When you have experienced the death of someone important to you making adjustments can be difficult. Grief can shake everything up including your thoughts and opinions, your personality, and even your sense of reality and your world.
Bereavement is a process and it takes time adjusting to our loss, individuals vary in the time limit and there is no right or wrong way to feel during the bereavement period everyone must learn to cope in their own way.
Grief, although normal, can manifest in a huge range of unexpected ways some people get angry, some people withdraw, others become completely numb and may develop depression.
Bereavement counselling may be useful during this process, talking allows a person to adjust to their new life and its changes.
Stages of bereavement
During bereavement it is important to find ways to mourn our loss and express our grief.
The bereavement period can be a confusing time involving a lot of very powerful emotions. Not everyone experiences the same stages of bereavement at the same time or in the same order. However, the following four stages are common:
- accepting that your loss as a reality
- experiencing the pain that comes with grief
- adjusting to life without the person who died
- reducing the emotional energy you put into your grief and finding new places i.e. moving on
Most people go through these stages but people may find some more problematic than others. Sometimes, people get a stage more challenging, which can prevent them moving on.
Accepting that your loss really happened
Accepting that your loss really happened is an essential part of the bereavement process. Without acceptance, you may find it hard to really grieve for your loved one.
Experiencing the pain that comes with grief
Different emotions associated with grief include:
- longing (to see them again)
What you feel after a person has died will depend on the relationship you had with that person and the nature of their death. Of course, there is no telling what form your grief will take, and everyone’s experience is unique.
As painful as it feels, it is important to let yourself grieve for your loss. Denying yourself the time to grieve properly could result in problems that prevent you moving forward with your life.
Trying to adjust to life without them
Once you have accepted your loss and spent time understanding and releasing your emotions you will eventually find yourself adjusting to a new kind of life. How you cope with this stage will again depend on what kind of relationship you had with the person who died.
Eventually your life will begin to take you on a new route. You may always remember the person who died, and you may continue to grieve for their loss forever but naturally you will begin to ‘move on’. This means you have found a way to channel your emotions into new things this is you managing your life and finding a way to cope.
Mourning is an essential part of bereavement. Mourning may involves rituals like funerals, wakes and anniversary celebrations, these add structure to the process. Mourning allows us to say goodbye it is a way of affirming what has happened.
Coping with grief
If you feel like you are no longer coping with grief very well, you may need some professional support (counsellor). Issues may include the following:
- increased alcohol consumption
- using illegal drugs
- having suicidal thoughts
- increased risk taking
- violent behaviour
Grief after suicide can be a particularly complex process. Family and friends of a person who has died by suicide may experience a range of distressing feelings often affecting their daily lives. Personal anger and guilt are common following bereavement by suicide it’s common to blame yourself or feel angry toward the person themselves
Stages of suicide grief may include:
Numbness or shock :You may want to distance yourself from others to avoid facing what’s happened.
Disorganisation :You might feel lonely, depressed and deeply sad at this point. People may have trouble eating, sleeping and experience other complications. It’s during this stage that people may agonise over what they could have done and wondering why it happened.
Reorganisation: Eventually the initial trauma of the situation will begin to fade as your loss becomes integrated into your life. You will begin to get back to your routine and soon you will be able to focus on other things in your life.
What is bereavement counselling?
Bereavement counselling is designed to help people cope more effectively with the death of a loved one. Specifically, bereavement counselling can:
- assist on the understanding of the grief process
- explore issues that could potentially prevent you from moving on
- help resolve areas of conflict that may remain
- help you to adjust to a new sense of self
- support with possible issues of depression or suicidal thoughts.
It is normal not to stop missing the person you lost, but with enough time and the right support, a new life can be developed and a purpose can be achieved.
Bereavement counselling aims to get you to the point where you can function normally – however long it takes, and find happiness and meaning in life. By creating a place to keep the person you lost, and finding ways to remember them (like memory boxes), you can preserve their memory and remember the impact they had on your life, without letting their absence obscure your own future.