The death of someone close to us can be one of the most devastating things we have to go through. Grief and loss are such intensely personal issues and our response to bereavement will be influenced by many different things, including our age, personality, cultural background and religious beliefs, support network, previous experiences of bereavement and other personal circumstances.
Whilst every person’s experience of grief is unique, there can be some common themes that arise from bereavement such as a feeling of numbness, emotional fluctuation, changes to sleep and eating patterns, feelings of guilt, intense feelings of pain, circular thinking; reliving previous conversations or events over and over again, feelings of anger, hopelessness, loneliness and sadness.
People can experience grief for other reasons, indeed the loss of almost anything can cause a grief reaction: Losing a job, retiring, divorce, and the children leaving home are all recognised causes of grief. But sometime grief can complicate good events: A new house means losing touch with old neighbours as well as gaining new ones; going to university or college can cause a sense of loss for our school mates; even the birth of a child can mean a loss of freedom and therefore a sense of loss. These mixed emotions are normal. Recognising the existence of these feelings, and accepting the appropriateness of the grief, allows us to move forward into a brighter healthier future.
Some sources of help include:
Grief as a journey
Very often Grief is seen as a journey that one has to travel, almost as if one is a passenger, unable to influence the the speed or direction. This is reflected in the idea of 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Each stage takes time, and yet it is possible to move backwards and forwards through these emotions.
It is usually more helpful to view grief as a process to be worked through: you can take control of your journey and become a driver rather than a passenger. The four tasks of grief are
- Accept the reality of the loss
- Accept and experience all of the emotions that come with the loss
- Adjust to a world as it is now, with that bereavement or loss
- Re-invest in the reality of a new life, a new normal.
Viewing bereavement and grief as a series of tasks helps one to actively move through grief and continue to lead a fulfilled and healthy life. Find out more here.