When someone special to you dies, the pain you feel can be overwhelming. This huge sense of sadness may feel like it will never ease and life will never seem “normal” again. This grief is a natural response to loss. Your thoughts and feelings may seem confusing, but that’s “OK’, grief is never straightforward. Try not to be concerned if your grief seems different to others. Grief is a personal experience, which may depend on your cultural and religious beliefs, life experiences, your relationship to the person who has died, and the nature of the loss.
Although everyone’s grief is different, it is thought there are common stages. You may not pass through all these stages and there is no order to them:
Denial: you cannot accept someone has died
Anger: you may blame yourself, others or even the person who has died for leaving you
Bargaining: you may believe that if you do something/had done something differently, then the person who has died may come back/may not have died
Depression: your overwhelming sadness- it may be difficult to get on with everyday tasks (e.g. getting up in the morning, showering, eating, work)
Acceptance: you come to terms with the loss
Acceptance can seem impossible when grieving. How could it ever be “OK” that someone special to you has died? You may even feel guilty for enjoying yourself. With grief, acceptance is not about forgetting the person who has died, but understanding and managing the emotional pain so that you can adjust to your new life. A picture of an upward spiral may help you to understand this process. At the centre of this “spiral of grief” is your raw and intense feelings about the loss. As you work through your grief, you will gradually move up the spiral away from these intense feelings and adjust to life. The grief is still there, but it is more manageable.
Grieving can be a lonely place. If you have lost a loved one, you may feel different to others and worry about being a burden so isolate yourself. People may forget you are still grieving as weeks, months, even years pass by. It may help to speak out to family or friends you trust, let them know that you are not “OK” so they can support you.
As you start adjusting to life without the person who has died, you may become aware of changes. Life as you know it may feel different. You may have extra responsibilities, such as sorting the finances, maintaining the family home, child care etc. This can all seem too much on top of your grief. Meeting others who have experienced a bereavement can help you to feel less alone and gain valuable support and advice. Ask your GP of local bereavement groups. At the end of this article, there are some useful links for bereavement support.
Before you know it the first anniversary comes around. Although you may have faced other milestones beforehand, such as the first birthday, religious holiday, mothers’/fathers’ days, wedding anniversary etc without your loved one. For many, it can seem unbelievable that a year has passed already. It may create anxiety about where you are at with your grief, for example, “I do not want to feel like this anymore”. It is also normal to feel scared about starting another year without that person in your life. It can help to plan anniversaries to manage painful feelings. For example, having some time off work, visiting the cemetery, or going to that person’s favourite place or restaurant for a meal. As you move up the “spiral of grief” and the feelings are less intense, anniversaries can help to focus on happier memories.
What to do next:
Take one day at a time. Grief cannot be rushed and happens in its own time. Do not put pressure on yourself to grieve or finish grieving within a certain timeframe. Try to be patient and kind to yourself.
Ask for help if you need it. Make it known to family and friends that you sometimes want to talk or just need some company. Others can feel helpless so give them some direction in what you need! The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself.
If you are struggling to cope, you may want to look at some online resources or join a bereavement group (listed below), speak to your GP, or contact me to see how bereavement counselling can help you to understand and process your loss.