Understanding the Process of Bereavement

bereavement, loss

The death of a loved one can be devastating, especially if it is sudden, violent or unexpected. Mourning is a vital and necessary part of healing. Understanding bereavement can help manage the grief process.

Stages of Grief

Recognisable stages of grief have been identified, but everyone’s experience will be unique.

Stage 1: Shock and Denial. This can occur even when the death was expected. There can be an inability to take in what has happened. A person can appear to be unaffected by the death, whereas they are actually numb with shock.

Stage 2: Loss. The realisation of the loss can lead to anguish, bringing emotional release through crying. It is important that friends and family allow the bereaved person to cry, without trying to “make them feel better”. Suppressing crying and burying feelings will delay the mourning process and store up problems for the future.

Stage 3: Anger. There may be a sense of injustice resulting in anger towards doctors, family members, the person who has died, God, or against oneself. These feelings need to be expressed and worked through, ideally with a sympathetic and non-judgemental listener.

Stage 4: Guilt. Typically, people feel guilty about not having done more for their loved one in life or for unkind or careless words that can never be taken back. If the death was by suicide, guilt can be a significant factor for those left behind. In time, guilt will lessen as events are seen more in perspective and self-forgiveness can follow.

Stage 5: Preoccupation. It is natural to have constant thoughts of the person who has died, especially if they were a daily companion. Some bereaved people have a sense of the person still being there, even smelling their perfume or hearing their footsteps. Dreams can be vivid and may be either disturbing or reassuring.

Stage 6: Fear. As the grieving continues, there can be anxiety that it will go on for ever or that it will be impossible to cope without the person who has died. There is no timetable for mourning, but the intensity of emotions does lessen with time, as grief is experienced and expressed.

Stage 7: Depression and Loneliness. Low mood, coupled with lack of interest in life, can set in as the finality of death is recognised.

Stage 8: Hope. The goal of mourning is to accept and live with loss. With time and care, wounds heal and life slowly becomes meaningful and enjoyable again. Bereavement can bring wisdom, empathy for others, appreciation of the small things and a greater spiritual awareness.

The Importance of Self-Care

Grieving can take a toll on the body and mind. Eating well, getting up and dressing every day, sleeping enough and taking light exercise will help maintain physical health and emotional stability. Asking for help is important, whether from family and friends or from a professional. Consult your GP if you feel that symptoms are unmanageable. Counselling can help with expressing painful feelings and working through loss, anger and self-blame, allowing the bereaved person to move on with their life.

To find our more about bereavement counselling, call me on 087-2877837

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