Bereavement and Grief

Introduction

Bereavement is a distressing but common experience.  At some point in our life most of us will suffer the death of someone we love.  Yet in our everyday life we think and talk about death very little.

Grieving

Grieving takes place after any sort of loss, but most powerfully after the death of someone we love.  It is not just one feeling, but a whole load of feelings, which can take a time to get through.  Although, each and every one of us are unique individuals, the order in which we experience these feelings is similar for most of us.

In the few hours or days following the death of a close relative or friend, most people simply feel stunned, as though they cannot believe it has actually happened.  You may also feel like this even if the death has been unexpected.

This sense of emotional numbness can in some ways be a help in getting you through all the important practical arrangements that have to be made, such as getting in touch with relatives and organising the funeral.  However, this feeling of unreality may become a problem if it goes on too long, although for many people, the funeral or memorial service is when the reality of what has happened really starts to sink in. 

After the numbness disappears this may be replaced by a dreadful sense of agitation, of pining or wanting for the person who has died.  There is a feeling of wanting somehow to find the person, even though you know this is impossible.  Because of this, you may find difficulty relaxing, concentrating or even sleeping properly.  Some people believe that they see their loved one everywhere they go – in the street, around the house, the park, the garden, anywhere they spent time together.  It is during this time that you may start to feel angry towards doctors, nurses or someone else, who did not prevent the death of a loved one,

You may even feel guilty. Many people find themselves going over in their minds all the things they would have like to have said or done.  Or even question themselves about what they could have done differently that might have prevented the death of a loved one.  It is important that someone dying is usually beyond your control. 

It is important to acknowledge that where guilt is felt if a sense of relief was felt after someone has did after a painful or distressing illness, is a natural emotion and is extremely understandable and very common.

Spasms of grief can occur at any time, sparked off by people, places or things that bring back memories of the person.  Other people around you may find it difficult to understand or embarrassing if you suddenly burst into tears for no obvious reason.  You may be tempted to stay away from other people who might not understand or share your grief, but avoiding others could store up trouble for the future so it is best if you can start to try and return to normal day to day activities after a couple of weeks. 

Don’t worry if you find yourself sitting, doing nothing other than think about the person you have lost, going over and over the good and bad times, as these quiet times are an essential part of coming to terms with the death of a loved one.

If you have lost a partner there will be constant reminders of the happy times you spent together, and even the difficult times.  Looking at other couples, family photos will all be constant reminders that you are now single, something that you will experience when friends invite you out, family gatherings, having someone to share your personal thoughts with.

Unresolved Grief

Just because someone does not cry at a funeral or acknowledge the death of a loved one, someone who returns to their normal working day to day life quickly does not mean they don’t care. 

Earlier we spoke about people being unique and experiencing things in differently, so just because you don’t appear to be feeling or behaving as others think you should or even how you think you should, is also a natural feeling.

Sometimes people do not have the opportunity to grieve properly, simply because they have a number of demands such as, looking after a family, a business, or children there is just no time.

Some people may start to grieve, but get stuck.  The sense of shock and disbelief felt early on after the death of a loved one just never seems to leave you.  Years can go passed and you still find it hard to believe the person you loved has gone forever.

However, if you find yourself feeling down for long periods of time and you don’t want to eat, drink, do anything and your thoughts are always focused on the person who has died, or thoughts of suicide arise, it is important that you seek help from your GP.

Bereavement can turn out world upside-down and is one of the most painful experiences a person will go through.  It can be strange, terrible and overwhelming.  In spite of this, it is part of life that we all go through at some stage in our life.  There is no shame in asking for help if you feel your not coping with life, day to day activities

 How Can Friends & Relatives Help?

Friends and family can help by spending time with the person who has been bereaved.  It is not so much words of comfort that are needed, but more the willingness to be with them during the time of their pain and distress.  A sympathetic arm around the shoulders will express car and support when words are simply not enough.

It is important that any bereaved person is able to cry with somebody and talk about their feelings without worrying about being told to pull themselves together.  Don’t avoid talking about the person who has died for fear of upsetting a loved one.