Grief affects how you interact with the world, your sense of identity and the roles you have within your family or social circle. You may find that your friendships and family relationships change.

Learn more about how grief affects relationships:

  • A sense of presence – People often report that they see, sense or dream about the person who died, especially in the first few weeks. This can be deeply comforting, or frightening and unexpected. Either way it is a typical experience.
  • Loneliness – Loneliness is very common and can be intense. After some time has passed, you may still feel your loss very strongly, but everyone around you may seem to have moved on. This can make you feel alone even when you are surrounded by people, and you may withdraw from those around you.
  • Abandonment – You might feel abandoned and rejected by the person who died, or neglected by the friends you thought would be there for you. You may be surprised by who offers the best support – often it’s someone who has experienced a major loss themselves.
  • Conflict – Because everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time, it is easy to have disagreements with family members and friends after someone dies.

Tips for managing the social impact

  • Even after death, we continue to have connection to people in our lives who have died. Read some ideas for ways to remember.
  • Know that you are not alone. Loss is part of being human. Find someone you can talk to who will listen, or ask your GP about accessing bereavement counselling.
  • Read firsthand accounts of other people who have experienced grief. Find stories online, through bereavement support groups, or through your local library.
  • Join a support or grief group if there is one available, or consider an online group. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 to find a support group.
  • Talk with the friends, family and staff who provided support while the person was dying. Often it can be helpful to reminisce with the people who were there with you.
  • Ask others for assistance – it will make them feel valued and useful.
  • Take small steps to re-enter your social circle. Even if you are just sitting listening, you are connecting to others.
  • When you feel ready, try to join a social group or take up a new activity. Asking someone to come along with you can make the initial steps feel less daunting.
  • Aim to be gentle and forgiving – with others and yourself. Family members and friends who are also grieving may seem very angry or irrational, but it is part of their reaction to loss. Try not to take it personally, but keep in mind that you are vulnerable too and have the right to protect yourself. You can let someone else support them for a time.

This information was last reviewed in April 2017
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Caring for someone with cancer
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Cancer Council Online Community
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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