Dealing With Feelings
Grieving is a natural process that can take place after any kind of loss. When someone we love dies we can be left with overpowering feelings, which have to run their course. There are a whole succession of different feelings that can take some time to go through and must not be hurried. Although people are all individuals, the order in which they go through these feelings is very similar.
For some time following the death of someone who is close, most people feel totally stunned. A feeling of disbelief is common, even if the death has been expected (say after a long period of illness). This feeling of numbness can actually be a help in dealing with the various practical arrangements that have to be made, but this detachment from reality can become a problem if it goes on for too long.
To overcome this feeling of numbness for some people it can help to see the person who has died. It is not until the funeral that the reality of what has happened finally sinks in. Although it may be distressing to attend the funeral or to see the body, it is important to say goodbye to the ones we loved.
It is often the case for people who did not do this to experience a great feeling of regret for years to come. After the feeling of numbness has gone, it is often replaced by a sense of agitation and a yearning for the person who has died. This can affect the bereaved in their everyday life, it may be difficult to relax, concentrate or sleep properly.
Some people experience disturbing dreams, others feel they see their loved one everywhere they go and especially in the places that they used to spend time together. It is also quite usual to feel angry at the time, maybe towards the person who has left them. Another common feeling is guilt. It is likely that the bereaved will go over in their mind all the things that they had wished that they had said or done. In some cases, they may even consider what they could have done to have prevented the death. Of course, death is usually beyond the control of anyone and they must be reminded of this.
There is a list of care associations who can help support you through your grieving at the bottom of this page.
Do's and Don'ts of Grief
We are all individuals and have our own particular ways of grieving but the "do's and don'ts" listed below offer some practical advice which may help.
• Don't hide your feelings: try to bring out into the open whatever you are feeling. This is central to grieving
• Don't rush into having the funeral right away (unless it is the practice of your culture) and don't be persuaded to have an expensive funeral unless you or the deceased really want it
• Don't make any major life changes while you are still grieving. Give yourself lots of time to think about changes you may wish to make and discuss these plans with others
• Don't neglect yourself. Try to eat well and get plenty of rest
• Don't enter into any financial or legal arrangements unless you fully understand them
• Don't hurry yourself to overcome your grief. There is no fixed time that it takes to get over bereavement
• Don't let others rush you into anything before you are ready, but remember that sometimes you may not know whether you are ready for something unless you give it a try
• Don't turn to drugs, smoking or alcohol to stop yourself feeling the pain of grief
• Do express your feelings as much as possible
• Do talk through what has happened with someone you trust (eg, your family, a close friend, and an appropriate support group)
• Do contact one of the voluntary or hospital organisations (telephone numbers of which are contained within this booklet) if you would like someone to talk to - they are there to help
• Do take good care of yourself: get lots of rest, eat well and give yourself lots of time to grieve
• Do begin to make longer-term plans for the future so that you will always have something to look forward to
• But remember: Don't rush into any big life changes
• Do choose a funeral director you like and trust
• Do contact your doctor if you feel unwell or would like the doctor to refer you to someone to talk to
• Do keep in touch with friends and family - remember that most people feel honoured to be asked to help. However, many people feel awkward and embarrassed about offering their help, so it may be left up to you to ask for it, even though this may be difficult for you.
Guilt is often experienced, if a sense of relief is felt after the person dies, particularly after a distressing illness. This feeling of relief is perfectly natural and very common, and is nothing to feel guilty about.
These strong confusing feelings can be felt for quite a while following someone's death and are generally followed by periods of sadness and depression.
Grief can be sparked off many months after the death by things that bring back memories. It can be difficult for other people to understand or cope with someone who bursts into tears for no apparent reason. Some people who can't deal with this tend to stay away at the time when they are needed most of all. It is best to return to a normal life as soon as possible and to resume normal activities.
For the bereaved partner, there are constant reminders of their loneliness seeing other couples together, and from the images seen on television of happy families. All of this can make it difficult to adjust to a new, single lifestyle.
As time passes, the pain of early bereavement begins to fade. The depression lessens and its possible to think about other things again. The different stages of mourning tend to overlap and can show themselves in various ways.
There is no standard way of grieving as we have our own individual ways of dealing with all of life's trials, not least the loss of someone we love.
Your Doctor Can Help
If you feel the need for medical attention to help you through your bereavement there is help available and you shouldn't hesitate to contact your family doctor.
Bereavement can turn our world upside-down and is one of the most painful experiences we have to endure. In some instances sleepless nights can go on indefinitely, which can be a serious problem. The doctor may be able to prescribe something to help.
Grief in Children and Adolescents
Generally, children do not understand the meaning of death until they are three or four years old. Even with this being the case they feel the loss of a close friend or relative in much the same way as adults. Even in infancy it is clear that children grieve and feel great distress.
Children experience the passage of time differently to adults and can therefore appear to overcome grief quite quickly.
However children in their early school years may need reassuring that they are not responsible for the death of a close relative as they often blame themselves for one reason or another. It is important that the grief of a young person is not overlooked, as they will often not want to burden parents by talking about their feelings. For this reason they should usually be included in the funeral arrangements.
Friends and Relatives Can Help
Generally by spending time with the person who has been bereaved.
• Being close to others can be a great source of comfort. It is not always necessary to say anything, just being there is enough.
• It is important that a bereaved person is able to talk and cry with someone without being told to pull himself or herself together.
• It can also be difficult for people to understand why the bereaved keep covering the same ground, talking and apparently becoming distressed about the same things over and over again. However, this is an important part of the healing process and should really be encouraged.
• Not mentioning the name of the person who has died (for fear of upsetting them), can lead to a sense of isolation and can add to the grief of the bereaved.
• Another difficult time when friends and relatives can be of help is festive occasions and anniversaries, which can be particularly painful for years to come.
• Practical help with domestic chores and looking after children can all lead to easing the difficulties facing the bereaved.
• Elderly bereaved partners may need more practical help than most, particularly with financial arrangements - paying the bills etc.
Advice and Support
There are several organisations used to dealing with bereavement. It is sometimes easier to talk to someone outside your circle of family and friends, rather than to someone who is close to you and perhaps in a similar situation.
Please click on the links if you feel you need to talk to someone.
© 2019 National Bereavement Service
The National Bereavement Service is a not for profit organisation. Registered address: Hilden Park House, 79 Tonbridge Road, Hildenborough, Tonbridge, Kent, United Kingdom, TN11 9BH. Company number 09333323