Life can change rapidly when someone close to you
has died. Many times, it makes little difference whether
the death is expected or sudden; persons frequently
experience painful feelings of shock, disbelief, anxiety,
anger, guilt and sadness. Feelings of grief like these
are very normal but may be experienced differently by
each individual. Grieving is the process of going through
these painful feelings and learning to live without
that special person in your life.
GRIEF AND LOSS FEELINGS OF LOSS
It is important to remember that there is no right
or wrong way to grieve, and people react differently
to death. The level of support you have and the relationship
you had with the person who has died or your previous
experience of loss and death, often times determine
the way you experience grief and the way you will
be affected by it.
You may experience some of the following emotional
and physical reactions when someone close to you dies.
You may experience disbelief and the initial response
to bad news is often one of disbelief - you feel what
has happened is unreal, almost like a bad dream. The
sense of disbelief can stay with you for some time.
If you are in a state of shock you may feel numb,
stunned, bewildered and unable to think properly.
In some ways shock protects you from the full impact
of the death. The sense of numbness will start to
fade in a few days or weeks, although it may return
from time to time.
LONGING AND SEARCHING
You may have a sense of longing for the person who
has died. You want to see, hear, hold, and talk to
him/her. At times you may find yourself looking for
the person and feel you have seen or heard him/her,
perhaps in a crowd or familiar place.
People frequently feel angry at the unfairness of
life or at God for allowing the death to happen. It
is also common to feel angry with yourself, family
or friends or with those who were involved with caring
at the time of the illness and death. You may also
be angry with the deceased for leaving you at this
time. This is a normal response to a loss.
There is a tendency to go over the events surrounding
the death again and again. Bereaved people may blame
themselves for things done or left undone, words said
or left unsaid. If you feel there was something you
could have done to prevent the death, it is important
to remember that people sometimes make decisions over
which you have no control. You may find yourself focusing
on a difficult time in your relationship. Remember
that happy and unhappy times are a feature of all
relationships. Feelings of guilt are normal though,
often not justified. It is best to discuss these feelings
with someone you trust.
DESPAIR AND HOPELESSNESS
At times, you may feel you cannot bear the pain any
longer and think you won't survive this loss. It helps
to talk about this despair to someone close to you
or to your doctor or other professional you know.
Depression is a feeling of overwhelming sadness and
hopelessness that is often experienced following bereavement.
You lose interest in everything and ordinary everyday
tasks require a lot of effort. Other symptoms may
include difficulty with sleep, appetite problems,
crying continuously or inability to cry, withdrawal
from family and friends, poor concentration and forgetfulness.
These symptoms are a normal part of the grief process.
If they become very intense and are experienced over
a long period of time, advice from a doctor is advisable.
ANXIETY AND FEARS
Following bereavement feelings of anxiety are common.
You may feel very vulnerable, lose confidence in yourself
and in the world, fear for the well being of others
and perhaps fear that something else terrible will
happen. You may doubt your ability to cope and be
slow to admit this to yourself or others for fear
of losing control and anxiety may lead to panic attacks.
LONELINESS AND SADNESS
The loss of a special relationship leaves you feeling
sad, lonely and empty. You are without the love and
understanding of that person. Eventually, others appear
to get on with their own lives and you may be feeling
very alone. Friends and family may withdraw because
they feel helpless. When you have lost a partner or
close friend you may be especially lonely because
you are without the person with whom you shared everyday
It is normal to feel relieved that the person's suffering
is over. It is also normal to feel relieved that a
person with whom you had a difficult relationship
is no longer here and you can begin a new life. Many
people find that there were aspects of the deceased's
personality that they will not miss. You may feel
guilty about these feelings buy they are a normal
part of grief.
HELPING YOURSELF THROUGH GRIEF
Don't be frightened by the intensity of the pain you
may be feeling. When someone dies who was an important
part of your life you are mourning not only for the
person who has died but also for the hopes, plans
and expectations you had with and for that person
that will not be unfulfilled.
Suggestions that may help you through your grief:
- It helps to talk about the person who has died
and about how their death is affecting you.
- Don't distance yourself from people. It is good
to spend time with people who care about you. Let
them know how you are feeling and accept their support.
- Give yourself time. Do not have unrealistic expectations
of yourself. Don't compare yourself to others and
how they have coped with their loss. Grief comes
and goes, expect to have good and bad days.
- Where possible don't make major changes in your
life during this time. If you must, discuss them
with people you trust.
- Don't rely on alcohol or drugs to make you feel
- Take time for yourself. Do things you enjoy.
Exercise can help to work off stress. Get plenty
of rest and try to eat well.
- You may find that keeping a diary of your thoughts
and feelings can help.
- There are many books available on bereavement
which can help you understand what you are going
through. Bereavement counselling or joining a bereavement
group may also help you work though your grief.
- It can help to understand that birthdays, anniversaries
or other special times can bring up painful feelings
you thought you had overcome.
- Don't feel guilty about having good times. Plan
things you enjoy and to which you can look forward.
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