, while others may sleep a lot or find it hard to make an effort.

Many people avoid reminders of the person who died because of the intense emotions. This can make it difficult to get back into your usual routines.

Some people use alcohol or other non-prescribed drugs to dull the pain. Risk-taking behaviours, including uncharacteristic sexual behaviour, can also be part of grief. While these behaviours may give short-term relief, they can lead to more serious problems.

Tips for establishing helpful behaviours

  • Balance rest and activity. Set small goals and congratulate yourself when you reach them.
  • Decide on a daily routine that includes getting up and dressed by a certain time. ‘Going through the motions’ can help you maintain healthy habits and self-esteem.
  • Recognise that the first time you return to an activity, such as going to the shops, club, school or work, is likely to be the hardest. It tends to get easier with time, but you might like to ask someone to go with you at first.
  • If you or others around you are concerned about your use of alcohol or other drugs, recognise that it is a sign you need more support and ask your GP for help.
  • Pamper yourself in some way every day: a hot bath, a bunch of flowers, a massage, a special magazine, listening to music, or whatever helps.

This information was last reviewed in April 2017
View who reviewed this content
View our editorial policy

Support services

Caring for someone with cancer
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Cancer Council Online Community
A community forum – a safe place to share stories, get tips and connect with people who understand

Cancer information

Emotions and cancer
People who are affected by cancer in some way can experience a range of emotions, that can be very challenging to deal with at times. Learn more.

End of life 
This information may help you better cope with end of life, or support someone who may be dying with cancer