When someone you love dies, at first you're kept busy meeting with the funeral director and arranging a suitable send-off for your loved one. Once the funeral has been held and you are sitting alone at home, the enormity of your loss will begin to sink in. But how do you cope with your bereavement? Read on for some helpful advice.
The four stages of bereavement
There are four recognised stages of bereavement:
- learning to accept the reality of your loss
- experiencing grief and the pain it brings
- getting used to life without your deceased loved one
- moving on
Everyone goes through all these stages, so it's important to remember that you're not alone. All those who knew the person who has died will be feeling just as you do. Allow yourself to grieve and know that as time passes the pain and intensity of your grief will ease.
If the death is sudden and unexpected, it's usual to initially feel shock, a crippling numbness, or even disbelief. You may feel overwhelmed by sadness. Many people find that they can't stop crying, their appetite has gone and they either can't sleep or feel totally exhausted.
Feelings of intense anger are common too. Many people look for someone to blame. For example, the doctors who were treating the person who died, God, or maybe the other party if the death was the consequence of an accident. You might even feel guilty because you could do nothing to help your loved one or because there was something you should have said to them before they died, but did not.
How to cope with grief
If a friend or relative is diagnosed with a terminal illness, it can help if you work together to prepare for the inevitable. Sometimes, helping someone to plan their funeral, making sure their will is up to date and helping them to get their affairs in order are all practical ways of preparing yourself for the day they are no longer there. Spend as much time as you can with your loved one doing the things you both enjoy; you will cope much better with your grief when they've gone if you have some great memories, and they will appreciate this quality time too.
After your loved one has died, if you feel that you are really struggling to come to terms with what's happened, ask you GP to refer you to a professional bereavement counsellor. A bereavement counsellor won't try to tell you how to deal with your feelings, but they will listen to what you have to say. Sometimes, it can be really helpful to just 'offload' to someone who is outside your close circle of friends and family. Everything you say to them is confidential, so you can talk about potentially sensitive issues without fear of otherwise upsetting those close to you.
It's also very important that you talk about the person you've lost. It's very common for people you work with to avoid talking about the subject for fear of upsetting their colleague. This can lead to feelings of awkwardness and isolation, so make it clear that the subject is not off-limits.
Losing a loved one is never easy, but the old maxim, 'time heals all wounds' holds true where bereavement is concerned. Talk to someone about your feelings and never be afraid to ask for help if you need it.