Bereavement and Grief

Its true to say that death is an inevitable part of life and almost without exception, every one of us will experience the death of someone we love, at some point.

Isn't it strange then, how so many of us are ill prepared for bereavement and the affect it will have on us emotionally, mentally and physically?  Understandably, this is because we prefer not to think about things that make us feel uncomfortable.  It's the minds way of protecting us, but consequently, when the unthinkable does happen we are often ill prepared to deal with overwhelming emotions experienced when we lose someone or something dear to us.

Something?  Absolutely.  In addition to the loss of a loved one, which can include losing a much loved pet, there are also many other reasons why we may experience those same feelings of loss.  For example:

  • a loss of health
  • a relationship break down
  • loss of a special dream
  • losing a job

Stages of Grief

Everyone of us will experience our bereavement and Grief in our own unique way.  However, there are stages of Grief that people are said to go through.  There is no set order or step by step process, and some people skip some stages.  You may recognise your own experience in the following list:Bereaved

  • Denial:  "This cant be happening to me"
  • Anger:  "Why is this happening?  Who is to blame?"
  • Bargaining:  "Make this not happen, and in return i will......"
  • Depression:  "I'm too sad to do anything".
  • Acceptance:  "I'm at peace with what happened".

These are all perfectly normal reactions to loss and everyone will undergo their own very individual journey through some or all of these emotions before they are ready to move on.

What happens when grief doesn't go away?

It is normal to feel sad, numb, or angry following a loss.  But as time passes, these emotions should become less intense as you begin to accept the loss and start to move forward.  If you find that you are not feeling better over time, or your grief is getting worse, it may be a sign that your grief has developed into, what is known as, 'complicated  grief.  This is where you can become stuck in an intense state of mourning, or major depression.

There are some differences between 'Normal Grief' and 'depression':

With normal grief you will tend to have many high as well as low moments.  Moments of laughter as well as moments of extreme sadness and tears.  If however, the pain of the loss is so constant and severe that it keeps you from resuming your life, you may be suffering from a 'complicated grief'.  You may have trouble accepting the death long after it has occurred or be so pre-occupied with the person who died that it disrupts your daily routine and undermines your other relationships.  The sadness of losing someone you love never goes away completely, but it shouldn't remain centre stage. 

Symptoms of complicated grief include:

  • Intense longing and yearning for the deceased
  • Intrusive thoughts or images of your loved one
  • Denial of the death or a sense of disbelief
  • Avoiding things and places that remind you of your loved one
  • Extreme anger or bitterness over your loss
  • Searching for the person in familiar places
  • Imagining that your loved one is still alive
  • Feeling that life is empty and meaningless

Once again, these symptoms can be felt in the early days after your loss, however they indicate 'complicated grief' if you are experiencing them with the same intensity and regularity in later months and years afterwards.

We at Reachout Psychotherapy, can offer help, support, understanding and reassurance around these and many other emotions related to grief, whatever the cause.  We offer you help to understand the different stages of grief and how this can further support you on your journey of acceptance, and help you deal with the range of emotions experienced.

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