The loss of someone we love is likely to be one of the most painful experiences we will ever have to face. Yet in the natural course of our lives it is likely that we will experience it at least once, and may even do so several times. Culturally, we tend to talk very little about death and bereavement although it is such a natural and inevitable part of life.
When we lose someone important to us we can be overwhelmed by our pain and distress and worry that those feelings will never pass. Our reactions can be frightening both for us and for those around us since the pain and distress we experience can result in us thinking, feeling and behaving in unfamiliar ways.
There is no 'healthy' or 'unhealthy' way to grieve - individuals have a right to grieve in their own way. Those going through bereavement may experience some feelings of anxiety and depression. About 33% of bereaved people have symptoms of depression one month after the loss, and 15% are still depressed a year later. But with careful handling, personal insight and the understanding a support of others, even the most depressive of feelings will pass.
Whether death comes suddenly and unexpectedly, or after a long illness, it is likely to affect us in some or all of the following ways:
The funeral is an important part of the bereavement process for everyone, both adults and children alike. It offers a chance to say goodbye to the person who has died, in the company of others who knew them. It can also help in acknowledging our own loss and express our feelings. This is best not avoided for too long, as it is all part of healing and recovery.
How we feel when we are bereaved will depend on the relationship we had with the person who has died, and how we felt about them:
Coming to terms with someone's death is bound to take time. For some people the first anniversary of the death marks a watershed, but other occasions such as birthdays or wedding anniversaries can also re-awaken our sadness.
People who have experienced their own grieving process have noticed that:
While the natural process of grieving will take its time, it may help to know that strong feelings are normal and that it can help to cry, or talk to others about how you are feeling or experiencing the loss.
Sometimes a grieving process may start many years after a loss and this can take people by surprise. At other times a person may feel they are stuck in their grief and still experiencing regular distressing symptoms. Signs that a bereaved person may need extra support can be:
Grieving is about learning to live with loss. The time it takes to grieve is different for each person. Gradually as time passes the pain of loss normally lessens and it may be possible to think about other things and to consider the future. Because we are not thinking about the person all the time doesn't mean we have forgotten them - it is possible to be happy and still miss a person.
The important thing is to ask for help if you need it, be kind to yourself, and give yourself time to heal.
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