Grief is like the weather; how it affects you changes constantly. At times you might feel fine, bright and cheery, and the next, for no reason, you’re teary, tender and vulnerable. Nothing you have done precipitates this change and all you can do is bear it.
The word bereavement means, "to be robbed of something valued'. Grieving is a process of adjusting to that loss and is universal. Although most often applied when the loss involves a death, it can be applied to many other situations.
People pass through a number of stages in grief which can vary in sequence and length for each individual. Firstly, the reality of the loss takes time to sink in and initial reactions vary from numbness, denial, disbelief, shock, hysteria and not being able to think straight.
The person then protests that the loss cannot be real. Strong and powerful feelings occur such as anger, guilt, sadness, fear, yearning and searching while the person struggles between accepting the reality of what has happened.
The next stage is the reality of the loss and often the person feels at their lowest point. Depression, anxiety, apathy, confusion, despair may be felt with a sense that these feelings will go on forever.
Finally comes reorganisation. The person begins to rebuild a life acquiring more balance and being able to choose and remember the happier times.
Below are some of the feelings we may experience:'I can't believe it'; ' I feel nothing.' 'Why did it have to happen?'
It may take you a long time to grasp what has happened. The shock can make you numb, you may feel you're in a different world. Some people carry on as if nothing has happened. It is hard to believe that someone important is not coming back. Many feel disorientated and almost as if they have lost their place in life.
'I feel such pain.'
Physical and mental pain can feel completely overwhelming and very frightening. The pain of bereavement has been compared to that of losing a limb. It doesn't come back, you will always miss it, but you also learn to adapt to living without it.
Sometimes bereaved people can feel angry. This anger is a completely normal part of the grieving process. Death can seem cruel and unfair, especially when you feel someone has died before their time or when you had plans for the future together.
You may feel guilty about things you said or did, or that you didn't say or do. It is important to remember, at the time, that you did not have the power of hindsight you possess now.
'I feel so depressed, life has no meaning, I can't go on.'
Many people say there are times after a death when they feel there is nothing worth living for and they feel like ending it all.
'I hear and see her, what is wrong with me?' 'I go over it again and again.'
Thinking you are hearing or seeing someone who has died is a common experience and can happen when you least expect it, and you may find that you can't stop thinking about the events leading up to the death.
Other people's reactionsOne of the hardest things to face when we are bereaved is the way other people react to us. They often do not know what to say or how to respond to our loss. This is hard for us because we may well want to talk about the person who has died. It can become especially hard as time goes on and other people's memories of the dead person fade.
COPING AND ADAPTING'They said I'd be over it in a few months' but many people find it takes much longer to learn to cope without someone to love. 'One minute I'm angry and the next minute I can't stop crying' and many people find the mood swings very frightening.
When someone close to us dies we have to cope and adjust to living in a world which is totally changed. Death is, after all, inevitable: that person is not going to come back. We may have to let go of some dreams built up and shared with the person who has died. 'Today my life is different as a result of what has happened. The inner strengths that I did not know I possessed have come to light.'
And please remember to look after yourself as grief is exhausting. You’ll find you need much more sleep than you used to. It can also affect your brain, your ability to remember things and to concentrate. Some clients worry that they're developing a form of dementia. Please be reassured that it's normal and will improve slowly. You might need to tell people around you that you're likely to be forgetful, distracted or absent-minded.