Bereavement is the state of loss when someone close to an individual has died. The death of a loved one is one of the greatest sorrows that can occur in one’s life. People’s responses to grief will vary depending upon the circumstances of the death, but grief is a normal, healthy response to loss. Feelings of bereavement can also accompany other losses, such as the decline of one’s health or the health of a close other, or the end of an important relationship.

There is no right or wrong way to feel

The death of a loved one can be devastating. Bereavement counsellor Sarah Smith describes some of the feelings that can arise from losing someone.

Bereavement affects people in different ways. There’s no right or wrong way to feel.

“You might feel a lot of emotions at once, or feel you’re having a good day, then you wake up and feel worse again,” says Sarah, who works at Trinity Hospice in London.

She says powerful feelings can come unexpectedly. “It’s like waves on a beach. You can be standing in water up to your knees and feel you can cope, then suddenly a big wave comes and knocks you off your feet.”

Stages of bereavement or grief

Experts generally accept there are four stages of bereavement:

  • accepting that your loss is real
  • experiencing the pain of grief
  • adjusting to life without the person who has died (or whatever it is you have lost, health, relationship, pet etc)
  • putting less emotional energy into grieving and putting it into something new – in other words, moving on

You’ll probably go through all these stages, but you won’t necessarily move smoothly from one to the next. Your grief might feel chaotic and out of control, but these feelings will eventually become less intense.

Feelings of grief

A wide and confusing range of emotions may be experienced after a loss. Give yourself time – these feelings will pass. You might feel:

  • shock and numbness – this is usually the first reaction to the death, and people often speak of being in a daze
  • overwhelming sadness, with lots of crying
  • tiredness or exhaustion
  • anger – for example, towards the person who died, their illness, or God
  • guilt – for example, guilt about feeling angry, about something you said or didn’t say, or about not being able to stop your loved one dying

Emotions may be very intense, and the bereaved person may have mood swings. These are all normal reactions to loss.

“These feelings are all perfectly normal,” says Sarah. “The negative feelings don’t make you a bad person. Lots of people feel guilty about their anger, but it’s OK to be angry and to question why.”

She adds some people become forgetful and less able to concentrate. You might lose things, such as your keys. This is because your mind is distracted by bereavement and grief, says Sarah. You’re not losing your sanity.

According to the National Cancer Institute, recovery does not happen in a set period of time. In normal grief, symptoms will occur less often and will feel less severe as time passes. For most bereaved people having normal grief, symptoms lessen between six months and two years after the loss.

Coping with grief

Talking and sharing your feelings with someone can help. Don’t go through this alone. For some people, relying on family and friends is the best way to cope.

Talking about the person who has died

Don’t be afraid to talk about the person who has died. People in your life might not mention their name because they don’t want to upset you. But if you feel you can’t talk to them, it can make you feel isolated.

Anniversaries and special occasions can be hard. Sarah suggests doing whatever you need to do to get through the day. This might be taking a day off work or doing something that reminds you of that person, such as taking a favourite walk.

If you need help to move on

Each bereavement is unique, and you can’t tell how long it will last. In general, the death and the person might not constantly be at the forefront of your mind after around 18 months. This period may be shorter or longer for some people, which is normal.

Your GP or a bereavement counsellor can help if you feel you’re not coping. Some people also get support from a religious minister.

You might need help if:

  • you can’t get out of bed
  • you neglect yourself or your family – for example, you don’t eat properly
  • you feel you can’t go on without the person you’ve lost
  • the emotion is so intense it’s affecting the rest of your life – for example, you can’t face going to work or you’re taking your anger out on someone else

These feelings are normal – as long as they don’t last for a long time. The time to get help depends on the person.

If these things last for a period that you feel is too long or your family say they’re worried, that’s the time to seek help.

Talking therapy with a therapist / bereavement counsellor

Talking therapy is found to be very useful and helpful to many bereaved people. It helps them cope with their feelings, which are often so intense it can be difficult to see a way past them. The therapist / A bereavement counsellor can give you time and space to talk about your feelings, including the person who has died, your relationship, family, work, fears and the future. You can even find a meeting with a bereavement counsellor beneficial even if the person you lost died a long time ago.

Medcare is fortunate to be able to offer Psychotherapy services alongside renowned therapist, Steve Ashley. You can have a FREE initial chat with Steve to discuss your feelings and then you and he will determine how much help you might benefit from and how often you might need to meet.

Steve was instrumental in setting up Samaritans in Spain. He now offers help for a wide range of issues and will see you for as little or as long as you need, and of course, everything that is discussed is confidential.

To make an appointment please call 966 860 258 or email doctors@medcarespain.com.

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