Dealing with Bereavement
Posted: May 13, 2021
Grief is a natural part of life that most of us will experience. It is about coping with loss. We mostly associate bereavement with the death of a loved one, but it can also be caused by the loss of a romantic relationship or friendship, as well as the loss of a pet, personal dream, or even the loss of a job.
The way in which we all cope with loss is completely different. Everyone experiences pain in their own way, as every situation is personal to them and has its own level of complicated. Some of us wear our grief as visible symptoms of sadness, stress, and unhappiness, others bury it deep inside. Neither way is right or wrong, we all just deal with it differently.
Bereavement is a very strong and powerful emotion. It is that sharp pain in your chest, sleepless nights, uncontrollable crying, and moments of numbness as well as an impending, expansive silence. It is loneliness in a room full of people, an undercurrent of anxiety, and the reoccurrence of beautiful, pleasant memories. Grief can be insufferable and incredibly difficult, as well as numbing and empty. It can feel timeless, unending and the longest episode of our lives, but there is hope and believe it or not, it does get easier.
There are ways of managing it. These strategies will help to lead the way through what feels like a wild, entangled forest to a much clearer and open field.
Symptoms of Grief:
- I wish they were here.
- I can’t understand where they have gone.
- What am I going to do now?
- I wish that I had done things differently.
- I wish we had more time.
- Increased Blood Pressure
- Stomach Ache
- Chills down the spine
- Sleeplessness/ Very Tired
- Food Aversion/ Increased Appetite
- Communicating openly about the loss, even after a long period of time.
- Not communicating at all.
- Withdrawing from social interaction with friends or loved ones.
- Avoiding participating in social interaction could include not going to work.
- Avoiding things related to the person you have lost.
Nothing can prepare us for the impact of bereavement, albeit the end of a long and painful illness, or sudden death. Grief is a roller-coaster of different stages and processes that most of us experience.
- The Initial Shock or Disbelief.– You know that stage when we keep thinking they are going to call or text? Or we half expect them to burst through the front door? These thoughts or reactions are normal and all part of processing the feeling of the initial shock. This normally occurs immediately after the loss, but for others, it can take a little longer to spark.
- Sadness– This is the stage that most people imagine grief to be. In fact, some even believe that this is all that grief is. However, it is a lot more than sleepless nights crying, loneliness or emotional instability. This is one of the most painful parts of bereavement.
- Guilt– Have you ever felt those pangs of guilt about how you could have handled the situation (if it was a terminal illness), or not spending enough time with a loved one, or even appreciating them more? Guilt can hit us in waves and is an overwhelming emotion to process. We can also feel guilty for even feeling relieved that the person is no longer in pain if they have suffered a difficult terminal illness.
- Anger– This can sometimes manifest in feelings of rage towards the Higher Powers (God), or even medical professionals for “not doing enough.” Anger rears its horns when we feel wronged in some way and this stage can bring out built-up resentment towards even the person who has left us behind. It is normal to experience anger about feeling abandoned or even left to pick up the pieces.
- Fear –This stage leaves us questioning our own existence and morality. This stage can leave us worrying about the time that we have left with those who remain around us, let alone fearing being left alone altogether. Fear can build around the circumstances of the loss too and can be difficult to process.
What can complicate our feelings of grief?
- Our current life –Sometimes we are not experiencing bereavement alone, or we have others who are dependent on us. We might have an array of other surrounding complicated scenarios that also need our attention and energy to solve too. Death often comes with dealing with unexpected issues such as legal documentation, organising the funeral, helping loved ones, and working through remaining possessions and assets. These are all tough enough to handle anyway, let alone with the added weight of the crushing pain of grief.
- How we cope –We all cope in different ways. Bereavement leaves us feeling incredibly vulnerable and our thoughts and feelings can seem to be out of control. It is common for us to find ourselves trawling through past memories, which can also trigger unhelpful thoughts. All of a sudden, everything seems to feel as though it is crushing around us as anxiety now adds to the cocktail of emotions too.
- Changes in the way we behave –Have you found yourself avoiding specific places or events that remind you of someone? It is understandable to do this as none of us want to feel any more pain if we can help it. It might help to actually plan a way of celebrating a particular date (e.g., a birthday) by doing something special or enjoyable. Even attempting to shift the perspective of the event can help to better manage the feelings that go with it.
Strategies to managing our grief:
- Reaching out to other people around us.
- Getting back into taking physical exercise again or doing the things we once loved (hobbies).
- Keeping a diary.
- Creating routine in our lives.
- Being more self-aware of how we are experiencing our grief. This can be through recognising our thoughts, feelings, physical symptoms, and even behavioral patterns as they hit us one by one.
- Doing things that help us relax and allowing ourselves that time to actually enjoy doing something.
- Seeking professional help from a therapist, or even a doctor.
Grieving is not a smoothly paved road, but it will get easier over time. It helps to try out a few of the strategies as a way to encourage a little more light and positivity into our lives when everything around us feels dark. It is important to seek help and to reach out to someone who can provide you with the tools and support to find your way through the forest. There are trained therapists at Arkesie who can help manage some of those extreme emotions that come as a response to bereavement. Things will get better, it just about making those first wobbly steps.