When someone is bereaved, they usually experience an intense feeling of sorrow called grief. People grieve in order to accept a deep loss and carry on with their life. In my work with bereaved clients, I believe that if you do not grieve at the time of death, or shortlyafter, the grief may stay bottled up inside you. This can lead to emotional problems and even physical illness later on. Working through grief can be a painful process, but itis often necessary to ensure future emotional and physical well-being.
The Stages of Grief
There is no single way to grieve. Everyone is different and each person grieves in his or her own way. However, people commonly experience some stages of grief when they are bereaved. There is no set timescale for reaching these stages, but it can help to know what the stages are and that intense emotions and swift changes in mood are normal. The stages of grief are not distinct, and there is usually some overlap between them.
Feeling emotionally numb is often the first reaction to a loss. This may last for a few hours, days or longer. In some ways, this numbness can help you get through the practical arrangements and family pressures that surround the funeral,but if this phase goes on for too long it can become a problem.
Numbness may be replaced by a deep yearning for the person who has died.You may feel agitated or angry, and find it difficult to concentrate, relax or sleep. You may also feel guilty, dwelling on arguments you had with that person or on emotions and words, you wished you had expressed.
This period of strong emotion usually gives way to bouts of intense sadness,silence and withdrawal from family and friends. Over time, the pain, sadness and depression start to lessen. You begin to see your life in a more positive light again. Although it is important to acknowledge there may always be a feeling of loss, you learn to live with it.
The final phase of grieving is to let go of the person who has died and carry on with your life. Your sleeping patterns and energy levels return to normal.
How Long Does Grieving Take?
The grieving process can take some time. In general, though, it usually takes one to two years to recover from a major bereavement.
Coping with the Grieving Process
There are many things you can do to help yourself cope during this time.Ask for help and support from family, friends or even talk to a counsellor.Try to express whatever you are feeling, be it anger, guilt, shame or sadness.
What if You Are Not Coping?
Sometimes, the grieving process is especially difficult. Some find it impossible to acknowledge the bereavement at all. This sometimes happens after a miscarriage or abortion. It may also happen if you do not have time to grieve properly, perhaps because of work pressures or if you are looking after your family.
Others may be unable to move on from their grief, or may remain in the numb stages of grief, finding it hard to believe the person is dead. Such difficult grieving can lead to recurring bouts of depression, loss of appetite and even suicidal feelings.
Other circumstances around the death can lead to a difficult grieving process.
These can include:
- a sudden or unexpected death
- miscarriage or the death of a baby
- death due to suicide
- deaths where the bereaved may be responsible
Bereavement is probably one of the toughest things we have to face in life. Itis a natural process of loss we have to experience as it makes us aware of ourown mortality and those of our loved ones.
© 2012 – 2016, Content: Dr Vasilios Silivistris – Artwork: Ian Francis. All rights reserved.