What is bereavement?
When someone you love suddenly leaves your life, it’s not a case of taking time out to recover, you are unlikely to emerge exactly the same as you were before. In life all of our experiences shape us as a person and experiencing the death of someone you care can have a big impact.
Bereavement is about trying to come to terms with what has happened, learning to adjust to life without that person and finding a place to keep their memory alive while you try to get along as best you can.
Grief can shake everything up – your beliefs, your routines, and even your sense of normality. There is no right or wrong way to feel during the bereavement period – everyone copes in their own way.
Grief, although normal, can lead to unexpected behavioural changes. Some people get angry, some people withdraw into themselves and some people become completely numb. Sometimes, grief can trigger or exacerbate existing mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety. It may also result in the development of unhelpful coping strategies, such as an increase in alcohol or drug use.
The stages of bereavement
Not everyone experiences the same stages of bereavement at the same time or in the same order, though most people generally go through the following four stages at some point:
- accepting that your loss really happened
- experiencing the pain that comes with grief
- trying to adjust to life without the person who died
- putting less emotional energy into your grief, finding a new place to put it and moving on
Not everyone moves between the stages smoothly. Sometimes, people get stuck on one stage and find it difficult to move on. Sometimes a trigger may move a person back to one of the earlier stages of grief; this is normal and to be expected.
Whay can we do to help?
Talking about the loss often allows a person to adjust to their new life with all its changes – good and bad. Keeping things bottled up or denying the sadness could prolong the pain. Any loss has to be acknowledged for us to move forward. Bereavement counselling tries to help people find a place for their loss so they can carry on with life and eventually find acceptance and can provide support during this difficult time in your life.