Bereavement and Loss

This blog was inspired by the recent Race for Life event I took part in and was overwhelmed reading the messages on girls and women’s backs, with messages for loved ones past and present. It’s an event that brings people together all over the UK to raise importance funds for Cancer Research plus giving women and families the opportunity to remember their loved ones, in a society which often finds difficulty discussing bereavement and loss.

At some point in our lives we are all faced with a bereavement or loss of a friend, relative, colleague or pet. This blog will look to highlight some of the losses we can have, the feelings and emotions that may be experienced as well as support available.

I must stress that each person’s experience of bereavement and loss is very unique to themselves and their own personal situation. The information in this blog are based upon my own views and comments are largely based around my own personal experiences and training.

Different kinds of losses

The death of someone close can be extremely upsetting; however there are other losses that can be equally as difficult. Losses can range from the loss of a pet, parental divorce, separations, loss of friendships, moving schools, loss of financial status, children moving away, loss of security….plus many more.

Experiences of grief

If you pick up any book on grief, each will explain the grieving process in a slightly different way. The reason for that is that there is not a right way or a typical way to grieve. We are all unique people, with different personalities, thoughts and experiences and therefore have our very own unique way to grieve.

Some of the main experiences of grief

·  Initial shock and disbelief. Feeling anger, anxiety, being overwhelmed and guilty.

·  Trying to cope with the pain. e.g. distracting self, avoiding reminders

·  Continuing relationship with deceased e.g. memories, dreams, hallucinations

·  Day-to-day: routines affected as difficulty functioning normally at work or with others. Can affect health and wellbeing.

·  Changing dynamics: often relationships with loved ones, family and friends are affected as you are adjusting to the loss of a loved one.

·  Changes in identity: Often we change our view of ourselves, others and the world around us.

·  Readjusting to life without our loved one. Over time we learn to re-adjust our lives without the loved one. Although the pain may still be felt, gradually it we are able to function better at work and with others. Our loved one is not forgotten; however a life is built around the pain.

Some people show few signs of loss and distress whilst others experience very difficult feelings and emotions. There is not one right way to grieve. Often people experience a sense of relief, especially with the person has suffered a painful illness. The grieving process can be very short for some people and for others the process can last years – each person and situation is very different.

From my own experience of bereavement it felt like a very black dense cloud that in the early stages it is constantly following you, which affects your daily functioning and ability to complete simple tasks. Over time this cloud sometimes lifts but makes regularly appearances when you least expect it. Over time you are able to think more clearly and able to perform tasks more easily. Eventually you have days when the sun is shining and the clouds are rarely noticed. There may be other triggers, such as anniversaries, when that pain makes a re-appearance from time to time.

Support with Bereavement

·  Let others support you If you wish to talk things over talk to close friends or family. If you don’t wish to talk about your feelings maybe writing things down may help. Don’t be afraid to ask others for support – emotionally or practically.

·  Look after you body Eat a healthy diet, look for ways to relax, limit caffeine and alcohol, and give yourself regular treats.

·   Don’t set yourself unrealistic expectations Take thinks easy, give yourself time and permission to grieve. It is important for you mind and body to take it’s time to except the loss and to re-adjust. Often people make rash decisions about work or relationships. Don’t make any important, life changing decisions during the early stages of loss.

·  Speak about your loved one and think of happy memories Comfort is often gained from memories of loved ones and been able to speak about them with someone else.

·  Take time off work You may need to take at least a few days off work – however if you require longer take it, speak to your manager about how your feelings and maybe asking to reduce your workload until you feel better able to cope.

·  Celebration Often anniversaries, birthdays and Christmas-time can be difficult, therefore surrounding yourself with supportive people can help. You may find it helpful to celebrate the person’s life and memories on these special occasions.

·  Remember Children It’s important to remember too, that children need to go through the bereavement process. Parents can help children by explaining to them what has happened, asking if they would like to attend the funeral, and allowing them to express themselves by talking, looking at memories and photos, drawing their feelings or through play.

How you can support the bereaved

·  Be there for them - listen to them, give them comfort, emotion and tears are an important part of the grieving process.

·  Let them be - grief is very personal to the individual. It is important to let the person grieve in the way they want to.

·  Don’t avoid speaking of the bereaved - don’t pretend it hasn’t happened allow the person to talk if they wish or cry

·  Remember anniversaries – an anniversary is often a very difficult time, try and be there for them on significant dates.

·  Practical help – offering practical support after a loss can take some pressure off the individual.

Other support

There are many charities offering support to children and adults following the death of a loved one, such as Cruse Bereavement Care, Samaritans, SANDS (stillbirth/neonatal), Winston’s Wish (children), Child Line, Macmillan Cancer Support. In addition to this your GP can offer support or refer you to a counsellor.

There are many services available and used by thousands of people each year – please don’t suffer in silence.

 

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