Coping with the death of a loved one can be a devastating experience. Here is some advice about where you can go for support and ways to help you deal with your experiences at this difficult time.
Everyone has their own experiences of bereavement. The starting point is that there is no right or wrong way to feel. You may experience many emotions and powerful feelings. You may feel overwhelmed by grief and loss. You may believe you are coping, but then unexpectedly find yourself in tears, angry or despairing. Loss of a loved one is a part of life and any feelings you may be experiencing, while painful, are normal and natural.
Experts say that there are four stages of bereavement. These are:
- accepting that your loss is real
- experiencing the pain of grief
- adjusting to life without the person who has died
- putting less emotional energy into grieving and putting it into something new – which is about moving on.
If you have had a bereavement you’ll probably go through all these different stages. However, you won’t necessarily move smoothly from one to the next stage. Your grief even might feel out of control. Your feelings may be intense. But these feelings will eventually become less painful. Give yourself as much time as you want. The severe experience of grief will pass.
You might feel:
- shock and numbness. This is usually the first reaction to the death. People often speak of being in a daze and not feeling ‘themselves’
- overwhelming sadness. You may cry a lot
- you may feel tired and exhausted
- you may feel angry, about what has happened, and even towards the person who has died, for leaving you
- guilt is a common emotion people experience when a loved one has died. You may feel angry about something you said. You may even blame yourself for not being able to stop the person you loved dying
All these experiences are normal and natural.
Some people become forgetful and less able to concentrate. You might lose things, such as your keys. You’re not losing your sanity. Your mind is distracted by bereavement and grief.
The GOV.UK website has helpful information on what to do after someone dies. This includes registering the death and planning a funeral.
Coping with grief after a loved one dies
It can help to talk and share your feelings with someone who can help. You don’t need to go through this alone. Again, everyone is different. Some people find it helpful to rely on family and friends to help them cope. Others might feel they don’t want to rely on that support, for example, if they aren’t close to their family or friends, or feel those individuals are also grieving so much that their own bereavement experiences will make other people’s lives life more difficult.
If you are in that situation you can contact local bereavement services through your GP, local hospice, or the national Cruse helpline (a bereavement charity) on 0844 477 9400.
Bereavement counsellors can give you time to talk about your feelings, including the person who has died, your relationship, family, work, fears and the future. You can have access to a bereavement counsellor at any time, even if the person you lost died years ago.
You shouldn’t be afraid to talk about the person who has died. People in your life might not mention their name because they don’t want to upset you. But if you feel you can’t talk to them, it can make you feel isolated and alone.
Anniversaries and special occasions can be difficult. Try and do whatever you need to that helps you get through the day, such as taking a favourite walk, or watching a film that makes you smile.
If you need help to move on
The experience of being bereaved is very unique, and no one can tell how long it will last. It can take months or years to come to terms with your loss. There are no rules.
If you feel overwhelmed by grief or are finding it difficult to come to terms with your loss, and are not coping with day to day life your GP or bereavement counsellor can help you. Some people also get comfort from religion and seek help from a minister.
You might need help if:
- you can’t get out of bed
- you neglect yourself or your family, such as not eating properly
- you feel you can’t go on without the person you’ve lost
- the emotion is so intense it’s affecting your life. This might mean you’re taking your anger out on someone else. You may also feel unable to work
These feelings are normal. But if they go on for too long or if your family and friends are worried about you, then you should seek help. Your GP can refer you, and they can monitor your overall health.
If a loved one has an incurable illness, you, your family and friends can prepare for bereavement. Doing practical things can be helpful. This could involve discussing funeral arrangements and making a will. Talking with your loved one about their wishes can help you and them to make sure that what they want to happen after they have gone is being fulfilled.
Bereavement counsellors also offer pre-bereavement care, helping patients and their family to cope with their feelings and experiences.
For further information visit: Cruse Bereavement Care http://www.cruse.org.uk/