Coping with bereavement is something we will all experience sooner or later. Nothing can really prepare you for the loss of a loved one and people react differently to the loss.
However it is totally natural to feel a whole wave of different emotions which can often be very confusing and overwhelming.
Emotions You Might Feel
Although some people have the opportunity to prepare for a loved one’s passing before they die, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s easier to cope with than if they died suddenly. There can also be many variations of emotion which people might feel depending on the circumstances of the loss. For example, if the person who dies is young and/or the child of parents who are still living, this can be even more traumatic as we have been taught that the natural cycle of life means that parents die first, yet tragically, we know only too well that this is not always the case.
When someone close to you dies, it can create a sense of disbelief and thoughts that you just simply cannot believe they are no longer around. Some people can even shut this out and carry on as if nothing has happened and that their loved one is still alive. They will probably be aware of the reality but are too shocked to cope with it yet.
The shock can often leave you feeling pretty numb and can create a sense of detachment from the rest of the world around you with an inability to even feel any sense of pain in the immediate aftermath of hearing the news. Once you start feeling the pain, it can tear through your entire being both emotionally and physically and some people simply cannot stop crying for a very long time.
You can feel angry at what has happened and this can make you feel as though life is completely unfair. You can start apportioning blame, even though the reality is that no-one is to blame. You might blame the hospital for letting you down, you might curse the world in general and it’s quite common to even feel anger towards the person who has died for leaving you.
You can often feel a sense of your own guilt and think that you didn’t do enough to help your loved one before they died or you might feel guilty that your last words before they died weren’t right or you might have had a row before they died and you feel distraught because you now feel as though you can never put that right.
Anxiety and depression can also take hold. You might have seen your loved one as ‘the rock’, i.e. the person who held everything together and you feel that you’ve no idea how you’re going to cope without them being around or you can get so low that you feel as if there’s simply no point in you carrying on yourself without them in your life. You might also feel weak in expressing your grief as you have always considered yourself to be ‘the strong one’. But the fact of the matter is that any emotion you express when someone close to you has died is OK. What is important is that you do express your emotions and not keep them bottled up inside.
Ensure that you do let your feelings out and learn that it’s OK to cry. Crying is the most certain way of releasing your pain. It’s important to also recognise that none of us react to grief in exactly the same way so it’s perfectly acceptable for you to react in the way that’s best for you.
There is no time limit on grief. Some people can deal with bereavement quicker than others and, even though they may still harbour feelings of sadness, they can put them to one side after a fairly short period and carry on as normal. For others, it can often take months and even years to fully come to terms with the loss of a loved one but, although it is an old saying and you might not believe it in the early stages, it is true that the passage of time is probably the best healer.
Sharing your feelings with someone you trust will also be helpful in you coming to terms with your loss. Having someone else to lean on can ultimately lead you to gaining a fresh perspective and move you on to the continuation of your own life. After all, your loved one would not have wanted you to go into self-destruct mode. They’d have wanted you to carry on living and to return to being the positive and loving person that they held so dear.
Organisations and Groups That Can Also Help
If you feel that you still need help that your family and friends can’t seem to provide, talking to a neutral party can often help. This might include your GP or a counsellor who specialises in bereavement which your GP can refer you to. There are also several charities and organisations who specialise in bereavement issues who organise both one on one and group sessions for those who feel as if they could benefit from further support in getting over their grief.
Ultimately, however, the grief will subside over time and you will be able to move on with your life with just fond positive memories of the time you spent with your loved one and how special that time was.