Grief and Bereavement
When someone close to you dies, your life is changed in many ways. The time of bereavement following a death is a time to adjust to these changes. If the person has had a terminal illness for some time, you may have begun to grieve before the death.
Grief is our natural response to loss in our lives. It’s like fingerprints: everyone is unique in the way they experience and express their grief, and each loss is different, just like the different fingers of your hands. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Men and women often show their grief in different ways and sometimes find it hard to understand or support each other. People of different ages and cultures have different ways of grieving as well.
Grief is a term that describes all the feelings, thoughts and behaviour that someone goes through after bereavement, or the death of someone. There is no right way of coping with a death – people respond to a loss in their own individual way.
Understanding Grief People need strong affectionate bonds with other people for their emotional wellbeing, and they try hard to maintain these ties. Loss through death permanently breaks this bond. Grief can be seen as a person’s struggle to maintain the emotional bond, while simultaneously experiencing the reality of loss.
Grief work is the process that a mourner needs to complete before resuming daily life. It involves separating from the deceased, adjusting to a world without them and forming new relationships. People grieve not only for the deceased, but also for the unfulfilled dreams and plans for the future that they hoped to share with them.
Grief usually passes through three stages, but these stages are not separate, nor do they necessarily follow in sequence:
- An initial stage of shock or disbelief when it is difficult to believe that the death has occurred. This stage may last minutes or weeks.
- A stage of acute anguish that usually lasts from weeks to months when feelings of depression occur. Planning the future may be difficult.
- A phase of resolution after months, or even years.
- disbelief, shock, numbness and feelings of unreality
- feelings of guilt
- sadness and tearfulness
- preoccupation with the deceased
- disturbed sleep and appetite and, occasionally, weight loss
- seeing or hearing the voice of the deceased
The initial disturbance the above symptoms cause, is gradually reduced and people begin to accept the loss and readjust.
A grief reaction can last for up to 12 months, but can vary within different cultures and people. There is no right amount of time to grieve.
Grief and depression are different. It is possible to grieve without being depressed, but many of the feelings are similar. Symptoms that suggest a bereaved person is also depressed include:
- intense feelings of guilt not related to the bereavement
- thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with dying
- feelings of worthlessness
- markedly slow speech and movements, lying in bed doing nothing all day
- prolonged or severe inability to function (not able to work, socialise or enjoy any leisure activity)
- prolonged hallucinations of the deceased, or hallucinations unrelated to the bereavement.
If you have any of these symptoms, you need to consult your doctor for help.
The support of family and friends is invaluable to anyone – especially at difficult times.
Sadness after bereavement is natural: it’s normal to want to discuss the deceased and become upset while doing so. Expressing feelings does not make things worse.
Grief counselling helps mourning by allowing someone to work through the stages of grief in a supported relationship.
The goals of grief counselling include:
• accepting the loss and talking about it
• identifying and expressing feelings related to the loss (anger, guilt, anxiety, helplessness, sadness)
• living without the deceased and making decisions alone
• separating emotionally and forming new relationships
• the provision of support
• identifying ways of coping that suit the bereaved
• explaining the grieving process
Support is available at The Lychway, through the guidance of our funeral directors, or if you need extra help, a trained counsellor is available. We can also put you in touch with counsellors who can help you with your journey.