Bereavement ©

There is no grief like the grief that does not speak. 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Bereavement is a period of mourning after a loss, especially after the death of a loved one. However, the same mourning can be felt in the following instances;

  • After a relationship breakup

  • A loss due to suicide

  • A loved one’s serious illness

  • Following a miscarriage

  • Having lost a friendship

  • Loss of health

  • Loss of safety after a trauma

  • Significant changes ie. leaving home

  • The death of a pet

  • The loss of a dream or ambition

  • The loss of financial stability

  • The sale of the family home


To let go of a bad relationship can be quite complicated. The reason for this, is because the end of a relationship is similar to experiencing a death.  Although you may be the person initiating the breakup and you may be certain that this breakup is the best thing for those involved, to let go of a relationship involves the same process as mourning a death. Below is a list of what you are most likely to experience in the aftermath of the death of a relative, or perhaps someone you were close to:


Anger

Anxiety

Despair

Fatigue

Fear

Guilt

Helplessness

Longing 

Loneliness

Relief

Sadness

Searching

Self-reproach

Shock


The tasks of mourning are:

The acceptance of the reality of the loss

The adjustment to a new environment without the deceased 

To permit yourself to experience the grief and pain

The withdrawal of emotional energy and the reinvestment it in other relationships


Bereavement

The loss of a family member, a close friend, a workmate, a fellow student or a close neighbour can have significant emotional impact on anyone. We may struggle with our mental wellbeing and may find our social. academic and work life more challenging. Grief, which is the emotional suffering you feel when someone or something significant is taken away, will also play its part. Everyone grieves in their own way and indeed in their own time, with some people recovering and resuming normal activities within six months. Other people may feel better after a year, with some people continuing to grieve for years without finding any relief or improvement, even temporarily. 


Understanding is the key where bereavement and grief are concerned and following the death of a person close to you, it will be natural for you to feel lonely and sad. Having had a relationship with a close friend or partner, we may find ourselves profoundly lonely and this is primarily because we no longer have the love and understanding of that person. It is important to note that your body grieves also and you may have physical responses to your loss.


The stress of grief can have enormous effects on your physical health. Physical problems, such as colds, stomach problems, weakness, fatigue, sleep problems, infections, and headaches are quite common. Make sure that your doctor is aware that you are grieving. Be aware that grief is a part of life, not an emotional illness. As individuals, we will all have an individual style of coping with our painful experiences. Our loss may begin a process of rumination on the meaning of life and death and indeed the evaluation of the self.


Coming to terms with the loss is a gradual process and will take time. There will always be good days and bad days, some worse and some better than others. It is essential that on those good days that you don’t feel in any way that you are betraying the memory of the person you have lost. Their memory will remain there for you no matter what and, given time, thinking about them will no longer trigger sadness but will bring happy thoughts to your mind as you remember them fondly.


The stages of Grief

Because you cannot control the process of grief, it is helpful to know the reasons behind your feelings.


Denial

When you first hear of the loss, it is normal to think, This isn’t happening. You may feel numb and/or shocked and this is quite simply your temporary way of dealing with a rush of an overwhelming emotion that is in fact a defence mechanism.


Anger

As the reality settles in, you will be faced with the pain of your loss and you may begin to feel both helpless and frustrated and then angry. You may be angry at the person who has died and left you and in turn may direct this anger toward other people.


Bargaining

This is when you begin to dwell on what you could have done to prevent your loss. You might think, If only…, Maybe I should have…, What if…, Why didn’t I… You may attempt to negotiate with a higher power, whether realistically or not, that has some control over the situation. You may make commitments to your God in return for things to go back to how they were before your loss. 


Depression

Sadness will arrive as you begin to understand the true extent of your loss and the effect it is having on you, and your life. You may begin to feel lonely, overwhelmed and regretful. Your depression will include anxiousness, crying, decrease in appetite, fatigue, lack of energy, self-pity and sleep issues.


Acceptance

This is the final stage of your grief, when you will begin to accept the reality of your loss. Although you may still feel sad, you will come to terms with all of the emotions and feelings you experienced when the death or loss occurs. Now you will be capable of moving forward with your life.


Death causes the most intense grief

Firstly, accept that this emotional wallop is the accumulation of your feelings in response to this loss. Listed below are other situations where grieving takes place:


  • A loss of health

  • A loss of financial stability

  • A loved one’s serious illness

  • A miscarriage

  • A notable change such as leaving home or college

  • A relationship breakup  

  • Loss of a physical ability

  • The death of one’s pet

  • The loss of a friendship

  • The loss of an ambition

  • The loss of safety following a trauma

  • The sale of the family home

 

Positive Psychology


  • Allow yourself time to be with your feelings

  • Be patient with yourself

  • Eat healthy

  • Celebrate the life of that loved one

  • Communicate to others your feelings

  • Connecting with others will help you to heal

  • Engage in social activities

  • Exercise

  • Focus on the strengths of the person you have lost 

  • Give yourself time and don’t compare

  • Go on a vacation

  • If you feel like it, join a support group

  • Let people take care of you

  • Let yourself feel the grief

  • Listen to music

  • Talk to family

  • Talk to friends

  • Seek counselling if you feel it will help you

  • Read poetry books

  • Read your favourite books

  • Seek spiritual support

  • Take time out to relax

  • Talk about the death of your loved one with friends

  • When they ask what they can do, tell them

  • Write a letter saying the things you never got to say


You may have a lack of appetite and/or an inability to sleep comfortably. You may experience absentmindedness, avoiding reminders of the deceased, carrying objects that remind you of the deceased person, crying, dreams or nightmares of deceased, over activity, sighing, social withdrawal, visiting places that remind you of the deceased. All the aforementioned is of course both normal and understandable.


Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief refers to a grief reaction that occurs before the impending death of someone close to you due to illness and can also be experienced by people who have been told they are going to dying. This grief may not always occur, as some people may not feel the same grief before a death as they feel afterward a death. Anticipatory grief does not make the grief after that death easier or shorter. Sometimes, accepting a loved one's death while they are still alive may leave the grieving person feeling as if they have abandoned the dying person.


Anticipatory grief may give the family, or an individual the time to get used to the reality of the impending loss and sufficient time to close any unfinished business with the dying person. The dying person may become withdrawn as they witness the grief surrounding them as this  can be very hard for them

Counselling

Bereavement counselling will enable you to reduce your level of distress by moving through your grieving process. The process will additionally help you to adjust to your life without the deceased. 

 

Gene Barry Psychotherapist

© Gene Barry