Bereavement & Grief
Coping with Bereavement
The death of a loved one can be completely devastating. Bereavement can affect people in many different ways. There is no right or wrong way to feel.
You might feel a flood of emotion all at once, you may feel you're having a more positive day, then you suddenly feel worse again, and it seems as though nothing triggered it.
Powerful feelings can come unexpectedly and feel as though they are out of our control. These feelings will come in waves and we will crash, and break like the waves hitting the shore. You can be going about your daily routine when suddenly the strongest wave will completely knock you off your feet, without warning.
When it comes to grief, it can be said that there are four phases to work through.
Phase 1: Numbness
Numbness usually occurs early on in the grieving process.
The brain goes into defense mode to protect us from the reality of what has just happened. There are so many thoughts and feelings for us to deal with and it is impossible to tackle them all at once. The numbness occurs to prevent us going through the intense pain of the loss of a loved one right away, almost as though the brain was pausing life waiting for things to settle down a bit to allow information to ‘trickle’ in!
Phase 2: Yearning
Yearning is a natural emotion during the grieving process. It is the overwhelming feeling of aching and longing for someone or something. Someone experiencing this emotion may wander around looking for that someone, wanting them to just appear at the front door so life can resume as it once was. A person experiencing feelings of yearning may find themselves staring at their loved ones clothes and picking out something they remember them wearing and holding it close, just to catch a hint of their perfume or aftershave and think, just for a moment, it isn’t really happening, of course they’re not gone, they are out and will be home shortly. Every emotion may be felt and that’s okay, it is the chaos of grief.
Phase 3: Disorganisation and Despair
By this phase it can be said that we may have accepted that nothing will ever be the same again. A feeling of complete hopelessness will most definitely accompany this unwelcomed acceptance. We will feel that life will never get better so what’s the point in kidding ourselves it will! It’s possible we will remove ourselves from the company of others, things we used to do socially will be avoided. This phase is normal and needs to be worked through. Give yourself time, and don’t rush yourself because you think you are ‘taking too long’, there is no time limit to grief.
Phase 4: Reorganised Behaviour
At the point of our loved one dying, it is only natural that we will be distraught, because to have the privilege of loving someone so very much and experiencing that love in return it will inevitably be very difficult when they are taken from us. Sadly this means that when they are taken from us we then have to feel the pain of grief. At this point, the last thing we would do is accept the fact we could, at some stage down the line, be able to live again without that special someone in your life. But the fact is, there will come a time when things will not feel so raw, when we can remember that person with a smile and laugh about silly things they did. This is not to say that we have forgotten that person, or that you love them any less, it means that we have managed to find a special place in our life where that person will always be remembered. This place in our heart will contain them, and that will never change. What will change, eventually, is our outlook for the future.What is important is that we never move on, we get on with life.We may feel intense anger; this could be aimed at the deceased, ourselves, the hospital or even god! This is a normal reaction, as is guilt, and these feelings will pass, so don’t fight the feelings, as bottling up our emotions is not healthy for us.But we must not think that because we have such feelings that we are bad people.
Having negative thoughts is natural, and feeling guilty for these is natural too. It is possible we may become forgetful, and less able to concentrate as we become distracted by bereavement and our grief, this is normal and we are not going mad! It is all part of the grieving process. We’ll most likely work through all of these stages, but we won’t necessarily move through smoothly from one to the next, chances are we will go back and forth into the phases. Our grief might feel chaotic and out of control, but these feelings will eventually become less intense.
Coping with grief
Talking and sharing your feelings with someone can help. Don't go through this alone. For most people, relying on family and friends is the best way to cope. If we feel we can’t talk to them, then considering counselling may be the best option. A counsellor can give us the time and space to talk about our feelings, including the person who has died, our relationships, family, work, fears and our future. A counsellor will listen to us and most importantly hear what we have to say.
There is no time limit for seeking counselling, some of us seek help within weeks of the death, others realise they need counselling months and even years after.
Talking about the person who has died
We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about the person who has died. People in our life might not mention their name because they don't want to bring up memories that may upset us. Explaining to others that we want to talk about our loved one may aid them to realise that it helps you to talk about them. But if we feel we can't talk to them, it can make us feel sad and isolated.
Anniversaries and significant occasions can be very difficult. We will never know how we are going to feel until those days arrive, but it is important that we do what we have to do to get through the day. Taking a day off work and going out somewhere or doing something that reminds you of that person, such as taking a favourite walk.