Biggest Challenge May be the Silence While Grieving

This is one of the most distressing but least discussed elements of loss: coping with silence while grieving. Countless people over decades have confided to me that the biggest change they experienced when someone they loved died was the silence.

Never again will they hear the person they loved speak to them. Even more poignantly, never again will they be able to share with them all the news or gossip of the day. Or ask their advice or assistance on matters of import.

This silence is most obviously felt by those who have been in long-term relationships. The silence is especially profound if there children have moved on with their lives. Whilst some can cope with (and by nature are comfortable with) silence, many really struggle in this new scenario.

Silence After the Funeral

Patients describe the period of silence that follows when the funeral services as one of the most distressing periods they encounter in the early stages of grief. The silence can be deafening. What upsets most is the dawning realization that never again will the silence be broken by the voice of the person they loved.

There is a special quality to the relationship between long-term partners that makes this silence even more poignant and distressing. As time passes and the period of grief extends, the loss of this communication can engender ever greater sadness.

We mourn not only the loss of the person, but the loss of the sound of their voice and the joy of sharing with them every aspect of our lives.

Regular Communication is Gone

But it is not only the remaining partner in a long-term relationship who may struggle in this manner. The silence created by the inability of a parent to speak to a child or young adult who is no longer with us, can also be overwhelming.

The loss of the constant daily or weekly telephone calls to your recently deceased mother or father. The loss of regular communications with a sibling who is gone.

It would be common, in my experience, that the grieving person spends much of their time filling in the silence. They talk to their loved one when alone, as if they were there beside them. This is a normal and healthy way of dealing with your loss.

Talking Out Loud is Fine

If talking out loud to your lost loved one helps you to cope better with the loss of such an important avenue of communication, then carry on and never let anyone convince you otherwise. Others have shared their distress, after a period of time, that they could no longer remember the voice of their loved ones. It is often useful in such situations to listen to any recordings or videos of the person from the past to reignite the connection.

Are there any ways to cope better with the deafening silence which can follow the loss of someone we cared deeply for? Here are some suggestions.

Advice about Silence While Grieving

1.     Accept the silence from the beginning as a reality. You will no longer be able to share with the person you loved many of the topics already mentioned above. This is hard to accept but becomes easier if you can learn to do so and use other techniques to cope with their loss.

2.     Do not be afraid to talk to the person that is gone, in any way you feel. Shout at them, cry with them, talk aloud as much as you wish, share with them things that you are struggling with and so on. This has the dual effect of helping you get things off your chest and helping you to feel their presence around you.

3.     Some people have found that they prefer to keep a radio or a TV or even music constantly playing in the background, to drown out the silence. Others are comfortable with leaving the silence. You must choose which one works for you.

4.     Let family or close friends know that you are struggling with silence, if it is an issue. Invite them to visit you or even better visit them.

5.     As time passes, you might find it useful to spend increasing amounts of time out of the house, socializing with others. For some, the house can otherwise become a cage of silence. Once again, do this at your own speed and in whatever form you choose.

Dr. Harry Barry can be reached through his website,

He is author of Emotional Healing (Pegasus). Purchase it on Amazon.


Harry Barry

Harry is an experienced medical doctor who, following a period of running a hospital in the Third World, has worked as a senior GP within the Irish Health System for over thirty-five years. He has a long-standing interest around mental health especially, the management of anxiety, depression, toxic stress and prevention of suicide He has developed a holistic approach with an emphasis on the combination of combining Neuroscience concepts, lifestyle changes and where necessary drug therapy, with the application of simple CBT approaches to effectively manage these conditions. He is a Member of the Royal College of GPs in London; a Member of the Irish College of GPs and holds a Masters in CBT. He is passionate about emotional resilience and how developing skills in this area could transform our mental health all domains of life, including the workplace. In relation to the workplace, he is passionate about the importance of self-care, combining lifestyle changes and emotional resilience skills to improve our mental wellbeing and reduce incidence of mental health difficulties. He has spoken in well-known companies such as Google in Dublin and Which HQ in London. He retired from full time general practice in 2013 to focus solely on mental health. He now works on a consultancy basis combining clinics, writing, media and public information lectures and webinars as well as assisting fellow GPs, nurses (including occupational health nurses), guidance counsellors, parents, teachers, sports clubs and therapists with lectures and workshops. He is the author of 10 books about mental health. His books Anxiety and Panic and Emotional Resilience and Self-Acceptance reached number one on the Irish nonfiction best seller list. Anxiety and Panic laid out a revolutionary new approach to banishing panic attacks, phobias, social anxiety and general anxiety from your life. Emotional Resilience laid out 20 key skills that can revolutionize your mental health. Self-Acceptance which was launched in 2019 Self-Acceptance was reviewed by Bruce Daisley former Vice President Twitter Europe – ‘This is the most remarkable book you will read this year. Surprising, stimulating and guaranteed to change your behaviour. I found myself riveted by its compelling evidence’. It was also reviewed by Professor Catherine Harmer, Professor Cognitive Neuroscience Oxford who called it – ‘----This book is a joy to read - a real page turner----'. His last book Emotional Healing, which was launched in London and Dublin and recently by Pegaus in New York, deals with the world of emotional distress and how to manage it, including an in depth discussion on grief. Emotional Healing was described by Bruce Daisley, former VP Twitter Europe as "An intensely powerful book filled with clear tools to help us survive and cope with some of the most profound moments in our lives. Moving and thoughtful". His latest book Embracing Change was launched in May 2021. It deals with the mental health challenges presented by stressful periods of transitional change in our lives, from becoming a new parent, to a cancer diagnosis to the menopause to retirement and so on. He is a regular contributor to national press and national and local media (both TV and radio) on the subject of mental health and is a monthly contributor to the Sean O’ Rourke and now the Claire Byrne Today show for past seven years. He has also been a contributor over the years, to TV shows such Claire Byrne Live, Prime Time, Ray Darcy Show, Morning AM, The Tonight Show and the ‘Late Late Show’. He served on the national board of the Depression Charity Aware for over ten years. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the College of Psychiatry of Ireland. He has also been a member of an international group of experts (which includes for example Professor Catherine Harmer, Professor Cognitive Neuroscience Oxford), exploring how best to measure cognition in depression and who published a journal article on the subject in 2019. His website is

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