The grieving process
Everyone copes with bereavement in their own way, but there do seem to be stages that most people go through and it can be helpful to be aware of these. We tend not to talk about death in our society – but it is something that everyone shares and must find a path through.
A sense of unreality
In the first hours and days people often have a sense of unreality. This detached feeling can help them cope with the immediate shock. Sometimes it is not until some days after the funeral that the reality of what has happened sinks in. However, if this disconnected feeling goes on too long it can be quite damaging.
This sense of emotional detachment is often followed by a feeling of great agitation and yearning, which can affect everyday life. It may be difficult to relax, concentrate or even to sleep properly.
Some people experience anger – towards doctors or hospitals for not preventing the death, towards even close family and friends and sometimes towards the person who has left them.
It is also common to feel guilty, for all sorts of reasons including having experienced a sense of relief if the person had a distressing illness.
Time the healer
At first there will be reminders of bereavement. Anniversaries and celebrations can be painful; seeing couples everywhere may remind the bereaved person of their single state. But the adage “time is a great healer” is true for most people.
It is important not to rush into major life changes for some time after a death; but it is good to make plans and do life-affirming things that you enjoy, such as hobbies, studying, outings and time spent with family and friends.
There is no standard time it takes to grieve, but if you feel you are stuck and can’t move on, it is important to get help. Depression is a common result of bereavement, but there are plenty of people who can support you. Some organisations are listed at the end of this booklet, but a good starting point is your family doctor.
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