The death of a loved one creates an irreplaceable void. Whatever your age or relationship to the deceased, the pain can seem overwhelming.
Society underestimates the distress and expects the bereaved to get over it 'fairly quickly'.
We all react differently and much depends on factors such as our relationship with the deceased and the circumstances of the death. Some appear to cope better than others, but the experience is unique.
'Normal' expressions of grief include:
- A feeling of shock and disbelief
- A welling up of sadness and tears
- Feelings of irritation and outbursts of anger
- Lethargy and aimlessness
- Loss of motivation
- Loss of appetite
Many feel that they are 'going mad', but this is a normal reaction. Although the pain is accute, it needs to be experienced and expressed. There is no way around grief, only a way through it. However, a counsellor can often ease the journey.
You should remember that:
- Grief is a normal process, it takes time and should not be rushed
- Talking to a sympathetic listener can be very therapeutic
- Crying is a natural way to grieve and is normal for everyone
- Showing emotions is not weak, but a sensible response to your feelings
- Eating regularly and sleeping well are important
- Be kind to yourself. Accidents happen more frequently at times of stress
- Ask for help when you need it, there are people available to assist
Sometimes family and friends don’t know what to say and may be afraid of causing upset by talking about the loss.
It is often best to defer life changing decisions such as moving house or disposing of possessions.
People who lack appropriate support, suppress their grief or lack the means of emerging from it may become stuck. Healing is promoted by adequate support and viewing grief as a natural emotional consequence of loss.
In circumstances, such as violent or sudden death, suicide, or multiple bereavements, other factors may come into play and there may be an element of trauma. Bereavements, especially those of close family members, may open up issues from earlier life or activate destructive defences. In addition, the process of mourning is culturally specific and may be influenced by religious beliefs and practices.
The process of mourning takes time. Counselling and bereavement support groups may be more helpful when the immediate impact of the bereavement has subsided. However, you should seek help when you need it.
For those that wish to seek comfort in reading about grief there is a considerable amount of published material. Most practical aspects are covered by websites and self help guides (e.g. Morris, 2008). However, there is also more specific material relating to different types of loss such as suicide. C.S. Lewis's book 'A grief observed' is a classic description of his response to the loss of his wife and was the basis for the film 'Shadowlands'.
There are many voluntary agencies that specialise in supporting the bereaved. These include CRUSE and the Macclesfield Bereavement Support Service (c/o Customer Care Department, Macclesfield General Hospital, Victoria Road, Macclesfield, SK10 3BL; tel: 01625 439333). I have worked as a bereavement counellor and helped many clients through issues of grief and loss.
Clark, S. (1995) After suicide: Help for the berieved. Melbourne: Hill of Content
Hawton, K. & Simkin, S. (2010) Help is at hand: A resource for people bereaved by suicide and other sudden, traumatic death. In: D. o. Health (ed.). London: Central Office of Information.
Helen, M. (2002) Coping with suicide. London: Sheldon Press
Mind (2008) Understanding bereavement, rev ed.. London: Mind
Morris, S. (2008) Overcoming grief: A self-help guide using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques. London: Robinson
Lewis, C.S. (1966) A grief observed. London: Faber
NHS Manchester. A self help guide to bereavement. Manchester NHS
Robinson, R. (2001) Survivors of suicide. Revised ed.Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page Books.
Wertheimer, A. (2001) A special scar: The experiences of people bereaved by suicide. 2nd ed.Hove: Brunner-Routledge.