Grief is a natural human reaction to the loss of someone we love. Despite knowing that it will happen to us at some point in our lives, when we do experience a bereavement, it can help if we understand the natural process that most of us go through. One of the most important things is not to feel that you have to “get over it” quickly, or to let others set time limits on your grief. Your grief belongs to you, and it is a reflection of the love you felt for the person who has died – let your grief take its own time – a loving relationship that has developed over many years is not grieved in a few weeks.
Loss and grief reactions are unique to each individual. We all react in very different ways – some people try to be ‘strong’, others feel as if they are “falling to pieces”. There is no “right way” to grieve, and so it is very important to allow yourself to grieve in the way that is best suited to you. As time passes your feelings will change, they will become less raw, but your life will be different, and the process of grieving is natures way of preparing you for those changes.
Emotions are the language of relationships, and when someone we love dies, as well as the physical shock, we often find that we’re on a roller coaster veering from unbearable pain to an almost unreal dream. But as the days pass after the funeral, the painful reality of what has happened will start to settle in. Normal feelings at this time are of loneliness, panic, fear, confusion and anger. Often people feel these uncontrollable waves, others just feel numb. Whatever way you react, remember that it is natural, and that you need to find a way of being tender towards yourself – giving yourself the care and attention you would give to others in that situation. Crying is a normal and healthy expression of grief, and releases built-up tension. Cry freely as you feel the need. You may experience emotions that seem overwhelming, strange or irrational – this is completely normal. You may experience a deep yearning to be with your loved one, followed by feelings of despair. You may feel you have nothing to live for and may think about a release from this intense pain. Be assured that many feel this way, but that a sense of purpose and meaning does return. The pain does subside with time, and these intense emotions will not last forever. Many people find talking to a Doctor, Clergy or spiritual advisor very helpful at this time.
Many people feel guilty after a bereavement, even though rationally they have no reason to. This is often a reaction to the powerlessness felt when someone we love dies. Guilt, real or imagined, is a normal part of grief. It surfaces in thoughts and feelings of “If only…” and as time passes will begin to subside. “Guilt” is sometimes a word we use for feelings that are better described as “regret” – wishing things could have been different, but accepting the fact that they are not. Understanding this can allow us to begin to forgive ourselves – or others, and to accept our helplessness in the face of death. Anger is another common reaction to loss. Like guilt, it needs expression and sharing in a healthy and open way. Anger can be a very frightening emotion, but talking about this, and accepting even these disturbing emotions, is an important part of grieving.
Physical reactions to death may include loss of appetite or overeating, sleeplessness, and fatigue. You may find that you have very little energy and cannot concentrate. A balanced diet, rest and moderate exercise are especially important at this time. Avoid the use of drugs or alcohol. Medication should be taken sparingly and only under the supervision of your Doctor. Many substances are addictive and can lead to a chemical dependency. In addition they may stop or delay the necessary grieving process. While our instinctive reaction is to try to make the pain go away, feeling the pain and working through it is a necessary and healthy part of the grieving process.
Friends and relatives
Be aware that you may be ultra sensitive at this time and others may not know how to help you. They want to ease your pain, but do not know how. They may say or do things that seem insensitive or thoughtless, but this is probably because they just don’t know what to do. Take the initiative and help them to learn how to be supportive to you. Talk to them about your loss so they know that you want to talk about the person who has died.
Whenever possible, put off major decisions (changing residence, changing job, etc.) for at least a year following the bereavement. Avoid making hasty decisions about your loved one’s belongings. Do not allow others to take over or rush you. You can do it little by little, whenever you feel ready.
Holidays and the anniversaries of your loved one’s birth and death can be stressful times. Consider the feelings of the entire family/group, when planning how to spend the day, but do allow time and space for your own emotional needs.
Death often causes us to question or challenge our faith or philosophy of life. Don’t be disturbed if you are questioning your beliefs, this is completely natural. Talk about it, and allow yourself to doubt. For many, times of questioning can lead to a deeper understanding and experience of faith.
For all of us, grief is a life changing experience. With the love and support of those around us most of us come through it and are able to embrace life again. Not everyone needs counselling, but for those of us who do, it allows an opportunity to talk about how we are feeling, and to receive help and support.
Looking to the future
While you’re grieving the future may look bleak, but as time passes this starts to change. Life will not be the same but as you come through your grief you will realise that life can still be filled with joy and fulfilment, laughter and tears. Your loved one’s memory is safe in your heart, that will never leave you, and based on that secure knowledge – you can find a way to start to live again.
||Type of Bereavement
|CRUSE Bereavement Care
||Counselling and support for the bereaved
||Causeway Office 02827666686
|Care for the Family
||Care for the family run Bereaved Parents Support and Widowed Young Support
|The Compassionate Friends
||Support for those who have suffered the death of a child
||Offer care and support not only through illness but full bereavement support for anyone.
|SANDS Still-birth and Neonatal Society
||Support for those affected by the death of a baby
||080 164 3332
|SOBS Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide
||Support for those affected by suicide
|WAY (Widowed and Young) Foundation
||Support for those bereaved of a partner under the age of 50
||Counselling and support
H Wade & Son
Funeral Directors & Memorial Masons
CCL LIC. NO. 526655