Dealing with grief when something bad happens in the world

When something bad happens in the world, like natural disasters, war or terrorism, it might become all you see in the news and social media. How you react is unique to you: it’s normal if you feel really upset, and it’s equally as normal if it doesn’t affect you at all. If you or someone you know is feeling sad about what’s happened, here’s what you can do to help.

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Why am I feeling grief over something that didn't happen to me?

There isn’t a right or a wrong way to react to death and loss. Many people experience grief when they hear about the death of people they don’t know personally, or even when the lives of animals are lost. And many others feel nothing. Everyone feels differently, and that’s okay.

If you’re experiencing grief when hearing about something bad happening to people across the world, it’s probably because you feel some kind of connection to them. For some, it’s an empathetic response to feel pain because other people are feeling pain.

Even though what happened doesn’t impact you directly, it’s okay to feel for someone else’s loss. You might feel:


You may not have a connection to the place where a bad thing happened, or the people it impacted, but you do know that there are people out there whose lives have just been flipped upside down. There are families who never got to say goodbye to their loved ones, communities who have lost their homes, or countries grieving the loss of a city.

This is a response know as empathy, meaning that you care about what other people in the world are going through.


In many cases, communities are grieving because of something that didn’t need to happen or because of something that was out of their control. You might be feeling angry about this - at people who caused it to happen or people who could’ve prevented it from happening.

You could also be angry in general. When what’s happened isn’t anyone’s fault, it’s hard to direct that anger. Click here to learn how to cope when things are out of your control, and get some tips on coping when things out of your control happen overseas here.


When something bad happens in the world, it’s natural to feel guilty, even if you don’t understand why you do. You might be struggling with the fact that you survived when other people lost their lives. This is known as ‘survivors guilt’. Or you could be feeling like you haven’t done enough to support people living through a humanitarian crisis. The first step in overcoming guilt is acknowledging how you feel and trying to stop negative self-talk. When you treat yourself with kindness and compassion you’ll find it easier to help out others.

What can I do about it?

Accept that it’s real grief you’re feeling

You’re not being silly, all grief is valid. Take 10-15 minutes in a private space to feel your grief. You can give yourself this time to express any feelings you’ve stored up. You can cry, draw, pray, meditate, write, or simply sit and think.

Doing this daily for as long as you’re feeling down can help you to move forward, as you’ll eventually become less and less focused on what has happened as you process it. It doesn’t mean that you’ve forgotten what happened or the people lost, it just means that you don’t feel as overwhelmingly sad as you did before.

Talk to someone you trust

If you’re upset, chances are your friends are, too. Ask how they’re doing, and talk it over with them. Getting another perspective or just getting your thoughts out can help you process what’s happened.

Filter your news and social media

Sometimes seeing the never-ending stream of bad news coverage can be overwhelming. Especially if you’re seeing the same disturbing or distressing images over and over again. It’s okay to temporarily switch off to give yourself a break. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care, and can help you refocus and figure out what you can do to help.

If you feel up for it, you can also look critically at how the news is reporting about what happened, and whether this is making you feel worse. Try and look for sources that aren’t sensationalised, and follow accounts that aren’t full of dramatised images and stories. Learn more here about how to channel your anger when you’re frustrated by the government and media.

Write it down

Putting your thoughts on paper can help you clarify how you’re feeling and make it easier to process. You can also track how you’re feeling over time and record any strategies that helped you to feel better, so that you remember them for the next time you’re feeling down.

Do something to help, like volunteering or donating

Helping a situation get better can be really great for your mental health, and can help prevent compassion fatigue. Feeling active can give you back your sense of control, and help you process the difficult emotions surrounding grief.

You can research ways that you could donate or volunteer to a relevant cause. For example, if a natural disaster has happened, you could donate time or resources to help survivors rebuild their lives. If someone has died as a result of discrimination, you could volunteer for a local support group. If you can’t donate or volunteer, you could share how people can offer their support on your social media, to spread awareness.

No action is too small and you can make a difference.

Remember to take care of yourself

It’s easy to get caught up in negative emotions. While letting yourself feel the grief will allow you to process it better, it’s also important that you still take care of yourself and do things you enjoy. You could watch a funny TV show, cook a nice meal, go for some fresh air and take a walk, play with a pet or get stuck into a game with some mates.

Allow yourself to do things you enjoy. It doesn’t mean that you’re dismissing the bad things that have happened - it just means that you’re taking care of yourself so you can move forward in a healthy way.

What can I do if I’m still grieving after a while?

Grief isn’t always linear, meaning it doesn’t follow a clear structure or path. You might feel okay after a few weeks and then wake up one day feeling really sad or upset again. This can get a bit confusing or frustrating, but it’s very normal. The truth is, grieving is tough. It’s not always easy to work through it alone, so getting some extra support can make it a lot easier. There are lots of different professionals who can help you to work through your grief. A good place to start is your local GP. They’ll be able to connect you with other services you may need, like a psychologist or a grief counsellor. You can also look into joining a forum or support group, where you can speak with other people who understand what you’re going through. If you need to talk to someone right now, try these 24/7 hotlines:

What can I do now?

  • Book in a ReachOut PeerChat session to speak with an experienced peer worker who understands what you’re going through.


Grief and loss